“Almost dawn,” Meurice said to one of his mates.Once again the officers and crew stood to quarters waiting for the sun to rise and reveal what awaited them.This was a major trading route, though, so the officers of Valiant stood on the quarterdeck with more than the normal amount of tension.It was entirely possible that the next few minutes would reveal a large merchantman less than a cable’s length away from them, charging at them like an angry bull.Fortunately, the sun rose to reveal nothing more dangerous than a few coasters some distance away.
“Mr. Weston, you may dismiss the hands from quarters and get us back on course.Due south,” Granger ordered.
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said.Granger began to pace the deck even as he subconsciously noted the activity around him.His senses were finely tuned to Valiant, so he could do this without anyone being aware of his scrutiny.In fact, they would only find out when their captain, with his evident eagle eye, pointed out something wrong that they had missed.
“My lord, there appears to be a lugger headed toward us,” Grenfell said, interrupting his walk and his thoughts.
“Indeed?” Granger asked, as stopped pacing and pulled his head out of his prior thoughts.
“My lord, the lugger has raised a parley flag above Danish colors,” Llewellyn said.
“Please raise a parley flag over our colors as well,” Granger ordered.The two ships closed rapidly: the wind was fair for Valiant, while the lugger had the ability to sail into the wind at a good pace.Granger waited until they were quite close, and then ordered Valiant to heave to.The Danish lugger hove to as soon as Valiant did, clearly mimicking her maneuver.
“She’s lowering a boat, my lord,” Travers called. “Looks to be that same lieutenant aboard.”
“Let us prepare to receive him,” Granger said affably.He waited patiently on the quarterdeck while the boat was hailed, and smiled broadly as Lieutenant van Hjelmeland pulled himself through the entry port.“What a pleasure to see you again, Lieutenant.”
“The pleasure is certainly mine, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said.“Your colleagues were able to travel easily to Copenhagen, and have been accommodated there.”
“Thank you for relaying that news to me,” Granger said.“Would you care to join me in my cabin for some refreshments?”
“With pleasure,” he said.Granger led him to his cabin, to the quarter galley with its comfortable leather chairs, and poured them both a glass of wine.
“This is excellent wine, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said.
“It was a gift from a friend of mine who got it in France,” Granger said.
“I have brought you some letters, but there is one that I must deliver to you personally, my lord,” he said.He handed Granger a packet, then one individual letter, addressed to The Right Honorable Viscount Granger, commanding His Britannic Majesty’s Ship Valiant.
“Since this is obviously important, you will pardon me if I open it at once?” Granger asked.
“It is from His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said.“He outranks me.”The charming young man grinned as he said that.
“He outranks me as well,” Granger said with a smile.He opened the letter and was quite surprised by its contents.
His Royal Highness has been pleased to learn that you are in His Danish Majesty’s waters.Your reputation as a distinguished sailor, and one who has navigated around the world, has intrigued His Royal Highness such that he has commanded me to request that you visit him at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, provided that is consistent with your current duties and responsibilities.The bearer of this letter can guide you safely to harbor.
“His Royal Highness has invited me to call on him,” Granger said to van Hjelmeland, something he most likely knew.
“That is quite an honor, begging your pardon, my lord,” the lieutenant responded.
“Indeed it is,” Granger agreed.He wanted to read the other letters to see if Whitworth, Daventry, and Cavendish thought it was a good idea for him to sail blithely into Copenhagen, but to do that seemed to smack of weakness.In addition, to not immediately agree to call on the Crown Prince could be perceived as an insult at a time when Britain had few friends in these waters.“I am told you are to guide us.”
“I am pleased be of assistance, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said.
“Then let us get underway,” Granger said politely.He led the Danish lieutenant back to the quarterdeck.“Mr. Weston, we have been invited to visit Copenhagen.Lieutenant van Hjelmeland will guide us to our anchorage.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said.
“I will leave it to you gentlemen to get us on course, while I read the latest communiqués Lieutenant van Hjelmeland has brought me,” Granger said.
“Of course, my lord,” Weston said.Granger went back to his cabin, even as he felt Valiant’s motion change as she got underway again.He had three letters, one each from Whitworth, Daventry, and Cavendish.Although quite different in style, they all three strongly recommended that he accept the Crown Prince’s invitation.
Granger returned to the quarterdeck and joined Weston and van Hjelmeland as Valiant made her way toward the Sound.“That is Kronborg Castle, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said, gesturing toward a fortress that stood on the Danish side of the Kattegat, guarding the narrowest entrance to the Baltic Sea.“It is sometimes known to you English as Elsinore.”
“It is quite imposing,” Granger said, even as he eyed this structure that Shakespeare had immortalized in Hamlet.His military eye was more tuned in, though, and if the fortress were equipped with large caliber cannon, it would make forcing this passage most unpleasant.Granger looked across the water to the Swedish city of Helsingborg, and was glad to note there was no corresponding fort on the Swedish side.If there were, and they were working together, traversing through this narrow strait would be a challenge even for a fleet.
As soon as they passed Elsinore, Granger was alarmed to see three Danish 74-gun ships of the line moored across the entrance, forming all but a blockade.He was unsure as to the capabilities of the guns of Elsinore, but he was much more able to assess the power of these ships.“These ships are not always moored here, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said.“They have been placed here with news of the arrival of your fleet.”
“They appear to be in a peaceful mood today, a fact I am most glad of,” Granger said with a smile.
“You have nothing to worry about, in any event, my lord,” he responded.“You are a guest of the Crown Prince Regent.”
“And knowing that, I have no fears for my safety,” Granger said, even though he had to bite back his nervousness as Valiant approached those formidable Danish broadsides.The Danish ships appeared to be in good repair, although since they were anchored, Granger did not have a chance to evaluate their sail drill.They followed the lugger astern of the central ship, the one that flew a Commodore’s broad pennant.Valiant dipped her flag politely, while Granger and the other officers on the quarterdeck removed their hats to their Danish counterparts, gestures which they returned. While they passed through the battleships unscathed, there was no denying the tension emanating from both Valiant and the Danish ships.
Once past Elsinore and the Danish battleships, the Sound widened considerably, but buoys marking the shoal waters demonstrated how misleading that widening actually was.“This is the island of Hven, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said, gesturing at a small body of land almost directly in front of them.“It belongs to Sweden.” They followed the lugger to the left of the island, where there was more and presumably deeper water.
“I am surprised there is no fort on that island,” Granger said.
“There is really no need,” van Hjelmeland said.“Controlling the Sound is Denmark’s affair, not Sweden’s.”Granger wondered if the Swedes would be so willing to acknowledge that, but kept his thoughts to himself.As it was now the time for dinner, he led van Hjelmeland back to his cabin and treated him to some of Lefavre’s superb cooking.
“You are Danish, are you not?” Granger asked him, as his mention of Denmark had been a bit detached, as if he was not identifying as a Dane.
“I am a Norwegian, my lord,” he said proudly.“We have the same King, but we are a different country, at least in our minds.”
“I fancy that Scotsmen must feel the same way,” Granger mused.“I have heard Norway is beautiful.”
“Indeed, my lord?” van Hjelmeland asked curiously.
“When I was off the coast of Chile, in South America, some of my crew members who had been to Norway told me it was very similar, and as that was a breathtakingly beautiful land, I assume Norway is as well,” Granger said.
“Norway’s beauty is without parallel, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said proudly.“I hope that someday you will be able to see it for yourself.”
“I think I would like that,” Granger said.They chatted away in a friendly way, but ate relatively quickly.As soon as they had finished and returned to the quarterdeck, a city appeared off their starboard view, as if it were mystically being hidden by the small Swedish island of Hven.
“That is Copenhagen, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said, following Granger’s eyes.“If we were transiting into the Baltic, we would take the Hollander Channel to the left.That area with the buoys is the Middle Ground.”
“The Middle Ground looks to be as wide as the channel itself,” Granger observed.“What is that structure in the middle of the water?”
“That, my lord, is the Trekroner fort.Along with the Citadel, it forms the backbone of Copenhagen’s formidable defenses,” van Hjelmeland said. “We will anchor near it, but only because it conveniently marks an area where there is no shoal water.”By pointing out first Kronborg, and now Trekroner and the Citadel, Granger was conscious that van Hjelmeland was clearly trying to impress upon him how formidable Denmark’s defenses were.
“That would appear to be a wise move then,” Granger said with a smile.“I have no desire to try to heave my ship off a shoal in front of the populace of Copenhagen.”
Van Hjelmeland chuckled.“We will avoid that for today, at least.”The ship approached the fort, which appeared to be situated in the middle of the main waterway into Copenhagen.The King’s Channel was the channel to the right of the middle ground, running parallel to the Hollander Channel, and that is where van Hjelmeland ordered Granger to anchor.“A boat should arrive shortly to take us into the city.”
“I am at your disposal,” Granger said politely.
“I would think that, based on the hour, we will not be able to return you to your ship until at least tomorrow, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said.
“That is understandable,” Granger said. “If you will excuse me, I will go to my cabin and make sure I have everything I need for a short stay ashore.”
“Of course, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said politely.Granger strode back to his cabin and found Winkler waiting for him.
“I am bidden to go ashore to see the Danish Crown Prince, and it is unlikely I’ll be back before tomorrow,” Granger said.
“I will bring an extra shirt along, at least, my lord,” Winkler said, his tone indicating that he was planning to join Granger.
“I knew I could rely on you to make sure I am well turned out,” Granger said with a smile.Winkler helped Granger into his best uniform, the one with all of his decorations, and then applied himself to packing up for their trek to Copenhagen.Granger was not surprised to find that Jacobs had joined them as well, and gave Winkler a knowing smirk, making the young man blush slightly.
A relatively ornate barge approached them, and answered Valiant’s hail to acknowledge that this indeed was Granger’s ride.“The Crown Prince Regent has sent his own barge to get you, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said solemnly.
“That is quite an honor His Royal Highness does for me,” Granger said.“Mr. Weston, I will be ashore at least until tomorrow.”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said.Granger strode off to the rail with Weston, so they were both safely out of everyone’s earshot.
“I do not think there is any risk for my safety, or for Valiant, but if something should happen to me, you should seek out Lords Cavendish, Daventry, or Whitworth for guidance,” Granger said.
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said calmly.It was a strange situation, where tension levels were very high, yet Granger instinctively trusted the Danish to honor their word, and it seemed that Weston felt the same way.Granger followed Winkler, Jacobs, and van Hjelmeland into the barge, greeted the officer in command of her, and then sat on the rear thwart, taking in the environment.The others thankfully left him alone with his thoughts.
Granger began to get his first impression of Danish opulence by studying the barge.He’d thought it was relatively ornate, but that had been based on his assumption that it belonged to an admiral, not the Sovereign of a nation.In that regard, it was quite understated.Granger was reminded of his own King, who was sometimes dowdy and most un-kingly, and at times did not seem overly concerned that his residences were in relative states of disrepair.But even compared to George III, these trappings were more akin to what a nobleman in England would consider appropriate.Granger internally rolled his eyes at what his French, Spanish, and Neapolitan friends would think of such utilitarianism.The monarchs of those countries had taken ostentation to an unbelievably advanced degree.The Danish Royal barge would seem positively common compared to the gilded monstrosities those countries would consider more appropriate.
His eyes focused on Trekroner fort, and for all of van Hjelmeland’s posturing, Granger found the structure to be relatively benign.First of all, it did not even seem to be completed.There were no visible barracks or shelter for troops who would be there to man the guns and defend it, making them very vulnerable to attack by bomb vessels.If one did not look too closely, it was very imposing, but if one took a more measured look, it seemed to be almost a death trap for the unfortunate Danes damned to man it.
His eyes focused on Copenhagen, a lovely city which seemed mildly eclipsed by the imposing Citadel.There was little Granger could find to complain about that massive defensive edifice.“Copenhagen is so completely surrounded by water, that it makes sense you would produce such brave and skilled sailors,” Granger said, smiling at van Hjelmeland.
“In Norway, it is perhaps even more apparent, my lord,” he said.“There was a famous Norwegian Captain named Apkott.He survived a massive maelstrom, and when questioned about it, he replied simply that to know Norway was to know the sea.”
“That is a trait our nations share,” Granger noted, reminding this man that Britain’s maritime heritage was equally impressive.They sailed to a small pier and disembarked, where they were led directly to a carriage that was nice in a similar way to the barge.Granger pondered that his own carriage was probably only a bit less ornate than this one.The ride was short, and led them around the Citadel and into the town.Near the harbor front, they came upon four stately looking buildings, all positioned to face a central statue.
“This is Amalienborg Palace,” van Hjelmeland said.“Various members of the Royal Family live in these Pavilions.” Granger thought it looked more like four townhouses positioned in an odd way, but he kept his thoughts on that to himself.The carriage pulled up to one of the houses, and footmen arrived to help them out.
Granger and van Hjelmeland entered the Palace, which was quite ornately decorated, seemingly at odds with its external plainness.Winkler and Jacobs followed at a respectful distance, looking completely out of place in this environment.A rather splendidly dressed chap appeared, and from the key on his coat Granger could tell he was a chamberlain.“His Royal Highness welcomes you to Copenhagen, and to Amalienborg Palace,” he said pompously in French.“As it is not yet the time for supper, we have prepared a room for you to refresh yourself after your arduous boat journey.”
“I am most appreciative of His Royal Highness’s hospitality,” Granger said formally.He led them up the stairs to a room that was very nicely decorated, and was most likely some sort of state bedroom reserved for visiting dignitaries.It was quite an honor to be housed in such nice accommodations.
“I will retrieve you in one hour to escort you down to supper, my lord,” van Hjelmeland said, as he made to leave.
“I need to get in contact with my fellow Britons,” Granger said, obviously referring to Whitworth, Daventry, and Cavendish.
“I do not think they have been invited to supper, my lord,” he replied, “but I will make sure they know you are here.”
“I am most obliged,” Granger said, even though that was quite unusual.He would have expected the Crown Prince to invite the rest of the British delegation.That he did not made Granger suspicious, as if there was some reason for them to be divided.
“A bit odd, my lord,” Winkler noted, after van Hjelmeland had left.
“Indeed,” Granger agreed.“Let us use this time to see if I can burnish my appearance for his Royal Highness.”
“As you wish, my lord,” Winkler said.
With Winkler’s help, he was able to fully restore his appearance to what it would be if he were going to St. James’s Palace.He spent the remainder of his time gazing out at the inner harbor of Copenhagen, one that was protected not only by the Citadel, but by an imposing boom that would stop any unwanted interlopers and would be extremely effective in keeping out fire ships.Moored along the docks were nine Danish battleships ranging from smaller 60-gun ships to a larger 80-gun vessel.Those ships looked as if they were completely unready for sea, but they seemed to be in good repair nonetheless.As Guebertin had suggested, these were probably the backbone of the Danish navy, maintained safely away from Admiral Dickson and his ragtag fleet.
A scratch at his door heralded the arrival of van Hjelmeland, who led him downstairs to a room that seemed to serve as a general reception area.A chamberlain announced him as he entered the room, much as would happen if he were at Carlton House.There were several people in the room, men and women who were presumably members of the Danish Court, but despite this panoply of well-dressed people it was quite easy to spot the Crown Prince.He was a handsome man who appeared to be in his thirties, with a long face and blond hair that was similar in color to Granger’s.Granger followed van Hjelmeland’s lead and approached the Crown Prince, bowing as he would to the Prince of Wales.
“We are pleased to welcome you to Denmark,” the Crown Prince said to him affably.Granger was happy to note that he spoke English, which made sense, since his mother was a British Princess.
“I must thank Your Royal Highness for your invitation to call on you,” Granger replied.
“Your blond hair nearly matches my own, reminding me of the blood bonds between our two nations,” the Crown Prince said.
“As my family is from Derbyshire, which was part of the Danelaw, I suspect that is even truer for me, Your Royal Highness,” Granger said, smiling broadly.
“We will sup soon, and then I would like to hear of your exploits,” he said.
“I am at Your Royal Highness’s disposal,” Granger said.He was introduced to the people who were present, most notably Count Bernstorff, the Foreign Minister.Granger found the man to be quite wily, and worried that Whitworth would underestimate his shrewdness.
At supper, he sat next to Captain Steen Bille, an older and distinguished Danish Naval Officer who conveniently enough spoke English.The Danish Countess who sat to his right knew only Danish and German, so Granger felt less badly about all but ignoring her.
“I had the honor of meeting your grandfather,” Bille said.
“I have not seen him for a number of years, but fortunately his letters are quite entertaining,” Granger noted.
“He is a man who, when he gives his word, it is an ironbound pledge,” Bille said reverently.
“I must thank you for those kind words on his behalf and will certainly relay them to him when I get the chance,” Granger noted.
“I have also spent some time in the East Indies, but I was there long before your brother,” he said.
“I suspect that, even if you had met my brother, you would not have been able to be as effusive in your praise as you were for my grandfather, but you would have found him quite charming, nonetheless,” Granger said, smiling broadly.
“So I have heard,” Bille said, smiling back. “It is most unfortunate that our paths have not crossed, and most surprising, since I was in the Mediterranean fighting pirates in 1797, much as you were.”
“If memory serves, you were tackling Tunisian corsairs, while I have made myself the most hated man in Oran,” Granger said, getting a laugh from Bille.
“Neither one of us is popular in those waters,” he said.Thanks mostly to Bille, the meal ended up being quite pleasant, although the food wasn’t nearly as good as the meals Granger was used to, courtesy of Lefavre.
After supper, the women left them and the men retired to a room resembling a big library, chatting amongst each other. After a while, the Crown Prince withdrew from the room, which was evidently a cue for the party to disperse.Granger shrugged internally and prepared to retire to his room when a chamberlain approached him and bid him to follow him.He led him to a smaller room, one that was decorated in a similar way to the library, and one that was occupied only by the Crown Prince.
“I have been looking forward to hearing of your exploits, Lord Granger,” the Crown Prince said.“Your reputation precedes you.”
“I am flattered, Your Royal Highness,” Granger said.He shocked Granger by bidding him to sit in one of the leather armchairs, and by pouring him a glass of port.Such an intimate posture was almost unheard of.Then he quizzed Granger about his career, compelling Granger to recount his capture of the Oran Ruby, his visit to the Alhambra Palace, and his trip around the world.It was quite informal, and for Granger it was most uncomfortable, since he detested crowing about his own achievements, but he endured it.After he finished describing his capture of the Thetis and Santa Brigada, the Crown Prince sat back in his chair, adopting a thoughtful pose.
“It is rumored that you are tasked to conduct Lord Daventry to St. Petersburg,” the Crown Prince said, almost an accusation. Granger wondered how he had found out about that, about his mission, yet resolved to give nothing away, and to keep his guard up.
“I have been ordered to follow Lord Daventry’s directions, Your Royal Highness,” Granger said, deftly avoiding confirming the Crown Prince’s rumor.“I am unsure where that will take me.”
“I think it is important for you to understand what awaits you should you pursue that course of action,” the Prince said.His tone had switched to one that was firm and rather unpleasant.“I am confident that you will appreciate what I am saying much more than your colleagues.”
“I am of course glad of any information Your Royal Highness can impart,” Granger said calmly.
“When you leave Copenhagen, you can sail back through the Sound and rejoin your Admiral Dickson, and forget this futile mission to see the Tsar,” he said.“On the other hand, if you sail east, you will be treading into hostile waters.”
“While I certainly wouldn’t want to provoke a conflict, Your Royal Highness, I must certainly go where I am ordered,” Granger said, making it seem as if he had no real choice.He paused to mentally note that, in fact, he did not have such a choice.
“Once you sail down the Hollander Channel, any ship you encounter will be hostile,” the Prince said, stating that as a fact.“We have received pledges of support in our arguments with your country, and in our attempt to seek justice in the Freya affair, from the courts at Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Berlin.”
“Your Royal Highness is telling me that if I enter the Baltic, any Danish, Swedish, German, or Russian ship I encounter will be, to all intents and purposes, an enemy vessel?” Granger asked for clarity.
“That is what I am telling you,” he said.
“That is indeed a most daunting challenge,” Granger noted, although it was what he had already been led to believe.
“I did not want such an esteemed sailor to wander into a situation where he faced almost certain defeat,” the Prince said. Granger almost raised an eyebrow to challenge the Prince’s use of the term ‘certain defeat.’
“I must thank Your Royal Highness for your warning and your concern,” Granger said, forcing himself to sound genuinely appreciative in the face of these blatant threats.
“There is something else to consider,” he said, and an almost sinister look spread across his face.“The Baltic will freeze soon, and it is sometimes possible that it will even freeze over the Sound, and even the Great Belt.I would submit that even if you were able to make it to St. Petersburg before that port freezes, you may find that you could not make it out of the Baltic before those passages freeze as well.”
“I was not aware that the entrances to the Baltic froze, Your Royal Highness,” Granger said, letting that dilemma register in his brain.He hadn’t considered that getting out of the Baltic would be a problem, other than braving the Danish batteries that guarded it.
“And while it saddens me to say this, it is unlikely that our issues will be resolved by the time you attempted to extricate yourself from this sea, and in that case, my obligations to my allies would force me to consider your ship to be hostile, and my batteries would be compelled to attempt to stop your exit,” the Crown Prince said.
“You have enlightened me to a number of challenges I had not foreseen, Your Royal Highness,” Granger said.“For that, I am most grateful.”
“I am hopeful that armed with this knowledge, you will be able to better explain things to your Lord Daventry.It is my experience that diplomats know little of the sea and the limitations it places on travel,” he said.
“That is most certainly true, Your Royal Highness,” Granger said, smiling, even though his mind was roiling inside.“To them, it often seems as if it is as simple as going from one point to another, with no regard to weather, tides, or other hazards.”
“Well, there are no tides in the Baltic, but there are other hazards aplenty,” the Prince said.He stood up, indicating that their conversation was over.
“I must again express my appreciation to Your Royal Highness for explaining the risks I would face if I am ordered into the Baltic,” Granger said, standing as well.“And I must further thank you for the considerable honor you have done me by inviting me to call on you, and for giving me a private interview of such length.”
“You are welcome,” the Prince said, then paused before going on.“Your diplomats here are either old and short-sighted, like Lord Whitworth, or young and impulsive, like Lord Daventry.I am glad to be able to explain things to a man who seems to comprehend the situation in a more balanced way.”
“Thank you, Your Royal Highness,” Granger said, bowing as the Prince made to leave.
“I will look forward to meeting you again under more pleasant circumstances,” he said, then left the room.A chamberlain arrived to take a somewhat flummoxed Granger back to his room.
Of the things that the Prince had told him, only one thing worried him.He had no idea that, even if he were successful in completing his trip to St. Petersburg, escaping from the Baltic may not be possible.If he entered the Baltic now, it was entirely probable that he would not be able to exit it until March of next year.