His Majesty’s frigate Valiant crept slowly forward, waiting for dawn to break, and even more importantly, waiting to see if the fog had subsided.They’d been mired in a maddening soup of the stuff for the past four days, damned to exist in a tomb of atmospheric moisture.The waters in the Baltic were so littered with submerged obstacles that after the first day, they had only dared to progress under very light sails.Granger had been adamant that he would not travel any faster lest he run Valiant aground and damage her hull.He reasoned that at the slow pace he’d established, the worst that could happen was that she’d run gently ashore, and since the most likely obstacle was a sandbar, that should not prove to be too damaging.Based on the reaction from his officers, Granger deduced that they thought even that was much too risky, while his passengers seemed to think he was being too cautious.
Granger allowed himself an internal sigh as he gazed hopefully over the side. The net effect of the fog had been to make him, and everyone else aboard, feel very closed in, as if they were trapped in a cave, and that had caused tempers to flare.Von Fersen had been treated to his first demonstration of Royal Navy justice yesterday when Granger had to have two men flogged for fighting.There were four other men who had been given lesser punishments for smaller altercations.A gust of wind blew, giving Granger hope that it would clear away the fog, while he instinctively made sure his coat was securely fastened, for the weather had gotten markedly colder.
The wind gusted again, seemingly in time with the lightening of the skies, until dawn was upon them, revealing that the fog had cleared away to be replaced by overcast skies.“Land ho, off the larboard bow!” shouted the lookout.
Granger looked to starboard, horrified to find an island of sorts about a cable’s length off their bow.“Helm, two points to starboard,” Granger snapped.“Mr. Weston, let out a reef in the topsails.” Granger wanted to get more speed so he could get away from this piece of land as quickly as possible.
“Aye aye, my lord,” they chimed, and the ship was convulsed in activity as Valiant first dodged the obstacle in front of them, and then loosed and trimmed her sails to travel northward at a much more rapid pace.
Daventry had been on deck this entire time, but had left Granger to his thoughts, and then had left him alone as he maneuvered Valiant.Having seen that those evolutions were complete, he approached Granger.“I can see why you were reluctant to increase sail during the last few days.”
“This is a most treacherous sea,” Granger said, smiling at Daventry.Daventry’s validation of the strategy he’d chosen, along with the change in weather, had decidedly improved Granger’s mood.“Now we must figure out where we are. Mr. Schein!”
“Have you divined our location?” Granger asked in a slightly playful way.His jocular mood was like a balm, cheering up his officers.
“I think we are near Landsort, my lord,” he said.
“You can join me in my cabin and show me,” Granger said.“Mr. Weston, Mr. Meurice, Lord Daventry, perhaps you gentlemen can join me as well.”
The others followed him dutifully to his cabin where they found von Fersen.Granger retrieved his chart of the Baltic then spread it out on his dining room table where they all peered at it.
“Where are we?” von Fersen asked, as they looked at the map.
“I estimate we are here, Your Excellency,” Schein said, pointing at a spot just south of Landsort, a town on an island south of the Swedish capital.
“This looks to be a huge puzzle of islands blocking the capital, my lord,” Weston said dubiously.
“It is an archipelago,” Granger said, even as he was thinking the same thing.
“I wouldn’t fancy trying to weave my way through those channels to reach Stockholm, my lord,” Weston said apprehensively.
“The preferred way to access Stockholm is from the north, near the island of Gräskö, my lord,” Schein said.“You then travel southwest to the harbor.”
“Through all these islands?” Daventry asked.The challenge such a plan presented was obvious even to a non-nautical man like him.
“We will be provided with pilots,” von Fersen said defensively.“It is quite safe.”
“Your Excellency, I am certain the pilots who are provided would do an excellent job,” Granger said soothingly.“I am more worried about the weather.It would be quite easy to be stuck in port, waiting for a favorable wind.And I would not fancy being fog-bound in such a place.”
Von Fersen seemed surprised that he would worry about such a thing, while the naval officers looked at Granger skeptically, since they agreed with his verdict on the winds and they certainly didn’t share his professed confidence in these unknown Swedish pilots.“Is there not another way to access the capital?” Daventry asked.
“We could anchor in one of these outer harbors, my lord,” Schein suggested.
“That would make for a long journey to Stockholm in a small boat,” von Fersen observed with evident concern over how uncomfortable such a journey would be.“I can assure you that many ships, even those larger than this one, safely make it to Stockholm.”Granger’s suspicions were aroused by von Fersen’s arguments, making him wonder if they weren’t being led into a trap.If Valiant were in Stockholm, she would be all but a captive unless the Swedes wanted her to leave.That, as much as the navigational hazards, convinced Granger to avoid docking in the capital.
“I think a trip in a small boat would be preferable to winding through these islands,” Daventry opined.
“Many captains are also reluctant to be so far removed from their commands, my lord,” von Fersen persisted, rousing Granger’s suspicions even more. The Swede was quite wily, and it did not surprise him to have von Fersen attempting to play on his basic captain’s instincts.
“Most captains do not have a first officer as talented and resourceful as Mr. Weston, Your Excellency,” Granger countered, getting a broad grin from Weston.“We will pick one of these islands.Which provides the best outer harbor?”
The brief flash of irritation on von Fersen’s face convinced Granger he’d made the right choice.“I would think that near Sandhamn would be best, my lord.”
“Then that is where we shall go,” Granger decreed.“I will trust you two to plot a course to that harbor,” Granger said, directing that comment to Schein and Meurice.
“Aye aye, my lord,” they replied.
They managed to reach Sandhamn just as the sun was starting to set, something that was happening ever earlier now that they’d put the fall solstice behind them.It was a very small town, one that would probably not provide much in the way of stores, nor good opportunities for shore leave for the men.“This is a spartan place, my lord,” von Fersen observed, as if reading Granger’s mind.
“It will serve, Your Excellency,” Granger said.They were met by a delegation from the town, including the mayor who was as friendly as he was stout.He graciously agreed to arrange a transport for them in the morning, and joined them for one of Lefavre’s fabulous suppers.Granger went on deck to see him off, and then did a brief inspection of Valiant to ensure she was safely moored and buttoned down.
The lugger rounded an island and the city of Stockholm came into view.“This is a beautiful city,” Granger observed to his group at large, primarily for von Fersen’s benefit.In addition to von Fersen and Daventry, he’d taken Prince Genarro and Lord Kingsdale with him on this journey.He’d left instructions for Weston to dispatch an officer every other day to Stockholm with reports, and planned to rotate those two junior officers out when these replacements arrived.He reasoned that would give all of them a chance to experience the Swedish capital, and it would also keep his communications with the ship relatively open.
His officers viewed Granger somewhat skeptically, since it was difficult for them to see the beauty in this place that was shrouded with clouds and plagued by a piercingly cold northerly wind.“I fear it would be more beautiful, sir, if it were warmer,” Genarro said, unable to hide his chattering teeth as he did.
Granger chuckled.“I wonder how badly you have vexed Their Sicilian Majesties such that they would banish you to the frozen tundra.”
“As Their Majesties are most fond of me, I would suggest that they probably anticipated that your lordship would continue to serve in warm waters,” Genarro joked back.
“We will attempt to find you a roaring fire as soon as possible,” Granger said reassuringly.
“Thank you, sir,” he said pleasantly.The lugger adeptly maneuvered up to the dock, the captain’s seamanship getting positive nods from his naval passengers.There were carriages waiting for them, along with a very handsome young man.
“Welcome to Sweden,” the young man said to them in French.As Granger was learning, French was spoken in the Baltic with as much frequency as it was in the Mediterranean.“I am Count Ernst Stael von Holstein, one of His Majesty’s gentlemen.”Presumably that was the equivalent of being one of His Britannic Majesty’s gentlemen of the bedchamber, and that meant that von Holstein was presumably a man of some influence here.Von Fersen’s general demeanor toward him all but confirmed that.Von Holstein had blond hair that was slightly lighter than Granger’s, along with a narrow face that seemed to form almost a triangle as it migrated toward his chin, which was incongruently round.Granger was amazed that such a young man, for he appeared to be approximately Granger’s age, would occupy such an important post at the Swedish Court.
Von Fersen interposed himself at that point and introduced them to von Holstein, starting with Granger, as if to signify that he was the senior officer of their group.A brief glance at Daventry assured Granger that his fellow peer took no offence at the potential snub.Granger shook hands with him and uttered the polite responses quickly, if only to hide the fact that his teeth were close to chattering it was so cold.“I fear we must get our friends into a warm room, as they are not used to our Swedish winters,” von Fersen said in a jocular way.Granger hid his annoyance that his lack of physical endurance in the face of the freezing wind was obvious.
“That is easy to do, since I have been directed to escort you to the palace,” von Holstein said.Granger, Daventry, von Fersen, and von Holstein entered one carriage, while the others took the second vehicle.
“I suspect that it will take some time for us to adapt to the winter temperatures,” Daventry observed.
“Indeed,” Granger agreed.
“His Majesty is pleased to offer you and your officers accommodation at the palace,” von Holstein said.
“That is most kind of him,” Daventry replied.
“I have also alerted your envoy that you are here, and I suspect that he will join us at the Palace,” von Holstein added.
“And that was most kind of you,” Granger said, shooting the young man his warmest smile.It was interesting to see it have a considerable effect, and to note that when he smiled back his smile was just as captivating as Granger’s.When von Holstein smiled his face gave up its narrow, triangular shape and became much rounder.
“It is my pleasure to be of service to such a distinguished naval officer,” von Holstein responded with just a hint of flirtatiousness.
“Then that makes my various victories just that much more valuable,” Granger said, returning his playful tone.
The Royal Palace came into view, a rather plain and foreboding building, devoid of the more ornate architecture Granger was used to when visiting a royal abode.They arrived and were met by chamberlains, one designated for Daventry and each of Valiant’s officers.Granger noted that the palace was much more sumptuous indoors than its drab exterior would suggest.“I planned to escort your lordship to your room, then I will show you where to rejoin your party and meet your envoy,” von Holstein said.
“That is most thoughtful of you,” Granger said, smiling.“I had not realized I would be in such capable hands when I opted to visit Stockholm.”
“Indeed they are capable,” von Holstein said, raising his right eyebrow slightly in what was a very sexy gesture.He led Granger toward the ornate staircase, and as he did, Granger strolled past Winkler and Jacobs and gave them a slight nod.Granger didn’t worry about Winkler and Jacobs; he knew that they’d figure out where he was and acclimate themselves to this Swedish Royal Palace in no time at all.“I have heard much about you.”
“Indeed?” Granger asked curiously.“From whom?”
“My aunt is Germaine von Stael,” he said.Granger recalled that formidable woman he’d met when he’d been in Paris.
“I well remember her,” Granger said with a smile that was more of a rueful grin.“She befriended me when I was in Paris, and helped me navigate the Salons there.”
“According to her, you needed no help at all, and glided into Parisian society with such a skill it was thought you may just belong there,” von Holstein said.
“As my captivity went on, I feared I may just end up being trapped there,” Granger said ruefully.
“I think you will find Sweden to be just as interesting, and here you are not a captive, so it will be that much more enjoyable,” von Holstein said, even as he walked up to a door and opened it.He led Granger into a very nice suite, one that was quite luxurious and spacious.
“His Majesty certainly honors me with excellent accommodations,” Granger noted.
“This is one of the nicer rooms, and it has something that I think you will especially appreciate,” von Holstein said.He led Granger to an adjacent room that was dominated by a large bathing tub.The room itself was covered in tile. “Your predilection for bathing is well known, even here in Sweden.”
“I did not realize my personal hygiene was of so much notice that it was known in Sweden,” Granger observed, trying to hide how much that annoyed him.
“We try to keep up with the latest news and trends from London, and as you have been one of the pioneers in encouraging regular bathing, that has made your predilections more newsworthy,” von Holstein said.
“That is very kind of you,” Granger said.
“I will leave you to settle in, then I will come by in one hour to escort you in to meet His Majesty,” von Holstein said. With a courtly bow, he left, to be followed by Winkler and Jacobs.
“Nice place, my lord,” Winkler observed.
“It is,” Granger agreed.“It even has a bathing room.”Granger showed Winkler and Jacobs the room.
“Will you want a bath, my lord?” Winkler asked.
“I am to go see His Majesty shortly, so that will have to wait until later,” Granger said.“Let us work to make me as presentable as possible.”
“Of course, my lord,” Winkler said.With amazing organization and skill, they unpacked Granger’s clothing and spruced up his appearance for his royal reception.Von Holstein arrived in an hour, as he promised, and led Granger to an anteroom where he met Daventry and his officers.They were joined shortly by another man, who approached them purposely.
“Welcome to Sweden, gentlemen, my lords,” he said.“I am Daniel Hailes, His Britannic Majesty’s ambassador to Sweden.”Daventry introduced himself, Granger, and the other officers while von Holstein looked on in an amused way.Granger had heard of Hailes from Lord Grenville, before he’d left Britain, and from Cavendish, who had no high opinion of him.He was of modest birth, but with the pretentious pride that came from such a man who had risen to the relatively prestigious position of ambassador.He had created endless difficulties in Denmark over perceived slights by their press, a conflict that only emphasized the pettiness of the man.Granger pondered the diplomats he’d encountered on this voyage and that made himself almost sigh out loud, thinking of how disappointing they’d been. With people like that staffing the Foreign Office, it was no wonder Britain was at war with almost the entire world.
“We are bidden to introduce you to His Majesty,” von Holstein said, truncating their brief conversation.He led them through a few ornate rooms to the southern wing of the palace, one that consisted of three large rooms, the biggest of which was the Hall of State.That room was dominated by a large dais that was covered in luxurious blue carpeting and contained a relatively small chair that was the silver throne of Queen Christina.A canopy overhung the dais, covered with blue fabric embroidered with silver and gold.The dais sat in front of walls dominated by large yellowish marble pillars, and ornately carved marble walls.Sitting on the throne was King Gustav IV, a handsome man in his early twenties, with smooth almost porcelain skin and a high forehead which suggested he would someday become quite bald.His powdered wig made that less obvious, but it was still apparent.
A chamberlain dutifully read off their names, as Granger, Daventry, Kingsdale, Genarro, and Hailes approached the throne, bowing as though they were at the Palace of St. James.“Welcome to Sweden,” the King said.“I must thank you for detouring to Stockholm to call on me, and for bringing Count von Fersen home.”
“It is a privilege and honor to be presented to Your Majesty,” Granger said, speaking for them.“We must thank you for granting us the singular honor of providing us accommodations in Your Majesty’s palace.”
“It is not such an honor, Lord Granger,” the King said with a smile.“Having you staying here will give me a chance to get to know such a distinguished sailor.”
“Your Majesty is too kind,” Granger said.The King addressed a few words to the others and then was silent, a gesture the Britons understood to mean they had been dismissed.They bowed as they backed out of the room, then followed von Holstein to a different part of the palace, where they supped in fine style with members of the Swedish Court.
October 18, 1800
A frustrated Daventry and an even more frustrated Granger strolled slowly through one of the corridors in the Royal Palace.Of course, no one else would be able to sense their considerable anxiety, but it was there nonetheless.“We have been here for two weeks, and have yet to obtain the King’s consent to leave,” Granger said sotto voce, summing up their situation.
“We are being detained,” Daventry replied in a voice just as muted.“Von Fersen assures me he is doing everything he can to secure our permission to return to Valiant.”
“I am not convinced that he is, and I am willing to wager that this entire trip was planned out by him and the foreign minister,” Granger opined.
“They relied on our willingness to heed His Swedish Majesty’s instructions, and our innate inclination to assist a man as distinguished as von Fersen,” Daventry agreed with a nod, getting clarity on their situation.Granger had been extremely frustrated with his fellow peer, since Daventry had seemed to thoroughly enjoy their time in Stockholm.He had been having a passionate affair with a Swedish countess, and Granger had been concerned lest he had let this romantic entanglement dull his perception of their true situation. Despite the temptations Granger had faced, primarily in the form of the handsome von Holstein, Granger had eschewed such liaisons.
“And they know that as they are our only real friends in this region, we are bound to try and accommodate them,” Granger whispered, letting his anger out through his muted tones.
“Indeed,” Daventry agreed calmly, trying to remind Granger to keep his emotions in check. He was not successful.
“It is maddening to be kept here, where we are prisoners in everything but fact,” Granger said, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice.The polished Swedish Court and the charming von Fersen made his captivity, for that is what he took it as, to be reminiscent of his time as a prisoner in France.But in some ways this was even worse, because he was some distance from Valiant which was presumably still anchored near Sandhamn, and not in immediate contact with her.He had periodic reports from Weston, where an officer was dispatched to report in, but it was not sufficient to satisfy Granger’s desire to be back in his appropriate milieu.This detachment from his ship was agonizing, especially after his forced departure from Valiant after his return from the Mediterranean.
“We must devise a way to escape, preferably with the King’s consent,” Daventry said, stating the obvious.They arrived at the King’s reception, so that truncated their conversation. As they entered the room, it was as if they had passed through a cleansing chamber, one that eradicated their foul moods and restored them to the polished courtiers they could be.
“It is good to see your lordships,” Daniel Hailes said with a courtly bow.
“Your Excellency,” Granger said curtly, since his initial perceptions of Hailes had proven only too true, and he had found the man to be a diplomatic disappointment.Daventry merely nodded to acknowledge Hailes.
“I have received dispatches from London just this day, my lords,” Hailes said.“I would like to discuss them with you after this audience.” Granger found that to be incredibly annoying, that the man had made no effort to seek them out prior to this audience, and thus they were meeting with the King of Sweden without being privy to the latest news from England.
Granger focused instead on the throne as they bowed and approached it.“Ah, Lords Daventry and Granger.What a pleasure to see you here,” the King said with a royal air.
“The pleasure is wholly ours, Your Majesty,” Granger said.He noticed that the King seemed to like him better than Daventry, so he opted to speak for both of them.
“I missed you at chapel last Sunday, but I am assuming you will be able to attend tomorrow,” the King said with a slightly menacing tone.His eyes darted about a bit, as if to remind them all that the rumors of his mental instability were probably well founded.Gustav was a fervent advocate of the Church and religion, more because of its link to validating the monarchy than because of his morals, which certainly were not above reproach.He seemed to focus on an issue and cling to it, and in their case, the issue he focused on, surprisingly enough, was religion.
“I am not sure that we will be able to attend, Your Majesty,” Daventry said.The King’s brows furrowed in obvious anger, a reaction Granger noted, but his mind was moving like lightning as he devised a potential solution.
“Perhaps, Your Majesty, we could meet you at Church and then take our leave of you then,” Granger suggested.The King’s expression went from angry to wily.If the King’s most fervent wish was to entrap Granger and Daventry into attending a church service with him, Granger was prepared to accommodate him if it meant they’d be able to leave Stockholm.
“I will be sad to see you gentlemen leave, but seeing you right with God before you continue your journey will do much to ease that remorse.”
“We will be happy to attend Your Majesty,” Daventry said uncomfortably. The King nodded his assent, dismissing them at the same time.They backed away from the throne then mingled with the assembled courtiers.Granger pondered that these strange Northern lands seemed to have a penchant for unbalanced monarchs.The Danish Crown Prince was serving as regent for his father, who was all but incarcerated in an asylum.The Swedish king seemed only slightly more lucid, with his key focus, and that of his court, being the maintenance of absolute Royal rule over Sweden.That the King’s father had been assassinated for such reactionary views did not seem to overly weigh on him.And when they could finally escape from here, they would be off to Russia, with its crazy Tsar.Granger was feeling quite superior to these Scandinavians until he remembered that his own King was quite possibly just as mad, and that did much to deflate his inherent sense of superiority.
The three Britons stayed for the minimum time required, then left the palace in Hailes’ carriage, a vehicle that was dilapidated and unpleasant.
“I am not sure that it is wise for members of His Majesty’s government to attend a non-conformist service, my lords,” Hailes said stiffly, as soon as they were ensconced in that vehicle and it started rolling.
“That was on my mind,” Daventry said, and gave Granger a slightly annoyed look.Religious scruples did not have much of an influence on Granger, and he found the ecclesiastical disputes on doctrine to be pedantic.
“I think that attending a Lutheran service is a small price to pay to escape from this place, and I am further convinced that His Majesty would give us leave in this situation,” Granger asserted strongly.
“I am not so sure about that,” Daventry mused with concern, an attitude echoed by Hailes.
“I would remind you gentlemen that both of the King’s predecessors were Lutherans,” Granger said.Daventry grinned at that unassailable argument, while Hailes grimaced.
“Indeed they were,” Daventry said. “You will forgive me for worrying about such things.I fear that the arguments about Catholic Emancipation have made me overly sensitive to religious issues.”
“To imagine such a thing, Papists in positions of power,” Hailes said with disgust.He shared the reactionary views that were so prevalent at the Swedish Court.
“I would think that would be preferable to another rising in Ireland as we experienced in 1798,” Granger riposted.
“Your reformist and forward-thinking attitudes are well-known, Lord Granger,” Hailes said scornfully.
“Thank you,” Granger replied, acting as if it were a compliment.
“I believe you had news to convey to us?” Daventry asked Hailes, to move the discussion on before Granger and Hailes transitioned beyond sniping at each other to a full-blown argument.
“I do,” Hailes said.“I have been recalled and will be leaving as soon as is reasonably possible.”Granger marveled that the Foreign Office, for once, had made a good decision regarding ambassadorial appointments.
“Are you to be replaced?” Granger asked.
“With the new Northern Alliance in place, and a virtual state of war between our two countries, my presence here is inappropriate, my lord,” Hailes said.
“Were there any communications addressed to us?” Daventry asked.
“There were not,” Hailes said.
“As we were not expected to be here, that is understandable,” Granger said.
“That is most certainly true,” Daventry said with a grimace.
October 20, 1800
Granger stood next to Daventry on the deck of the lugger that had taken them from Stockholm.They had endured a tedious church service yesterday, one that contained even more pomp than the Anglican form Granger was used to, so much that at times Granger thought he was attending a Catholic Mass.The King had looked at them from time to time as if to gloat over the fact that they were indeed worshipping in a non-conformist service, savoring his personal victory and the undoubted triumph in saving their collective souls.They’d finally managed to take their leave of the King and von Fersen, but by then it had been too late to start their journey back to Sandhamn, so that had required that they wait yet another day.In any event, they’d escaped at dawn, and were now approaching Sandhamn.Granger fancied he could see Valiant’s topmasts, even though the island itself blocked their view of Valiant’s hull.The lugger neatly skirted the island and as she came round the bend, the harbor came into view, the same harbor they’d left over two weeks ago.Granger smiled as he saw Valiant floating at anchor, looking much as he’d left her, and almost let out a sigh of relief.
Granger and Daventry were both wrapped in winter coats in a futile attempt to keep warm in the frigid temperatures.The smart thing to do would be to go below, but it was much to stuffy down in the hold, and in any event, Granger was too focused on his ship to leave.“Winter comes early to this part of the world,” Daventry opined.
“Now you can see why I prefer the Mediterranean,” Granger observed, even as he manfully worked to keep his teeth from chattering.
“There is already ice forming,” Daventry noted, although it was barely discernable at this point.
“I suspect it will get much worse soon enough,” Granger said nonchalantly, even though the winter weather occupied much of his thoughts.“We are lucky that we made it before nightfall.”
“Just barely,” Daventry commented, as indeed the skies were darkening considerably.Valiant had hung out lanterns, and that illuminated her in the fading light.
The lugger was hailed by Valiant and responded accordingly, then hooked on to her main chains.Granger paid the pilot then climbed up the sides of his ship, followed by Daventry and the others.“Welcome back, my lord,” Weston said cheerfully.
“It is good to be back,” Granger replied.He noted that with the darkness, they would be stuck in this harbor until tomorrow, yet another delay, but at least then they could continue their voyage.He heartily hoped he could make it to St. Petersburg before the Gulf of Finland froze.