“I think that gets better every time we do it,” von Beckendorf said, as he leaned in to kiss Granger.
“I think you are correct,” Granger said, smiling at this randy young Teuton who was proving to be a very fun lover.
“I will go down and see to our breakfast,” he said, which was his subtle hint to Granger to return to his own room and get ready for the day.It was convenient that there was a door connecting the two bedrooms, in addition to the door from each room leading to the hallway.Granger wondered how many of the prior guests or residents of this house had made use of this door just as he was now.
He found Winkler waiting for him with a smirk on his face, which Granger ignored.“I think casual clothes will be appropriate, at least to start our day.”
“Excellent, my lord,” Winkler said.“That gives me a chance to see if my alterations to Mr. Cochrane’s wardrobe were successful.”
Granger tried on one outfit which did not fit him at all, and impatiently allowed Winkler to make markings so as to fix the problem.The second set of clothes fit much better, and while they still needed some work to be perfect, they would do for today.“I am going to breakfast and to find out what our next step in this adventure is to be.”
“I am sure it will be interesting, my lord,” Winkler said.“I will try to get this other outfit ready for tomorrow.”Granger patted him on the shoulder in a friendly way, then descended the stairs to the dining room.
“You look quite good wearing something besides a uniform,” von Beckendorf exclaimed.
“And that surprises you?” Granger asked, being slightly flirtatious.
“Not at all,” he said, and they sat down and began to eat.
“Have you heard news of Lord Daventry?” Granger asked.
“I received a message this morning, telling me that he and Count von der Pahlen left for St. Petersburg eight days ago,” von Beckendorf said.Granger was not surprised by that, as he had not expected Daventry to be here in Riga when they arrived.
“When do you plan for us to begin our journey?” Granger asked.
“I would think we would be ready to go within a week,” von Beckendorf said casually.
“A week?” Granger asked, amazed.He had been expecting to leave tomorrow.“I would think that time is of the essence.”
“First, I must locate and hire an adequate conveyance for us to make our trip,” von Beckendorf said.“Then, while the servants are preparing our baggage for that sojourn, we must make a brief trip, probably for two days, to Mitau.”
“Why are we going to Mitau?” Granger asked and could not hide his frustration.“Where is this place?”
“Mitau Palace is located some 25 miles south of Riga, so it is not too far,” von Beckendorf said.“I assumed that you would want to go there to see the King.”
When von Beckendorf referred to the king, he could not be referring to the Tsar, because translated, that title would be similar to emperor.Granger sensed he was being led down a path in this conversation, so he calmed down and asked the question he had been clearly meant to ask.“Which King?”
“His Most Christian Majesty,” von Beckendorf said, with just a hint of smugness.He must be referring to Louis XVI’s brother, who was now styled Louis XVIII.Granger had no idea that the King of France was in this part of the world.“The Tsar offered to let him reside in Mitau Palace, and sends him an annual subsidy to live on.”
“Is his whole court there?” Granger asked.
“Those who are most important to him, or most attached to his cause, I am told,” von Beckendorf said.“I assumed that you would want to pay your respects since you are so close.”
“That was a good assumption on your part,” Granger said.He felt it would be a huge breach of protocol not to call on the French king, and fancied that Pitt and Grenville would be interested to hear how this government in exile was faring.“Have you been to see them?”
“I have visited a few times, but I have not found it to be much fun,” von Beckendorf said with a grimace.“It is a bit too formal and stuffy.”
“And the Russian Court is not like that?” Granger asked.
“His Imperial Majesty prefers the military, so his court is much like that.The French have many forms and rules about details of their etiquette. It is more confusing,” von Beckendorf said.
“I have never been to the French Court,” Granger said.“I was but a young man when the Revolution started and did not have the opportunity to go there before then.I have been to the palaces, however.”
“You have been to Versailles?” he asked.Everyone in Europe knew about Versailles, such was the splendor of the Sun King.
“I have, but it was not what it once was,” Granger said sadly.“When will we go to Mitau?”
“As soon as our sled is delivered to us,” he said.“You wanted to be comfortable, and that takes both time and money.”
“I am more concerned about the time,” Granger replied. “You must let me know now much money you need.”
“I will do that,” he said.“I expect that it will be ready within the next day or two.We will go to Mitau the day before and stay in town, then visit the palace the next morning.”
“I had better alert Winkler to have my uniform ready,” Granger said.He had planned to be incognito on this trip, but a visit to His Most Christian Majesty required full dress.
January 5, 1801
“Our sled has arrived,” von Beckendorf announced as he walked into the drawing room.He was grinning, so that led Granger to guess it was a very nice vehicle.“Let me show it to you, and then we can depart.”
“Excellent,” Granger said, as he stood up to follow von Beckendorf out to the front of the house.The sight that greeted him was as foreign as had been the camels he had seen in Egypt.It was a large vehicle, fully enclosed but for very small windows in the sides, with a bench in front for the driver.Granger smiled, pleased that it was blue, although not the same shade as his family color.The driver was holding reins that were connected to the four horses who powered the sled.Granger shivered at the thought of what that poor man would have to endure.But most curious of all was that there was smoke coming from it, which made Granger worry that it was on fire.He calmed himself, deciding that if that were the case, the others would not be so complacent.“What is this?”
“It is a vozok,” von Beckendorf said.“This one was previously owned by the Duke of Courland, and I was able to acquire it for 2000 rubles.When we arrive in St. Petersburg, we will be able to sell it for much more than that.”
“How many rubles to an English pound?” Granger asked, trying to discern just how expensive this sled was.
“I would estimate one of your English pounds would buy twenty rubles,” von Beckendorf told him, a fact Granger stored in his brain.“Come and see the inside.”
He noted that they were loading their two trunks onto the back, the one he was taking for this trip along with von Beckendorf’s.He also noted that there would be ample room for his other two trunks as well when they went to St. Petersburg.He followed von Beckendorf to the vozok and a coachman crisply opened the back door.Inside was a beautiful traveling cocoon, with seats upholstered in velvet that matched the exterior, and leather and gilded wood trimmings on the rest.Granger peeked in and found it to be deliciously warm thanks to a stove which sat in the middle of it.This area where he and von Beckendorf would travel was sealed off from the rest of the vozok, with a small window that could be removed for communication with the front compartment.“This is very nice,” Granger said with a smile.“Well worth 100 pounds.”
“I am glad you think so,” von Beckendorf said, beaming with pride at finding such a wonderful conveyance for them.“This front compartment is for your men, my valet, and an extra coachman.The extra coachman is not required, but it is humane, because it allows them to change places and warm up at posting stops.”That was an excellent design.
Granger backed out of their area and looked into the front compartment, which was much more utilitarian.It had wooden seats arranged on either side, with a large pile of wood in the middle.“You will be responsible for keeping the fire going, but I daresay you will be able to remain warm,” Granger said to Winkler.
“Aye, my lord,” Winkler replied.“I am not nearly as afraid of this trip as I was before this vehicle pulled up.”
“Then let us be off,” Granger said.They got into the back compartment and felt the sled begin to move, picking up speed gradually as they went through Riga.Granger noticed that they had an escort of eight dragoons from von Beckendorf’s regiment; although how they ended up here he had no idea.
“With such a large sled, we will not be able to go as fast, but I think the comforts are worth it,” von Beckendorf said.
“I agree,” Granger said.“You did a wonderful job.”
“And there is yet one more advantage to this particular vozok,” von Beckendorf said.Granger just looked at him, waiting for him to go on.“Closed up as it is, we are quite alone back here, and the others will not know what we are doing.”
“That is indeed a decided advantage,” Granger said with a smile, and then made love to his pleasant travelling mate.
January 6, 1801
The vozok pulled up to Mitau Palace, which seemed rather odd to Granger.It was shaped like a horseshoe, with spectacular views of the river, although at this time of year they were more forbidding than pleasant.The exterior was painted a reddish shade as if the color of red roses was mixed with white paint.It lacked the graceful flair that palaces like Versailles managed to emit despite their size, but it was still a very attractive building.He had worn his best dress uniform, with his red ribbon of the Bath draped from his right shoulder down to his waist, and his decorations emblazoned across his chest.He personally thought it was a bit much, what with his medals for St. Vincent and the Nile, and his stars from his orders of the Bath and the Crescent.And as if that wasn’t gaudy enough, hanging from his neck was the ornate Collar he had been given in Spain.
“You look more like one of our generals,” von Beckendorf teased him.
“I have hidden ornaments that are even more interesting,” Granger joked, getting a chuckle in return.The coachman helped them out of the vozok, and they walked briskly up the steps where the palace doors magically opened, courtesy of footmen dressed in the French royal livery.The entry hall was quite ornate, and certainly looked the part of a palace.A man stepped forward, dressed in the style of the ancien regime, with a key embroidered on his lapel indicating that he was a chamberlain.The chamberlain studied these two men intently, as if trying to decide whether to allow them into the sanctity of the palace.Granger found that particularly galling, since clearly he and von Beckendorf were persons of some stature.
“Welcome to the Court of His Most Christian Majesty Louis XVIII, King of France and Navarre,” the chamberlain said with a bow.“I am the Marquis de Jaucourt, His Majesty’s Chamberlain.” Granger wanted to correct him and note that he was only one of His Majesty’s chamberlains, but he opted not to.
“I am Viscount Granger, Baron of Ryde, Knight of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath, Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle, Colonel of His Britannic Majesty’s Marines, holder of the Collar of the Order of His Most Catholic Majesty Charles III, the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, and was most recently Captain of His Britannic Majesty’s Ship Valiant,” Granger said.He reasoned in such a formal court, a full recitation of his titles was appropriate.The Marquis seemed unimpressed.
“What a pleasure to meet you, Lord Granger,” he said, bowing again.“And it is also a pleasure to see you again Baron von Beckendorf,” he said, bowing to him as well.
“The pleasure is most certainly ours, Monsieur de Jaucourt,” Granger said.
“I am curious whether you had an appointment with His Majesty?” the marquis asked.“As it is not his normal audience day, I must assume that is the case.”
Granger bit back his annoyance at the Marquis’ attitude, then reminded himself that it was his own rudeness that was to blame for appearing without making prior arrangements.“I must apologize most profusely for my lack of manners, Monsieur de Jaucourt,” Granger said in an earnest way.“It truly is inexcusable, but in as much as such a thing can be forgiven, I would ask your indulgence.I am due to leave tomorrow, and I wanted to pay my respects to His Majesty.”
“That is most unfortunate indeed,” Monsieur de Jaucourt replied, not yielding an inch.
“Still, although it is not a day for audiences, I note that it is just past eight o’clock, and that means that the King would be celebrating his levee, would he not?” Granger asked.He was well versed in the routines of the French Court, having learned about it during his trip to Versailles.The levee was a public event, more or less.
“You are of course correct,” the Marquis said, “but alas, the levee is only available for those who have entrees.”That was clearly a snub, since as a distinguished foreigner, he should have been allowed in at least at the end, at the Grand Levee.
“That is most unfortunate,” Granger said, biting back his irritation. “I hope you will convey to His Majesty that I was here.”
“I am sure that His Majesty will be pleased that you called on him,” the Marquis said.
Granger made to turn, as if he were preparing to leave, which got a very surprised look from von Beckendorf, who could not fathom that they would make this trip only to leave so quickly, but Granger was not so easily disposed of.As soon as the Marquis began to turn away as well, Granger added his next sentence.“I would ask that you tell Monsieur, the Comte d’Artois, that I am here to see him.”Granger was not sure whether the Comte d’Artois was styling himself as the Dauphin, since he was the presumptive heir to Louis XVIII, or as Monsieur, the King’s brother.Evidently it sufficed.
“Lord Granger, Monsieur is not accepting calls from visitors without appointments today either,” the Marquis responded, not unable to hide his own irritation.
“Monsieur de Jaucourt, I am confident that if you tell him I am here, he will make an exception.We are well-known to each other, and spent much time together during his escape from France at Toulon,” Granger said.He stared at the Marquis, boldly challenging him with his eyes to send Granger away and risk the consequences, until the Marquis flinched.
He motioned to one of his subordinates, then whispered furiously in the man’s ear.After that man exited the room, the Marquis turned to them and smiled.“We have sent word to Monsieur.”
“I do appreciate your accommodating us, despite our lack of an appointment,” Granger said politely, but with just a hint of menace that put a bit of fear in the Marquis’ eyes.He expected that the man would leave them alone, but instead he waited, probably hoping desperately that the Comte d’Artois would relay instructions that he be sent packing.They stood there in an uncomfortable silence, although Granger noticed people peeking into the room from around the corner, and from the top of the stairs above.He imagined that life here in exile must get tediously dull, and any sort of commotion was bound to break up the monotony and draw a great deal of interest.
It seemed like almost an hour, but in fact they waited only ten to fifteen minutes before a handsome young man descended the stairs, followed by the flustered messenger who had been sent to the Comte d’Artois.He had a large nose and light brown hair, and while he moved rapidly down the stairs, once on flat ground he adopted the courtier’s walk, as Granger called it, where one slid instead of stepping, making one’s movements almost silent, and making it seem as if one was gliding instead of walking.It was a skill his own father had taught him to master when he was still a young boy.“Lord Granger, what a pleasure to meet you,” he said ebulliently.“I am Jules, Comte de Polignac, and I have come to escort you to see His Majesty.”
“Thank you, Monsieur de Polignac,” Granger said, returning his bow, and paused briefly to introduce von Beckendorf.He could not refrain from giving the Marquis a smarmy look before following Polignac to the King’s apartments.
“His Majesty has decided to grant you the honor of the Grand Entrée in honor of your visit,” Polignac said, with great reverence. That was indeed an honor, and would allow Granger access to the king along with the highest ranking nobles at Court.
“I am mindful of the compliment His Majesty has given me,” Granger responded.Polignac guided him through a small throng of courtiers who eyed him with a mixture of curiosity and jealousy, then led him through the doors to the king’s bedroom.Louis XVIII was still in his bed in his nightshirt, as was to be expected at the Grand Entree.For all his majestic accouterments, the King was overweight and not very attractive, and did not strike Granger as being the most intelligent of men.He saw the Comte d’Artois standing next to his brother, his eyes twinkling at seeing Granger.The Comte d’Artois was much more handsome and regal than his brother.Granger whispered his name and titles to the Grand Chamberlain, who dutifully announced him in a resonating voice.
Granger approached the bed, bowing just as he would to his own king.“Lord Granger, what a pleasant surprise to meet you,” the King said, his words mirroring those of Polignac not long before that.His voice did not seem very imperious to Granger, but he ignored that.
“It is truly an honor to be allowed into your Majesty’s presence during the Grand Entrees,” Granger said.
“We are most surprised to find an English naval officer in the middle of Courland,” the King said, getting a chuckle from his courtiers.
“Your Majesty has surely heard of the legendarily long range of His Britannic Majesty’s Royal Navy,” Granger joked, getting a smile from the King.“I have embarked on a personal errand to call on His Imperial Majesty Tsar Paul in St. Petersburg and learned only recently of your residence here.As soon as I did, I hastened here to call on you.”
“We are a bit out of the way,” the King said ruefully.“And while this palace is nice, it is certainly not Versailles.”
“Begging your pardon, Your Majesty, but I fear that when you return to France, you will find many of those former palaces require more renovation than Mitau,” Granger said.
“You have been to France?” the King asked.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Granger said.“I was there, as a prisoner, when I was captured after the Battle of the Nile.I visited Choisy-le-Roi, and found it stripped of furnishings and valuables, while the gardens were converted to peasant plots.Fontainebleau was less pillaged, and Versailles was established as a museum of sorts, although little care had been taken to set it up as one.”
“And Marly?” the King asked, even as he dabbed a tear from his eye.
“A tour was arranged for me, and we stayed there.It was much the same as the other palaces.I do not know if the fountains were still operational, as it was winter, Your Majesty,” Granger said.
“That is quite sad,” he said.“I expected nothing less from that scum.”The other courtiers grumbled in agreement at the horrible revolutionaries who had toppled them from power.
“You will perhaps remember that Lord Granger was aboard the ship that rescued me off Toulon,” the Comte d’Artois said to his brother.“Although you were then much younger, and only a midshipman.”
“While many years have passed since then, one would not know it from looking at you, Monsieur,” Granger said with just a hint of flirtatiousness.
“I must remind you that it is a sin to lie in front of His Most Christian Majesty,” the Comte said.
“Then, Monsieur, I must be telling the truth,” Granger replied.After that, the levee continued, and Granger found himself drawn into the tedious routine of a royal day, feeling almost as if he had been transported back to Windsor, although French rules and etiquette were much more severe and inflexible.
The levee having been completed, the King went off to deal with some sort of business, and that left the courtiers free until the evening.Polignac approached him as soon as the King vanished into his private rooms.“Monsieur would like a moment of your time, if it is not inconvenient,” he said to Granger.
“Of course not,” he said, and a simple nod to von Beckendorf was enough of an apology for leaving him here amongst these emigres.He followed Polignac to rooms that were almost as sumptuous as the King’s, then passed through them to private apartments hidden behind the main rooms, much as had been set up at Versailles.
“Ah Granger, how good to see you,” the Comte d’Artois said.“Polignac, please see that we are not disturbed.”
“Of course, Your Royal Highness,” Polignac said.
No sooner had the young count left the room when Monsieur all but assaulted Granger, kissing and groping him with a dominance that brought back memories of coupling with him aboard Barracuda.“God I have missed you,” he said.Then he spoke no more, but merely focused on fucking Granger very long and very hard as was his custom.For Granger, it was enjoyable, but something of a letdown since he would have much rather had sex with von Beckendorf, but he reminded himself that it was quite an honor to be fucked by the heir to the French crown.
When they were done, they hurriedly put on their clothes and adjusted their various decorations, then d’Artois gestured for Granger to sit with him in one of the armchairs in his room, a singular honor.“I must thank Your Royal Highness for such a wonderful interlude.”
“I often think about our encounters on the Barracuda, and they fuel me as much as my mistress does, sometimes even more,” he said.“It is a nice memory to offset so many unpleasant ones, but alas, the present is even more depressing.”
“Surely there is hope, sir?” Granger asked, even though he knew there was little chance of the Bourbons being restored to the French throne, at least not at this point.
“There is always hope,” he said fatalistically.“My brother has not treated the Tsar in the most diplomatic way, and I fear it is only a matter of time before we are forced to leave this place.It has been a relatively pleasant refuge, even though it is not home.”
“I do not understand, sir,” Granger said.“Is this a result of Russia’s warmer relationship with the French Republic?” The Comte cringed at those last two words being linked together.
“And the reconstituting of the League of Armed Neutrality?” d’Artois asked, indirectly insinuating that Britain, with her meddlesome ways, may be responsible for the King being thrown out of Russia.“It is not.It has to do with Malta.The Tsar was named as the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Hospitallers, and my brother was not supportive of that move, noting that the Tsar is not even a proper Christian.”Granger had no idea what the religious differences were between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, but thought that this was just the kind of dogmatic adherence to religion that had hamstrung the Bourbons for centuries.
“Sir, His Majesty’s objections will most likely not change the Tsar’s mind, but just antagonize him,” Granger noted logically.
“You are ever the pragmatist, but I fear that when God is involved, there can be no compromise of tenets,” he replied.“In any event, I will let you go and visit with the other members of the Court.They will most likely not brighten your day, but you will brighten theirs.”
“If they are like Monsieur de Jaucourt, I will probably be leaving before the coucher tonight,” Granger said with a grin.The Comte d’Artois laughed, then stood up to escort Granger from his chambers.Granger found his way back to the great hall and despite his concerns, he thoroughly enjoyed himself.The old world manners of the Courtiers reminded him of Talleyrand, and knowing how much all of these people detested France’s current foreign minister, it made it even more amusing to mentally compare Talleyrand to them.
Granger had just finished an interesting conversation with Madame de Sourdis, when he saw the King’s almoner, Abbe Edgeworth of Firmont, approaching him.The Abbe was most renowned for being Louis XVI’s final confessor; the priest who went with him to the guillotine and stayed with him until his head was severed.He was approximately 55 years old, and had very narrow, pinched features that made him look a bit like a ferret.“My lord, I wonder if I may have a word with you,” he said in his perfect, but accented English. He had been born in Ireland, but migrated to France when he was but a boy.
“Of course, Monsieur de Firmont,” Granger said.The Abbe led him from the hall, which surprised Granger, and strolled slowly with him down the corridors of the main floor.Granger noticed that he went slowly enough so as not to make their conversation difficult or to provide too many distractions, while also going fast enough that other people could not overhear them.
“I understand you are going to St. Petersburg,” he said, to which Granger nodded his assent.“I fear we are soon to be evicted from this country.”
“Monsieur had shared that with me,” Granger said.“I am sorry that your situation has become so precarious.”
“I would like to impose upon you, if I may,” he said nervously.
“Monsieur, if there is something that is within my power to do to assist you, I will surely do it,” Granger said honestly.
“Thank you, my lord.When you return to England, would you be willing to make some inquiries to see if your government could not help His Most Christian Majesty in his hour of need?” he asked.
“The Tsar does not provide him with money?” Granger asked, since he assumed that Paul would at least give Louis XVIII a stipend.
“He provides an allowance of 200,000 rubles per year, of which the pay for the guards must be deducted. His Majesty also receives money from His Most Catholic Majesty, some 85,000 rubles, but His Most Catholic Majesty is most grudging with his support,” the Abbe said.Granger decided that the Spanish king would indeed be irritated at having to support his Bourbon cousin.He did the conversion quickly enough, and found that the King’s income was just shy of 15,000 pounds per year.That was less money than he and Caroline made in a year, and he did not have to support all of these ancillary courtiers.
“That is not much to run a Court with,” Granger said.
“It is not,” the Abbe said.“It was all we could do to scrape enough money together for my last trip to St. Petersburg.”
“I am sorry for your current distress,” Granger said sympathetically.
“Which leads me to the next matter I would like to address with you,” the Abbe said.Granger waited patiently for him to continue.“In anticipation that we will most likely be forced to leave this place, Her Royal Highness the Duchesse d’Angoulême is considering raising money by selling some of her jewels.”
“Surely she will not have to part with French artifacts?” Granger asked, horrified at the thought of the French Crown jewels being parsed out piecemeal to the aristocracy of Courland.
“No, she will not,” he replied with a smile. “She has a set of diamonds that was given to her by Tsar Paul as a wedding present.They are quite spectacular.It is those that she wishes to sell.”
“Is it possible to sell those jewels to a Russian subject, knowing they were a gift from the Tsar?” Granger asked, wondering how closely the Tsar’s secret police would watch the actions of the French emigres.
“It is most difficult,” the Abbe acknowledged.“Monsieur the Duc de Richelieu mentioned to me how you had purchased some jewels from his family and that had enabled him to replenish his coffers.”And with that sentence, his purpose became clear.
“And you are wanting me to purchase Her Royal Highness’s diamonds?” Granger asked.
“I fear you are the only one with resources to do so while we are in Russia,” he said.“The other problem is that we will not be able to rely on bankers, so such payment must be in coins.”
“How much money does Her Royal Highness want for her diamonds?” Granger asked, even as he mentally took stock of his financial situation.He had brought a great deal of money with him on this voyage, but he would have many expenses ahead of him, and he could not rely on bankers to advance him funds.
“They are worth thousands, but there is no one to buy them,” he said sadly.“I would think that for 500 of your guineas, she would be satisfied.”
“Allow me to dispatch a note to my staff, to have the money delivered to me here,” Granger said.The Abbe seemed surprised that Granger would agree to make such an exchange without even seeing the diamonds, but Granger knew that a Tsar of Russia could not appear parsimonious when providing wedding gifts to members of other royal families. “I trust you will see that they are well received?” Granger made sure the Abbe noticed his irritation at his treatment by the Marquis.
“I will gladly do that,” he said.
Granger took out his purse and pulled out several coins, then handed them to the Abbe.“Hopefully this will help you survive the depredations such a sudden departure may cause you personally.”
The Abbe stared at the coins, looked at Granger in a bit of shock, then pulled himself together.“Thank you, my lord.That is most generous of you.”Granger smiled to acknowledge his words, then dashed off a note to Winkler to bring him 500 guineas from his chest.