Quick note: I have been suffering from terrible writers block, and I have about half a chapter written on every open story I have, most of which isn't very good, and every time I sit down to write I end up writing three thousand some odd words and then end up deleting it all. I am getting pretty deep into my studies at school and I think that might have something to do with it. So I started a story set in the time period that I spend hours every day reading about and researching.
Hopefully if I get it out of my system, or just writing again in general, it will jump start my brain and I will be able to write something decent again.
Here is the basic set up:
In 1658 Oliver Cromwell died. His son Richard became Lord Protector but had no support in Parliament or the army. In 1559 he was forced to resign. With the protectorate dissolved with the abdication of Richard, rival factions in England began to fight for dominance. The English governor or Scotland, George Monck, marched on London with the New Model Army and reinstated the Long Parliament (members had been purged (kicked out not necessarily murdered or executed during an even called "Pride's Purge" which resulted in what was called the "Rump Parliament"). These men or counties that were excluded were then readmitted). The constitutional changes this new parliament made, made it possible for Charles II to be called back from exile. When the parliament dissolved and a new one was elected, restrictions against royalists were ignored and an almost 50/50 split between Anglicans and Presbyterians (main body of Puritans) resulted. This new Convention Parliament received the Declaration of Breda, in which Charles II promised he would pardon many of his father's enemies if he was restored to the throne. News reached Charles II in Breda of his restoration on May 8th, he landed in Dover, England on May 25th, and was welcomed into London on May 29th, 1660 (fun fact, this was his 30th birthday. Some happy birthday). Most rebels were pardoned, but 50 were hung and drawn and quarter, imprisoned for life, or barred from office. Charles II had the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, John Bradshaw, and Henry Ireton (regicides) dug up and given the executions of traitors after death.
That is where this story picks up.
I hope you enjoy it. I love this time period. I think it's tons of fun. Hopefully you will think so too.
Let me know!
He was draped in coat a color as deep as his wine, the pockets, trim, and buttons lined with intricate designs of gold thread. His black stockings trailed downward from his red breeches, tied with white and gold tassels just below the knee, drawing attention to the polished silver buckle on his black shoes. Long, lean fingers played with the head of his walking stick, the rings on his fingers glinting in the light of the fire with each twirl of his fingers. The ringlets of his wig rested over his shoulder and ended just above mid-chest, two inches above the end of his silk and lace cravat.
He had a way of looking both bored and on edge at the same time, and his thin lips had been pressed into the same tight line since they had arrived at the Wyndham estate just outside of London. He had strong eyebrow ridges, and she thought that perhaps that was why his eyebrows were not plucked like many men who followed the same fashion trends. He would look odd with thin eyebrows and such masculine a face. Blue, piercing eyes looking out from underneath the strong brow and the flames of the fire danced in them, giving away what truly had his attention. The nostrils of his straight, long nose would flare at times when the conversation turned to something he did not like, and it was the only indication she had that he was even listening to what was being said. He had high cheekbones most men of his status and fashion preference might outline with rouge, but his face remained naked and pale.
She was thankful, when she had been presented to him, that he was tall, broad shouldered, and thick of build, and it made the prospect of marrying him less horrendous. He was young, only twenty five, and in that respect she also found herself to be very lucky. She knew she had come dangerously close to becoming the wife of the aged Marquess speaking to her father now. His plump, short frame, wrinkled face and flushed cheeks was certainly not a mirror for the future George Wyndham sitting by the fire. One look at the large portrait of the beautiful woman looming behind him, and it was clear which parent her betrothed favored.
George Wyndham, more formally addressed by his father's subsidiary title, the Earl of Bridgewater, would someday, in his own right, become the Marquess of Bambreich, Earl of Bridgewater, Viscount Turnbridge, and Prudence Burnham, daughter of Sir Hugh Burnham, was to be his wife. Sir Hugh sat in stark contrast with his future son-in-law. He was dressed in all black, short cropped hair a top of his head, and back stiff and erect. He had refused to let his daughter dress as many highborn women might have for the occasion and she herself wore only a simple brown dress and a white bonnet. The look of disappointment on George Wyndham's face when he had seen her would stay with her for a long time, and she did not think it was something she would ever forgive her father for.
But it was not the Burnham fashion sense the Wyndham's were after. It was her dowry. During the civil war Sir Hugh had fought under Oliver Cromwell himself, had served in the parliament that had executed the anointed King Charles I, and in the aftermath, amassed a sizable fortune collected estates left over from the royalists that had fled the country. One such royalist sat before them in the puffy, red faced Marquess of Bambreich. Now, with the executed King's son restored to the throne, a king that Henry Wyndham had followed to France to live in his exiled court, he was grasping to keep his stolen fortune intact. To ensnare the heir of Bambreich Sir Hugh had decided to cut into his son's inheritance to subsidize Prudence's dowry. An estate once belonging to the Earl of Winthrope, would be Sir Hugh's wedding gift to the couple. It would keep them from ruin, becoming ostracized, and perhaps, a trip to the gallows.
Prudence's eyes flickered through the night from her brown shoes to her betrothed's face. She wondered if he was anxious to return to his mistress, who she knew was set up in a London house only a few streets from court. He stared into the flames, face blank, austere, and hard. It was the face she might expect on one of her Calvinist suitors. It was not the face one expected on a man dressed as he was. She assumed he had the potential for that lazy, arrogant smile she had seen on many of the returning nobility, but now, he had no reason to be amused.
He had just met his future wife, plain, drab, and dressed in what looked like a peasant frock. In France where he grew up, travelling between the French King and the English King's court, he was surrounded by beautiful women. Women who laughed, and flirted, and dressed in bright colors and pretty silks. One such woman he liked so much, he brought back to England with him as his mistress. Surely, when faced with the woman he would be bound to for the rest of his life, the woman he would be forced to produce an heir with, he was thinking of his beautiful French mistress.
"Prudence! Prudence, really," she heard her father snap but it was not until she saw Wyndham's cold blue eyes turn away from the flames and land on her did she break from her musings. She looked toward her father, red faced and glowering, and then to the Marquess, who smiled kindly.
"I am so sorry, My Lord," she breathed. "Please forgive me."
"No harm done, dear daughter," Lord Bambreich smiled. "I asked how you found London."
"Oh… I have found it… big," she said, glancing toward Wyndham. Her betrothed said nothing and looked away, back toward the fire. She wished she could have thought of something more intelligent, but all she could think of was the rotten, decayed bodies of the regicides Charles II had ordered disinterred and executed posthumously at Tyburn.
"We shall remove to Berkshire after the coronation," Wyndham spoke, gazing into the fire. "It is quiet there."
"Very good, my Lord," Prudence tried to sound as sweetly as she could, but he only continued staring into the fire. His indifference, his coldness, stung, but she did not let the smile leave her face. She might be dressed as a commoner because of her father's strict Calvinism, but she was a highborn, well bred lady, and she hoped when she was out of her father's household, she would be able to show him that. She ignored the rest of the conversation between Lord Bambreich and her father, but she did not risk another glance to her betrothed.
She wondered if his mistress would follow them to Berkshire. She felt nothing for the man gazing into the fire, but she could not help the sting that settled in her chest at the thought that tomorrow night after dutifully consummating the marriage, he would return to the arms of another woman. When he gently held her fingers in his hand upon their introduction, bowed low and brushed his lips over her knuckles she had felt heat swim to her cheeks, but it was not flirtatious embarrassment. It was a painful embarrassment. The look of disgust, so falsely covered up by a forced smile, the touch of his hand, the distaste in his eyes, it told her in one moment what their marriage would behold.
As she stood to leave she kept her eyes away from George Wyndham. He would not be the only own to show his indifference and unhappiness. He might be condescending in rank, but she was more than paying for his titles, and until recently, the Burnham's had been a powerful, wealthy, and respectable house… among republicans.
"If I may escort you, madam," Wyndham surprised her by offering her his arm. She accepted with a tiny bend of her knees and a nod of the head. Her right arm circled his left. With his right hand holding the walking stick up to eye level, he examined the design on the top with what she thought was exaggerated interest. He kept their pace slow, so that their father's walked up ahead of them up the long gallery hall.
"Shall we be honest with each other, madam?" he asked.
"I would hope so, my lord," she answered. He nodded and lowered his walking stick to the ground, pressing it against the cool marble.
"I do not want to marry you," he said abruptly but her face remained impassive. She looked straight ahead, starring at the back of her father's head with glassy eyes. "I care little about Pomeroy Hall. As far as wedding gifts go it is excessive. Not even your money can muster up any sort of desire within me, but my father insists, and if I wish to remain his heir he says I must marry you."
"Please, my Lord, do not make the mistake of thinking your feelings are anything but mutual," she replied, her voice ice cold.
"I am pleased to hear it. Though I have no desire to marry you, that does not mean I have a desire to hurt you. I think our union has the potential to be agreeable, harmonious maybe, dare I hope happy? If we are able to come to an understanding early, I see no reason why it cannot be."
"And the understanding?" she asked, a lump in her throat, but in no way did it affect the coolness in her voice.
"Our union is nothing more than a political and economical contract, binding together to families in mutual need of the other. There is no real need for the two of us to keep each other's company. I see no reason for us to even keep the same residence. You may live in Harling House in the north close to your family; I shall keep my residences in London."
"If you were to speak plainly, my lord, you would have said you will ship me up to the North to die alone, while you spend your days warm in bed with your French whore," she replied, eyes still straight ahead. If they were going to be honest, they would be completely honest. She would not let him pretend he was being anything more than selfish. The fact that he could not control his hedonistic desires enough to be true to his marriage vows, she would have it said.
"After I have two healthily sons you may do as you please," he replied and she pinched her lips together.
"You say so, only because you know I will not," she said, more softly this time.
"Yes… puritans and their vows. If only you had taken your oaths to your king so faithfully," he mused.
"I thank you for your honesty, Lord Bridgewater," she said politely. "After I have given you two sons, I will leave for the North. You may come to resent me should I remain to be a constant reminder of your inability to withstand sin. Hardly conducive to a happy marriage."
They had reached the end of the gallery and were now at the entrance of the manor. They turned to face each other, him bowing stiffly, jaw set hard to hide an angry glare, and her, curtseying, face stony, eyes slightly widened to keep the tears from her eyes.
"My lord," she murmured.
"Madam," he replied stiffly, ice in his voice.
"I wish you a good sleep," she told him, but she knew that where he would be spending the night before their wedding he would be doing very little sleeping.
"And you as well," he said, a slight inclination of his head.
"Come my dear," Sir Hugh smiled. "You shall only be parted till tomorrow."
She forced a smile to her father, but her eyes once again found Wyndham's.
"I shall bear it with a heavy heart, and silent strength," she said, eyes locking on the cold blue gaze of her betrothed. Judging by the hardening of his eyes, the clenching of his jaw, and the slight curve of his lips, only he seemed understand, she had meant their marriage.