1 Rue St. Albert, Toulouse, Provençe
25 May 1016
My dearest cousin Armand,
By my calculations you should be arriving in Mont-Havre just about now; and yet you will not be receiving this letter for another two months. How I wish your plans for your fast packet had come to fruition!
Regarding the war in Malague, I visited Lord Ellesmere at the embassy yesterday. He assures me that all is going “well, quite well,” and that Maximilian is in no particular danger at this time. I would find this more calming if I did not fear that he has had no news and is merely humoring me; but Maximilian’s chief, Alex Gainsborough, tells me the same, and so I suppose I must accept it.
Mother writes that Aunt Jane is doing well; she dined with my parents some days ago and seems altogether cheerful, though at a bit of loss to know what to do with herself without your father in the house. She is enjoying the round of morning visits and teas, but she misses having someone to take care of.
Your father, for his part, is continuing to decline. “There isn’t much of him left,” is how Mother put it. He has lost the ability to argue, and says and does little; and Mother thinks that soon he may safely return home to Norwich Street for the scanty time he has left.
I also hear, “through channels,” as Maximilian puts it when he can’t or won’t explain how he has learned something, that the Shipwright’s Guild is still livid at the destruction of your fast packet and has continued to do its best to put all of the blame on you. The Army has put a stop to that; there was an “official inquiry” that concluded that the Anne-Marie was destroyed accidentally on landing, and that your swift return to Armorica was all according to plan.
The Shipwright’s Guild clearly thinks otherwise, and is using its influence with Parliament to push legislation that all shipping built in Cumbria “and her possessions abroad” must be built to Guild designs “for the safety of His Majesty’s Navy and merchant fleet.” Here your best allies are at the Admiralty; they will not publicly break with the Shipwrights, but it is known that not all Cumbrian shipyards give the Navy value for money and that many of her best hulls were captured from the Provençese. I am assured that words are being brought to the appropriate ears.
The outcome is uncertain, however, though you would know better than I whether Cumbrian Acts of Parliament can be made to stick in Mont-Havre. But I suggest you move swiftly, and though I am pained to say it, that you consider opening foreign markets with all speed.
Your concerned cousin,