Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
17 Rue Thomas, Toulouse
20 February 1017
My dearest cousin Armand,
All has been in a tizzy at the Cumbrian Embassy these past two days, so Maximilian informs me; for though he is no longer officially employed there, he still does check in with them on occasion. It seems that your Lord Doncaster has not only returned to Yorke in response to his recall, he has done so far in advance of anyone’s expectations. He has quite set the fox among the hens, so it seems; there were those planning to ambush him, in Lord Ellesmere’s war-like phrasing, but he has turned the table on them, as it were, and it seems likely that they are quite undone.
What’s more, he has been trumpeting your name about everywhere he goes, and in the most laudatory terms!
It began when a small vessel of the most unusual design sailed into Yorke and came to rest in front of the House of Parliament, stopping traffic in both directions, and allowed Lord Doncaster and his aides to disembark before sailing off for points unknown.
His Lordship, dressed in his finest, sprang up the steps and into the House of Lords, where he took his seat for the very first time—as who could deny him the right, though I am sure his enemies would have tried to stop him had they had any warning—and immediately entered a motion of censure for the Shipwright’s Guild. I am told there was great merriment; for even if Doncaster is one of the newest titles in the realm the man himself is from a noble family, and the Lords much prefer him to any uppity guild of craftsman.
After a suitable delay a messenger arrived from the House of Commons demanding that Lord Doncaster submit himself to their authority post-haste; to which Doncaster replied that as a Peer of the Realm he could be tried only by the House of Lords, and that all he had done was subject to His Majesty’s approval in any event. And in this he was supported by the assembled Lords, as one would expect.
Oh, it was a great brouhaha indeed; and it was not settled quickly, for it will be necessary to assemble a joint gathering of the Houses with His Majesty present, something not to be done at a moment’s or even a week’s notice.
Meanwhile, His Lordship, well aware of his public reputation as the hero of the age, and of the effect of despatches on the sentiments of the Cumbrian public, happily conferred with with representatives of the Times of Yorke. He adverted strongly to the Provençese origins of the Colony of Armorica; that Cumbria, and hence the House of Commons, had had no hand in her founding, and hence no claim upon her; that his troops had been sent there not to conquer territory but to put down the Maréchal and his men; and that His Majesty’s strong arm had descended upon her to protect her, not to ravish her; that the Armoricans had proved well able to govern their own affairs; and that throughout he had acted in accordance with His Majesty’s wishes.
On being questioned by the Times as to the manner of his arrival in Yorke, he spoke at length of you and your vessel the Amelie, and about the speed and ease of his voyage home from Armorica. He did say that the packet’s current furnishings were “a bit Spartan,” but that they were far better than he was used to on campaign, and that he shouldn’t wish to journey at the mercy of the winds of the Abyss ever again. And he spoke of the your wicked persecution by the master’s of the Shipwright’s Guild, and how they had hounded you even while you were assisting His Majesty’s Army and Navy in time of war.
In writing of this, The Times did not choose to use the word “treachery”; but the word “disloyalty” was bandied about rather freely.
As to the question of the Amelie‘s current whereabouts, he would only say, “She’s quite safe, never fear,” while touching a finger to the side of his nose.
It is too early to say what the final outcome will be, as the meeting of the Houses has not yet occurred; but at present he plainly has His Majesty, the Lords, and the populace on his side. The Commons, for their part, are split; most are reviling the Amelie as a devilish contraption, but the few with mercantile connections are totting up sums.
But of course you must have known all about His Lordship’s plans already, for he would not have taken the Amelie without your approval.
I find that I should like to be furious with you, that I should find all these things out second-hand via the Times and Lord Ellesmere’s diplomatic pouch rather than from you, and yet I know that I am being too absurd. Even a letter sent with Lord Doncaster could not possibly have reached me before this news did; for His Lordship’s speed of travel far excelled that of any Courier’s Guild packet, and His Lordship was hardly going to risk alerting his enemies by making a stop in Toulouse.
Still, I hope I may hear from you soon.
Your somewhat absurdly irritated cousin,
Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash