Authors: Julia Brannan
After giving a misleading report of his meeting with Charles to Sir Horace Mann who is the Hanoverian envoy in Florence, Alex, Beth and Angus travel to France, where, at Versailles, Beth becomes acquainted with, and starts to like, the man Henri. Alex, as Sir Anthony, pretends jealousy and challenges Henri to a duel, during which he kills him, as though by accident.
Beth, having not been entrusted with his plans, and also having been kept in the dark about some other things, is very hurt and leaves suddenly, travelling back first to London and then Manchester, on her own, where she settles in with her ex-servants.
Alex’s return is delayed as he is held in prison for duelling. He sends Angus to Rome to stop Prince Charles riding to Paris to join the invasion and thereby raising British suspicion and Louis’ anger. Alex then returns home to London, where he is expecting Beth to be waiting for him. When he discovers she has left, he follows her to Manchester, where they are reconciled.
STUART/HANOVER FAMILY TREE
Alexander MacGregor, Highland Chieftain/Sir Anthony Peters, Baronet
Elizabeth (Beth) MacGregor/Lady Elizabeth Peters, his wife
Duncan MacGregor, brother to Alex
Angus MacGregor, brother to Alex
Iain Gordon, liegeman to Alex
Margaret (Maggie) Gordon, his wife
Simon MacGregor, clansman to Alex
Kenneth MacGregor, clansman to Alex
Dougal MacGregor, clansman to Alex
Robbie MacGregor, Dougal’s youngest brother
Alasdair MacGregor, clansman to Alex
Peigi MacGregor, Alasdair’s wife
Lieutenant Richard Cunningham, a dragoon and brother to Beth
Lord Edward Cunningham, cousin to Richard and Beth
Isabella Cunningham, Edward’s eldest sister
Clarissa Cunningham, Edward’s middle sister
Charlotte Stanton, Edward’s youngest sister, widow of Frederick
Sarah Browne, formerly lady’s maid to Beth
Graeme Elliot, former gardener to Beth
Thomas Fletcher, her former steward
Grace Miller, former lady’s maid to Beth
Mary Williamson, childhood friend of Beth’s
Joseph, Mary’s fiancé
Edwin Harlow, MP and friend of Sir Anthony and Beth
Caroline Harlow, his wife
Freddie Harlow, their infant son
Lady Philippa, cousin to Caroline
Lord Bartholomew Winter
Lady Wilhelmina Winter, his wife
Anne Maynard, an impoverished relative of Lord Winter
William, Earl of Highbury
Lord Daniel Barrington, his son
Thomas Fortesque, MP
Lydia Fortesque, his daughter
Lord Stanley Redburn, an elderly lord, desperate to marry
Gabriel Foley, leader of a band of smugglers
Helen, a beautiful young lady
Percy, a young gentleman
David, a young gentleman
Colonel Mark Hutchinson
John, a captain in the Horseguards
Sergeant Smith, a dragoon
King George II, King of Great Britain and Ireland, Elector of Hanover
Frederick, Prince of Wales, eldest son of King George II
Prince George, Frederick’s eldest son
Prince Edward, Frederick’s youngest son
Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, second son of King George.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart, eldest son of James Stuart (the Pretender), exiled King of Britain
Donald MacDonald, of Glencoe, a clansman
Ealasaid MacDonald, Beth’s grandmother
Joan MacDonald, cousin to Beth
Meg MacDonald, Joan’s twin sister
Robert MacDonald, their younger brother
Allan MacDonald, eldest brother of Joan, Meg and Robert
Nathan Sennet, a Redcoat soldier
John Murray of Broughton
Donald Cameron of Lochiel, Chief of Clan Cameron
France, February 1744
The tall, straight-backed figure stood alone on the beach gazing out to sea, the wind toying playfully with his hair and fingering the folds of his heavy winter coat. He had ridden out from the fortified town of Gravelines in the early morning, so early that even the servants had still been abed, and no one had seen the young man with the shock of red-brown hair as he had quietly left the house and made his way to the stables. He had ridden out into the darkness, the cold bite of the wind dispersing the alcoholic haze from the previous evening’s revels, leaving him clear-headed and exhilarated.
Tearing his gaze from the sea, he walked aimlessly for a time, the pebbles crunching softly beneath the soles of his fine leather boots, his mind soothed by the soft susurration of the waves. He waited until the sky turned from black to dark grey, then to a lighter pearl-grey, which transformed the sea into a restless sheet of rolling burnished silver.
He turned a pebble over with his toe, marvelling at its smoothness, evidence of the relentless, patient power of the sea, which in time subdued all things, and which could, at a whim, scatter whole navies, driving kings to ruin and despair. A frown etched the fine aristocratic brow briefly, as he thought of the famed ill-luck of his family which had brought so many of his forebears to disaster and a brutal early death.
It would not be so this time, he thought, his brow clearing, the optimism of youth outweighing the legendary superstition of centuries. It was his destiny to change the luck of the Stuarts. He had known that since he was a small child and had first heard the stories, whispered to him by his nurse, that at the exact time of his birth a new star had been seen in the sky, whilst a storm had simultaneously wreaked havoc in Hanover, the home of his despised enemy. The enemy which now sat so smugly and complacently on his father’s throne, across that stretch of silver sea.
But not for long. For the time had come at last, the time he had been waiting for, for over twenty long years. It was what he had prepared himself for, putting his body through a punishing regime of diet and exercise, honing his muscles, practising with sword and pistol, with bow and arrow until no one could match his accuracy. He had driven his aching muscles beyond the boundaries of exhaustion and fatigue until his pampered aristocratic companions had whispered in awe that the young prince must indeed be superhuman. Had he not been born on the very eve of the new year, when the old was swept aside and in the depths of winter new hope was born?
He was that new hope, and as he stood on the shore, gazing out across the sea towards his father’s kingdom, his kingdom to be, a surge of exhilaration bore him up and over the waves to England. He saw himself, so clearly that it must be a premonition, at the head of an army, riding into London, the cheers of the people resounding in his ears, rose petals falling like velvet rain upon him as the people, his people, went wild with joy at the return of the Stuarts to their rightful place.
A seagull called mournfully and the spell was broken; he was once again standing on the windswept shore, the only sound the gentle shushing of waves on pebbles.
He turned his gaze towards the north-east, where all his hopes were even now being brought to fruition, as the provisions, cannon and the barrels of gunpowder were loaded onto the multitude of ships that would bear the French army and himself to England and to victory. Last night he had disguised himself, and had ridden into Dunkirk, although King Louis, fearful of British spies, had expressly forbidden him to go there. He had gazed in wonder at the multitude of ships, their masts tall and bare like a forest of trees in winter. It was not possible that such a fleet could fail. He had spent the evening in the taverns, drinking with the sailors and soldiers who were now pouring into the town, enriching the pockets of the whores and innkeepers. They had flocked round the charming, generous young Frenchman from Paris, eager to tell him tales of their bravery in combat, which grew ever more extravagant as the alcohol flowed. It had been a good evening, one to amuse his courtiers with from the comfort of St James’s Palace, from the throne where his grandfather had sat, where his father would sit, and where he too would be enthroned, when the time came.
He was Charles Edward Stuart, eldest son and heir to King James the Eighth of Scotland and Third of England. He would use his looks, his strength and above all his enormous charismatic powers of persuasion to regain the throne for the Stuarts. He had friends, many friends in England, and even more in Scotland. The clans were loyal to him. He was, after all, one of them, a Scot by blood if not birth, and they did not cast aside the bonds of kinship lightly. If this French invasion failed, which it would not, could not, then he would call on the allegiance of his kinsmen.
His whole life had been lived for this single purpose. This was his destiny, and by God, he would fulfil it, if he had to row across the channel single-handed to raise his subjects. They
rise for him. It was unthinkable that they would not. In all his young life, he had never been denied, and he would not be denied now. The crown was his, if his father did not want it, and he would win it, or die in the attempt.
Late February 1744
Alex and Beth managed to keep the fact that they had returned to London a secret for a whole week, until Beth was unfortunately seen looking out of her window, after which the calling cards began to trickle in, forming a small pile on the table in the hall. The trickle quickly became an avalanche as the rumour that Sir Anthony Peters and his wife were apparently reconciled spread like wildfire among society. It was unbelievable. After all, hadn’t Lady Peters engaged in a passionate affair with both King Louis of France
his servant? And hadn’t Sir Anthony, in a fit of jealous rage, challenged the servant to a duel, where he had accidentally killed the man? It was also rumoured that the baronet had intended to call Louis himself out, had the king not had him thrown into prison before he could do so. It was so exciting! Everyone wanted to be the first to interview the couple and find out the truth of the affair.
Beth and Alex ignored the mountain of cards, unwilling to return to the empty whirl of concerts, dinners and card parties. Then Beth received a somewhat wordy letter from her cousin Isabella, in which she expressed a wish to visit the following day to discuss the arrangements for a dinner party she intended to hold next Wednesday to welcome her dear cousins home.
They bowed to the inevitable, and while Beth penned an insincere reply, stating that she and her husband were delighted at the honour Isabella was according them, Alex gloomily combed and curled his wig, and unearthed his cosmetics from the bottom of his travelling trunk.
At Smith Square, the Cunningham sisters were beside themselves with joy. Their dinner party would be the first occasion on which Sir Anthony and Lady Elizabeth would appear in public since their return from France, and everyone wanted to be invited. Isabella pondered the enormous list of would-be guests for a time, then tentatively approached her brother for his advice.
Lord Edward was no help at all, declaring that he would have nothing to do with the organisation of this ridiculous dinner, being neither partial to his cousin or her husband, although he did agree to be present at the meal itself. After all, Sir Anthony had promised to put in a good word for the peer with the king, and a dinner would be an excellent opportunity to remind him of his promise. He just hoped that Sir Anthony had made it very clear to his wife that he would not tolerate such wanton behaviour as she had engaged in in France, if all the rumours were true. It was almost impossible to imagine that ridiculous apology for a man actually challenging anyone to a duel, let alone killing him. Hopefully it had given him the courage to tame his headstrong wife. She certainly needed it.
Left to her own devices Isabella, with an unerring talent for the inappropriate, invited all the people Beth would least want to spend an evening with, only adding Edwin and Caroline to the list after Beth insisted quite forcefully that they be included. Sir Anthony, resplendent in royal blue satin, an ingratiating smile plastered on his chalk-white face, said that he would be quite happy to attend any dinner of Isabella’s, no matter who was invited, as he was on good terms with almost everybody he could think of, and for himself he would trust to the excellent Cunningham taste to ensure the guests were of a suitably eclectic mix to provide an entertaining evening.
The three sisters had beamed, and the sycophantic Sir Anthony had then been dragged straight round to the Harlows’ house by Beth to personally deliver the invitation, which was for six o’clock, three days hence. And to see the sweet, docile angel of a baby with the most beautiful blue eyes and most endearing smile, that Sir Anthony had enthused about to Isabella.
When they were shown into the drawing-room, Caroline was pacing up and down the carpet, rocking the tiny angel in her arms, now christened Frederick John, Sir Anthony having had no objections to her using his middle name, which was common enough not to cause problems later, although he had steadfastly refused to be a godfather. She looked up at her guests.