Countess of Ballintrae
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Letter from Whitehall to Carterhaugh, Scotland

2016-02-11
By: Countess of Ballintrae
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February 1666

My dear sister Rose,

Youve no idea how fortunate you are to be in Scotland! Though the King and Queen have returned from Oxford after a stint at Hampton Court, a few plague deaths have occurred though nowhere near Whitehall. Our prayers have been answered! The Queen is with child, the King struts like a peacock, and England rejoices.

All but Lady Castlemaine. My maid Sally reported that Castlemaines maid said that Barbara came home from the Carnival Ball in a rage over the news and broke several vases by smashing them in her fireplace. It was an otherwise delightful evening, with the King and Queen in high spirits, and the appearance of a pleasingly impertinent player from His Majestys Theatre named Nell Gwyn.

Castlemaines nose has been out of joint ever since Frances Stuart declined to stay under her wing and sought her own position as Lady of the Bedchamber. No, la Belle Stuart remains the flowerbud she was as when she arrived here, and the King still seems quite incapable of taking the bloom from the rose.

In a way, I rather admire le petit Frances for her principle, though my distinct impression is that she is most disinterested in intimacy and squeamish about it, judging from her behavior during her courses and the headaches she so often pleads. And it is ever so amusing to see the King depart her chambers without having been disordered.

Court has been busy of late, as the Queen returned from Oxford in the same good spirits usually reserved for the King. She is happy, hums to herself, dresses in a decidedly English manner, forgoing her dowdy Spanish gowns, and shops at the Royal Exchange often. She also holds more dinners and attends many Court functions.

The Queen is not, however, amused by the writings of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and who can blame her? They are so far beyond bawdy as to be offensive to the King, though I do admit to appreciating it when he points his pen at Lady Castlemaine. Rochester and the King have been ever so friendly of late and I believe he seeks a position. If so, we shall all sleep with guards at our chamber doors, for his carnal appetite is prodigious.

Stephen remains at sea with no word, and given the recent Dutch offense, this is worrisome. I do not like to dwell on these dark thoughts, though, and seek to keep myself busy taking the Lady Elizabeth Malet as a ward from her stepfather Sir John Warre. This young lady is quite the heiress, and I intend to see she is given a place of distinction in Court and do not mind confiding that her stepfather will pay handsomely for a good match. There could be much at stake here!

It is still cold and will be so for a while, yet as the weather warms and snows melt, I think of visiting you at Carterhaugh. Perhaps by the time you receive this, I will be there!

your loving sister,
Margaret