In The Service Of Princes


James Rassendyll, the Right Honourable the Earl of Burlesdon and His Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador and Envoy Plenipotentiary to the court of His Most Serene Highness the Elector of Bavaria huddled in his travelling cloak. It was a cold February morning on the Admiralty quay in Dover harbour but at least the Channel beyond was relatively calm, as the captain of the sloop-of-war Ferret assured him. The voyage to Antwerp might yet prove to be a difficult one, as young Captain Taylor went on to warn him. ‘The winds could turn contrary at any time, your lordship, and the passage up the Scheldt is a tricky one.’

Lord Rochford had cautioned him against the shorter crossing to France. ‘Best travel through the Empire, Burlesdon. Call in at the court of Prince Charles in Brussels, the emperor’s uncle, a fine old fellow for all he was on the other side in the late war. You’ll have letters of introduction under His Majesty’s seal. The old prince did oblige us by being a military disaster when he marched against Frederick of Prussia, so to that extent I think kindly of him. If he likes you he could tell you no end about the current state of the Empire, especially the southern principalities. He’s a chatty and amiable old fellow. Talking to people and listening is what ambassadors mostly do, as you will find.’

Captain Taylor called James up to his small quarterdeck. ‘Please take your station here, my lord. Perhaps you might ask your gentlemen to keep out of the way while we cast off. We have the wind and tide favourable to tack out of the harbour. You won’t want to miss the salute from the castle as we pass the end of the mole. Nineteen guns for an ambassador. You see the harbour telegraph working there to notify the signal battery on the cliff. Our little pop gun forrard will answer. The union flag is now being hoisted at the foremast in your honour.’

‘Thank you, captain. All these courtesies do give me a wonderful sense of my own consequence.’ James exchanged smiles with the young commander, who could not be much older than himself, if at all. There were piercing whistles from the bosuns, and sailors sped up the rigging. Jibs and topsails were loosed out and set. Slowly the shore breeze strained the sailcloth and the sloop edged away from the pier. At the first sharp bang from the castle above them, James and his staff removed their hats and placed them on their breasts, standing stiffly as the vessel moved out of the harbour, the last report dying away as the motion of the ship altered when it turned into the Channel swell.

Captain Taylor grunted with satisfaction. ‘The wind is fair to take us leeward of the Goodwin Sands, my lord. Once we’re past the cliffs you’ll have a fine view of the fleet anchored in the Downs. Admiral Montagu has just quit the station, sir, but there’s a commodore still disposing of eight first and second rate ships of the line. It’s a grand sight.’

As their sloop scudded past the anchored fleet, the wind brought them across the waves the sound of its many bells, echoed by the Ferret’s own being struck next to him. Captain Taylor checked his pocket watch. ‘Six bells of the forenoon watch, my lord. That’s eleven o’clock to you.’ James exchanged another smile with the captain at his not unjustified assumption of his ignorance of matters maritime.

James contemplated the exhibition of naval power his kingdom might deploy, and could very well see why the nations of Europe had begun to suspect a power such as Great Britain, whose trade and military reach now girdled the world. ‘Have you any idea when we’ll reach Antwerp?’ he asked.

‘We’re set fair at the moment, my lord. We’ll tack north to the Foreland and then if the wind remains in the west it will be a brisk crossing to the coast of Flanders, but we may then have some delay till we can secure a pilot at the anchorage off Flushing. I fear you and your gentlemen may have to endure at least one night’s hospitality on board the Ferret.’


The crossing was not without incident, for the wind strengthened and gusted while the Ferret was in mid-Channel. A squall heeled her over alarmingly on more than one occasion. For James and his staff below the quarter deck in the small master’s cabin it was most uncomfortable. Young Winslow, his clerk, had to totter outside and throw up in the scuppers. He was still there, clinging to the backstays wishing for death, as James’s amused and remarkably unsympathetic chaplain informed him. He was himself not too happy with the state of his stomach, but concern for his dignity forced him to master his qualms.

James had offered the chaplaincy of the embassy and thus the care of Munich’s English church to the Reverend Dr George Dunbar as a personal favour. It bemused him that as a Catholic he couldn’t appoint to the many church livings on his estates, but he was allowed the patronage of this government-funded Anglican post. So he offered it to George, an old Oxford friend of Prince Henry and himself whose college fellowship was now expiring and who Henry knew was at a loose end. James was still unclear how his own religious needs were going to be catered to once he was in Bavaria, but then he was in a unique position for a British ambassador and would have to think up some solution for himself and, he assumed, very likely at his own cost.

It was approaching dusk when the Ferret entered the estuary of the Scheldt, and the dark Channel waters turned yellow-brown with river silt. The lights of the port of Flushing were now on their port side. The gusts had blown out and the waves had subsided. There was a clear and wind-scoured sky, and the first bright stars were opening as they anchored in the roads, amongst a small squadron of Dutch East Indiamen.

There was not enough light to signal the harbour, so a boat with a midshipman was sent to secure a river pilot for the next morning.

‘Now gentlemen, we must make the most of what accommodation is available,’ James said, ‘frankly I know you’ll all insist I occupy this wretched little cot, and I will have to take it or insult its owner, who will gallantly offer it me. Which means the adventure of canvas hammocks for you all. But I suggest that the carriage lashed to the middle of the deck out there would be more comfortable for two of you, if the good Captain Taylor would oblige us to open it up. So gentlemen, let’s cut cards to settle who’ll be the lucky pair to occupy it? Go invite the captain to join us and share our wine, George, and see if young Winslow has rejoined the human race.’


James’s appointment to head the British mission to Bavaria and the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire had caused something of a localised upset in the Empire and adjacent states. To begin with the Elector of Bavaria was said to be gleeful that, like his Prussian and Saxon rivals, he now rated a full British embassy and no longer a mere legation. On the other hand, as Henry Elphberg wrote from Strelsau, the court of Rudolf III was not happy that their Wittelsbach neighbour and occasional enemy was now raised in the estimation of the diplomatic world.

‘The thing is Jimmy, Bavaria now has not just an ambassador from Britain but an ambassador who is an earl, while we here in Strelsau have just poor old Viscount Windlesham, who was received very coldly by our father at his levée yesterday. So unfriendly. The man’s been here so long he’s almost family! There’s wild talk of recalling Kornburg from London but Vater’s not that petty. Besides, the French have had ambassadors in Munich since the time of the Sun King; the British are finally recognising Bavaria as a rising power within the Empire. It should have been done when Charles was elector. He was after all capable of getting himself elected emperor.’

James was left wondering what sort of beginning he had made in his mission, as his fine new carriage and six took the Brussels road from Antwerp. But at least he was confident he had been able to recruit a team sufficient to the task. Two other carriages rattled along behind carrying his ambassadorial staff, with the domestic servants he had brought from England travelling on the outside. Grooms in the blue Rassendyll livery rode alongside. It had been quite a performance shipping them and all his baggage from England, not to mention buying the necessary number of road and carriage horses in Antwerp, which had delayed them a day even though he had agents at work in the city for a week beforehand.

The former minister in Munich had resigned on James’s appointment, so he had asked Lord Rochford to suggest a suitably experienced man to be second in mission. As a result he had appointed as his first secretary a Hanoverian gentleman called Albrecht Mossinger, who had worked for Rochford in his Paris mission in the sixties. The recommendation had been made, and James had interviewed the man at Burlesdon in September, finding him knowledgeable enough but rather impenetrable, as perhaps might be expected of an experienced, professional diplomat. Mossinger had joined them at Antwerp, and he was currently sitting opposite James in the ambassadorial carriage. He was no conversationalist, and their exchanges were on points of information only. Mossinger had however brought with him copies of the reports of the previous ministers in Munich, which James had been requesting for some time and was reading now with some interest.

As well as the Reverend Dr Dunbar, James had decided to take on two junior secretaries under Mossinger. He had expected problems recruiting staff, for he well knew that young men with contacts and ambition generally steered clear of the diplomatic service. James knew why. His religion gave him something of a cosmopolitan outlook on the world his peers did not possess, which had been confirmed by his travels after Oxford. He had taken himself off for the best part of two years in France and Italy in part to evade the scandal his conversion to Rome had caused. A lot of it had been spent in Venice and Florence in palazzos he had rented, and in company with Henry Elphberg. It saw the beginnings of the collection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures that he and Henry had found for sale in the vibrant art market of Italy. They were now lending distinction to the galleries and state rooms of Burlesdon Hall. Few of the English gentry and middle classes had James’s wide experience of the world, nor desired it, and he well knew how insular his Oxford contemporaries were.

The rest of the embassy staff were in the carriages behind. He had been solicited for appointments by a wide range of supplicants, which had caused him and Cubbit a good deal of effort to sift through. Apart from a fair number of bankrupts and dubious clergymen, who could be easily discarded, there were other applicants that caused James some heart-searching. The appointment of a Catholic earl to an embassy had raised the hopes of patronage amongst the English Catholic families to whom posts other than the uncommissioned ranks of the military were denied. He could appoint none of these applicants to salaried government posts, to fund which the Munich mission was allowed a subsidy of over £1,000 a year. But in the end he used the government grant to offer unusually generous salaries so as to attract two highly qualified senior secretaries, Mossinger for one and a young career diplomat called Carfax in Lord Windlesham’s Strelsau mission who was looking for advancement but was not finding it there. In addition, James used his own money, or rather his own substantial salary as ambassador, to appoint an unofficial third secretary and two clerks.

The third and more controversial appointment was Philip Constable, a cadet member of a stubbornly Catholic Yorkshire family who was James’s age. He had been educated at Louvain, and then trained in medicine at Paris and Bologna. To avoid difficulty he was appointed officially as physician to the earl of Burlesdon, but whatever his medical skills, it was his linguistic abilities and contacts which had attracted James, so he would be for all intents and purposes a diplomat. Dr Constable had till the previous year been no less than one of the physicians to Karl Theodore, the Elector Palatine, head of the other main branch of the Wittelsbach family. An interview in London had given James a high idea of the man’s knowledge of the Imperial nobility and its courts.

Two clerks were appointed as junior members of the mission. One was Frank Potts, a bright young man from a Lancashire family that had contributed a number of priests and one martyr to the Catholic church. He had just returned from study at Heidelberg, with excellent German and no prospects of employment in his home country. And then there was Freddie Winslow. Freddie was the son of the Anglican rector of Burlesdon, a man with whom James had maintained good relations, despite his slide into papism. Freddie had taken his degree at the age of nineteen the previous year at Cambridge, and then fallen out with his father about taking orders, which he had been expected to do. James knew and liked the boy from the time Freddie had been a serious child in Walsham grammar school. So to give him some breathing room, he had offered Freddie the chance to join him for a year at Munich as clerk. James hoped the experience might give the boy some direction, what hopes Freddie had from it he could not say.


The Burlesdon mission travelled on from Brussels to reach the Rhine at Bonn. The plan was to load the carriages and horses on to barges there and count on river transport as far as Stuttgart. But it was February, the rivers were swollen and they were told the passage of the Neckar was too dangerous. So they unloaded at Mannheim and James was confronted with a dilemma. Should he make a courtesy call on the Elector Karl Theodore, whose court was resident here, before he had presented his accreditation to the Elector Max Joseph at Munich?

‘What d’you say, Mossinger?’ he asked the group as they stood on the river quays below the formidable glacis of the city’s fortifications.

His first secretary frowned. ‘To make an official visit on any elector other than Bavaria before being received at his court might not be taken well, my lord.’

‘I suppose we can’t just sneak past? Will he find out, Philip?’

His physician gave a little laugh. ‘Oh yes, my lord. My former employer suspects his subjects as much as his neighbours, and he spends a lot on informers. He would be most gratified if it turned out you attended his court before that of his kinsman at Munich. They do not get on. But if Munich finds we called on Mannheim first, it will not go well with us on our arrival there.’

‘Between the devil and the deep blue sea then. Any advice to assist me in our first diplomatic crisis, gentlemen?’ His staff exchanged glances one with the other, but had nothing to say. ‘In that case, my dear Mossinger, I suggest we repair to an inn and you send your card with compliments up to the Kurfürstenschloss and seek an audience with the elector’s chief minister. Then in your best court dress you will go and present our mission’s compliments and solicit a formal audience with His Most Serene Highness at some future date. And that may get us out of the hole we find ourselves in. In the meantime, it looks like we’ll be delayed here a day until we can escape with any dignity. Go and find us some rooms in the city, Frank and Freddie, and take the head coachman with you. We’ll need a lot of stabling.’


Freddie Winslow stared wide-eyed at the vast and stately frontage of the electoral palace of Mannheim with its hundreds of ranked windows opening on to the square, and the towering central block of the Residenz beyond. Guardsmen paced between the lodges of the entrance court.

‘Versailles must look like this. Have you been here before, Frank?’ he wondered to his companion.

‘Yes, Freddie. I was four years at Heidelberg, which is just a day’s ride up the Neckar. This part of the Empire is called the Kurpfalz or the Palatinate. Heidelberg used to be the elector’s capital but the French sacked and burned it in the old wars. The elector’s original palace is a ruin above the city there. It’s never been rebuilt. Instead the elector moved here and erected this vast folly, and beggared his people in doing it.’

‘He’s not popular then?’

‘No Freddie, and it’s best to keep such discussions in English. This city has more spies than river rats.’

‘They won’t get much out of me, Frank,’ the younger man laughed ruefully, ‘my German’s limited to Danke and Bitte.’

‘You’ll pick it up. And you have enough French to get by. That’s the language of the court in the Empire. They say the great King Frederick of Prussia speaks no other tongue.’

‘That’ll be useful if we ever have a chat,’ Freddie commented.

‘There is also Latin. The lectures at Heidelberg were all in Latin.’

‘I’d never have survived at Cambridge if that’d been the case. I was no credit to the teaching of Walsham Free Grammar School, believe me. What’s Munich like, have you ever been there?’

‘I travelled a fair amount when I was a student, since I was warned not to go back home for the holidays.’

‘How’s that, Frank?’

‘You know I’m a deeply suspect papist?’


‘What a cloistered life you’ve led, my child. England may not have as many spies per acre as Mannheim, but it has quite a few, and the government encourages informers, many of whom ain’t too particular as to the truth of their allegations. They get a share of the confiscated goods of convicted felons. I was tailed from Dover to London the last trip I made home from Germany. I managed to shake the weasels before I got the Manchester coach.’

‘Oh ... really?’ This was startling news to Freddie about his home country.

‘You asked about Munich. It’s a friendly old city, unlike Mannheim. I can recommend the beer houses. You can see the great mountains of the Alps to the south on a fine day. It’s not too big, mind. Not much larger than your Cambridge, though quite a few more churches I imagine.’

‘Where else should I go over the next year that’s not too far away, Frank? I’m planning on writing a journal of my travels in the Empire.’

‘Personally, I found Vienna a disappointment, though I’d recommend the Belvedere if you ever end up there. Prague should be on your list; a worthier imperial capital than Vienna if you ask me. But don’t neglect the chance to visit Strelsau. I spent a grand week there with some friends last year. Actually it’s two cities, the Altstadt high on its hill and the Neustadt spread out at its foot separated by the great river Starel. It’s bigger than Prague and Vienna, and of course it is the royal city of the Rothenians.’

‘Who are they, Frank?’

‘Well my child, you and I will be having a lot to do with them, one way or other. They aren’t Germans, but a people from the east, like the Bohemians and Moravians, with their own language, and their lands lie south of Bohemia and east of Bavaria.’

‘Oh, hang on. Then it’s another name for Ruritania, where Rudolf is king? I thought it was a German realm.’

‘It has a large German element in its population, but that’s in the cities. Ruritania is the western part of the Rothenian lands, there’s also Glottenburg to the east, where the ancient ruling family, the House of Ruric, still reign as dukes, unlike Ruritania which is ruled by a German family of the name of Elphberg. In fact we passed their place of origin yesterday, a ruined baronial tower high on a hill, upriver from Koblenz. It’s a complicated and fascinating land is Ruritania. So make sure to take it in.’

‘I will, Frank, if I get time off.’

‘You’ll see quite a few other cities on the way, so sharpen your pencil. I imagine his lordship will take us by way of Heilbronn, Stuttgart, Ulm and Augsburg before we get to Bavaria. Augsburg’s an imperial city, and a handsome and historic place.’

‘This is all quite an education, Frank’

‘Good. And it’s only just begun. Let’s get back to his lordship.’


The mission of the Earl of Burlesdon crossed into the duchy of Bavaria on the feast of St Matthias, 25 February 1772, a Tuesday. Notice had been given to Munich and the earl had waited in Augsburg till a reception party was ready at the bridge over the Lech. A delegation from the electoral court headed by the Graf von Arco awaited bareheaded in the light rain of that morning. The earl descended from his carriage and his mission, also bareheaded, exchanged deep bows with the Bavarians. His Excellency the Graf welcomed the ambassador in the name of the Elector Max Joseph in a few decorous French phrases. Both delegations then re-entered their carriages and escorted now by a troop of dragoons, took the road to Munich. Relays of horses were provided and so in mid afternoon the cavalcade passed through the Neuhauser Tor and the city lines, for in those days Munich still sat within its zigzag of fortifications, fosses and moats.

Freddie Winslow was finding it difficult to manage a sword, which he had belted to his waist for the first time in his life that morning, and which wanted to stray between his legs and trip him. He was in the rear carriage and had secured a window through which he stared out at the strange streets and houses of this bustling city which would be his home for the next year or so. There seemed to be rather more monks, priests and soldiers than he was used to.

The previous legation had occupied a small rented house in Sendlingerstrasse, in the south of the city. James had decided that since his government proposed raising the British presence in the Empire, he would obtain premises closer to the electoral Residenz, which was in the north of the city. So he had used Henry Elphberg’s contacts to find and lease a rather more substantial house on Theatinerstrasse just down from the monastery, within a couple of minutes of the Residenz. The royal arms of Great Britain were now raised as a painted cartouche over the grand entrance to the stable court, as their carriages entered within. Servants in Rassendyll livery were already in residence, lined up in the stable court awaiting the new ambassador.

The domestic staff was to be headed by James’s new major domo, a Ruritanian German with extensive experience in the royal household, whom Henry had sent to him from Strelsau for interview in Norfolk. He wrote to James that Herr Wolfgang Abentauer was married to a lady from Munich who very much wanted to return there, and also that the large salary on offer would be another strong inducement. Oddly enough, Edward Carfax, the second secretary, had known Herr Abentauer in Strelsau and was able to add his own recommendation. It gave James the idea that the Elphberg capital must be something of a village.

James was easier in his mind appointing a non-Bavarian to head his domestic household, since he was well aware that the mission would be a target for the gatherers and purveyors of information. This was a point he pressed home to his young staff in the welcome dinner he offered that evening in the house’s grand dining room on the first floor, a lavishly baroque room with an excess of wall mirrors and brilliant with chandeliers.

‘My dear fellows,’ he declared after offering an opening toast to their success, ‘there are some general rules that Lord Rochford urged on me, as a novice diplomat, and which I shall pass on to you in all seriousness. Collecting information is now our business, so we must take care of it. All diplomatic and personal papers must be kept under lock and key, and no correspondence of a sensitive sort is to be confided to the public post. It will be carried by messenger to London or to any other destination. We must be aware that this city has middle men whose business it will be to spy on our mission and seek to compromise it. They will try to be as plausible as they can, so always be aware.’

Nods and assent came from all those around the table. Herr Mossinger chose to add a few remarks when invited by James. ‘Apart from myself, you are young men and unmarried. I have found young men are particularly careless in their relations with the opposite sex. Not that I would ask you to live like monks, but there are attractive and plausible ladies of the town in this city who may not be all they seem and are not only attracted to you by your good looks and charm, or even your money. So it may go against the grain, but assume that your assignations are points of peril, not innocent dalliance.’

‘There gentlemen,’ added James, ‘you have been warned. And now the first course of what promises to be a rather fine dinner, as our chef has chosen to demonstrate for me why his salary has to be so enormous.’


James was invited to present his credentials to the elector at the last ceremonial court to be held before the season of Lent, on Shrove Tuesday, a week after their arrival. In the meantime he was at liberty to decide what he wished to do about religious observance, not just for himself but for the English community in Munich.

Dr Dunbar appeared in the small library he had designated as his study in answer to his summons.

‘Well George, from what I understand the previous legation had no chaplain and the lost Anglican lambs of this city had no shepherd.’

‘So I understand, my lord. Carfax tells me that those in Munich who cared to might attend Lutheran meetings sponsored by the Prussian mission. It seems the government here has not to date licenced places of worship on ambassadorial premises other than for the Spanish mission, but is tolerant of rented rooms for Sunday use.’

‘Very well then, I’d suggest you investigate hiring a public room, and I shall call on the Prussian minister and consult with him as to how to secure consent from the electoral government. No point going to the local dean of the diplomatic corps, as he is the papal nuncio and hardly likely to have much to offer in the way of help.’

‘Good, sir. An approach to the elector from yourself, being of his faith, may be heard sympathetically.’

‘So I hope. You’ll accompany me to the Prussian mission. I’ve sent over my card. Perhaps you can exchange notes with its chaplain, if he’s friendly. He may know how many Anglicans are in this city, and even who they may be. That’ll be the start of our register of local subjects of His Britannic Majesty.’

James had some leisure to think about his own religious observance, and so ringing for Frank Potts, he took him out on to the city streets for a tour of the local churches. They walked north and came to the church of the Theatine brothers.

‘That’s a very Italianate church, wouldn’t you say, Frank?’

‘Don’t know my lord, I’ve yet to visit Italy. But I do know that the Theatines have a good reputation for pastoral service, that and an attraction for aristocrats. Were you looking for a confessor, my lord?’

‘I’m in two minds, Frank. It’s not so much that I fear the seal of the confessional might ever be compromised, it’s that people might read unintended messages into which order I might choose. Perhaps a parish priest might be better. Could you find out what parish the embassy actually occupies? What about you?’

‘I had an affection for the Oratorians and their house at Heidelberg. But I’ll look around. Munich has no shortage of priests or communities, I think.’

‘It certainly takes me back to my days in Rome, Frank. Quite a change from Norfolk, and a welcome one. A friend told me that I was a misfit in England, and I’m beginning to see what he meant. I could be at home here.’


The junior secretaries and clerks of the British mission joined the throng surging out of the Kaisersaal of the Munich Residenz at the conclusion of the elector’s court.

‘That must have been quite an experience for you youngsters,’ reflected Edward Carfax.

‘It was grand,’ declared Freddie Winslow, his eyes still shining at the spectacle of state he had just witnessed.

‘I expect the court at the Strelsau Residenz must be grander, Carfax, being a kingdom and all,’ Frank Potts contributed.

‘Actually the electoral palace here is bigger,’ said Carfax, ‘though certainly King Rudolf can call on greater resources and a much bigger cast of nobles and functionaries. But the Hofburg he and his father rebuilt back in the thirties and forties I find just too bland and Classical, apart that is from the great Hofkapelle.’

‘What’s a Hofkapelle?’ asked Freddie.

‘The Elphbergs decided to build a huge church in the centre of their Hofburg, so it’s rather more than a palace chapel, more like a small cathedral with a chapter and canons. Its musical establishment puts every other palace in Europe to shame.’

Philip Constable intervened. ‘Now you fellows, it’s Der Fasching! And the day of Carnival itself! Let’s get back to the mission, get out of these suits and hang up our swords. Time to join the fun. His Excellency and Herr Mossinger will be at the state dinner, but we can actually go out and enjoy ourselves. The Alt Markt is the centre of it all, and it will be something to see. Bavaria still does Carnival in the old style.’

An hour later all four were in the packed market square, watching the disorder from under the tower of the medieval Rathaus. Musicians could be seen and heard, raucous over the heads of the crowd, playing from a scaffold erected on the steps of the Mariensäule, the votary column erected to the Virgin Mary, patron of Bavaria. Couples, some in extravagant dress, danced past them. Many people wore masks, which were displayed for sale in stalls. Frank Potts went over and came back with four of them, black and scattered with silvered dust. Stalls in the Viktuellenmarkt around the corner were selling leather flasks of wine, pies and sausage.

The four young men wandered the crowded streets for a couple of hours, watching for a while the elaborate square dance of the market women. Processions of outlandish characters crowded them to one side: a king and queen of fools in elaborate dress of patches stalked past them on stilts followed by characters got up as goats, asses and sheep, who hurled water-filled bladders, eggs and flour at rival processions and anyone else they felt like targetting. A blasphemous procession of youths dressed as monks, their naked rears exposed and singing what Freddie imagined to be obscene parodies of the liturgy, passed by, belabouring onlookers with inflated bladders on sticks. ‘Tu deine Buße!’ they chanted as they struck, ‘Do penance!’ Freddie’s head began to reel with the noise and jostling. He kept checking his purse was still safe in his waistcoat.

‘Had enough of the chaos of carnival, fellows?’ Edward Carfax eventually shouted. ‘If we move up to the Residenz, the fireworks will be let off soon. After that we can find a quieter resort. I know some grand beer gardens down by the Isar. Tonight will be busy.’


The city gates were wide open on the night of Carnival, and they joined the hundreds of people and musicians walking the Tal and through the Isartor, heading for the beer shops and gardens scattered among the mills and mills races of the river meadows between the Lines and the long viaduct of the Ludwigsbrücke over the Isar.

Torches, lanterns and braziers burned between the long tables under the leafless trees. The night was cold and sharp and the stars burned bright in a clear sky. As they settled at one end of a table a maid bustled up and demanded their order, which led to an opening of purses and a pooling of coins, which in turn led to a seminar for Freddie on currency in the electorate.

‘Every principality is a little different, youngster,’ said Carfax. ‘But just fix in your mind this silver coin stamped with the august bust of our new friend, the Elector Max Joseph, on one side and the lozenges of Bavaria on the other. It’s a kreuzer, and there are sixty of these to a guilder, sometimes called a florin, which is a coin you won’t see, as the highest value silver piece in this pile is a thirty-kreuzer piece, a half guilder. Gold coins are thalers, and five thalers are worth twelve guilders. And I see we none of us have any of them in our pockets, which is as well on a night like tonight. The little coppers are pennies, and twenty-five of them make five kreuzer. So 240 pennies are in a guilder, just like there are 240 English pennies in a pound.’

‘And I’ll bet you thought pounds, shillings and pence were complicated, child’ laughed Frank, catching sight of his friend’s bemused look.

‘So the guilder is worth a pound sterling?’ Freddie ventured, despite the alcoholic buzz already clouding his mind.

‘That’s when things get really complicated. A kreuzer here won’t be worth what a kreuzer is in the northern states, and both are calculated differently in relation to foreign currency. But if you think of a Bavarian thirty-kreuzer piece as equal to a half mark sterling, then a kreuzer is worth no more than thruppence. Got it?’

‘Course he hasn’t, Teddie,’ laughed Frank, ‘you lost me, and I’ve lived in the Empire for years.’

‘Ingrate,’ Carfax rolled his eyes. ‘Just be grateful I spared you my lecture on Ruritanian and Glottenburger krone.’

A tray of foaming mugs arrived on their table at this point, and the conversation turned to the superiority of Bavarian wheat brews over the muddy hop beers of England. The crisp fresh taste agreeably surprised Freddie, used as he was to the cheap and somewhat suspect beers of the Cambridge student inns, which invariably left him with a bad headache the morning after. The beer rather cleared his head of the wine fumes, at least for the time being.

It was not long after their second round that a group of unaccompanied ladies occupied the bench down from them. Philip Constable and Teddie Carfax caught each other’s eyes, and then turned their courtly attention on the four ladies. Very soon, the three elder British men were engaged in a gentle and friendly banter with their neighbours, which passed Freddie by as it was carried on in German. Though he could tell by the ladies’ reactions when it passed from friendly to insinuating.

In the meantime Freddie’s attention was taken up by a knot of youths in the lane to the side of the beerhouse. They were ill-dressed and ranged in age from maybe twelve to seventeen. They were alongside a brazier, and whenever a customer left the garden they clustered round asking for money, all carrying what looked like thick sticks. He realised these were linkboys when one’s offer was taken and he lit up his stick as a torch, and went off in advance of his customer. His eyes were particularly drawn to one of the boys, the most forward of them, in part because the youth’s looks were quite striking. Indeed, were he not in a boy’s coat and culottes, Freddie might have taken him for a girl.

As he got more and more bored with his exclusion from the conversation between his friends and the ladies, who he began to realise were also looking for customers, he took longer and longer pulls from his beers, of which he was now on his fourth large mug. He felt the need for a pee, but when he failed to get up easily from his bench and tottered as he tried to move round it he became groggily aware he had gone past his limit. It proved quite difficult to properly secure his breeches before he staggered out of the privy and into the garden.

Freddie made the drunken decision to head back to the mission though he found navigating the dark lane quite as difficult to walk as the deck of the sloop Ferret in a squall. He stumbled in among the linkboys.

Pfennig für ein Licht, mein Herr!’ the younger ones called out grinning knowingly.

Kreuzer zum ficken!’ said an insinuating older lad, who pressed up hard against his front.

Freddie pushed at him, as he felt the boy’s hand slide inside his unsecured breeches and grab and fondle his cock. He also felt his pockets being searched. He was tripped and went down and heard the boys run away laughing. Bewildered, Freddie pulled himself upright and was surprised to find himself being helped up.

A boy’s voice in his ear said in French, ‘Monsieur, lentement, doucement.’ He put his back against the wall until he felt more stable and his eyesight cleared. It was the feminine looking boy he had observed earlier.

Qu'est-il arrivé? What’s happened?’ Freddie stumbled out with. His hand went to his waistcoat pocket. His purse was gone.

Mon argent,’ he slurred.

Pris, monsieur,’ the boy looked at him with his head cocked to one side, and grinned as he looked down at Freddie’s crotch. ‘Ton bite?’ he commented.

He took Freddie’s exposed and strangely swollen penis and tucked it carefully away in his breeches, giving it a friendly pat. Then he took Freddie under the arms, lit a torch from a nearby brazier and took him out on to the street. When he asked where Freddie lived, he told him Theatinerstrasse. And so the boy led him back up through the dark streets of the city, arm around his waist. By the time they passed the Isartor, Freddie was more stable on his feet. The Alt Markt was still thronged, so the boy chose a way by back alleyways.

Ici, monsieur?’ the boy asked as they came on to Theatinerstrasse.

‘Yes ...oui ... I have no money ... pas d’argent.’

The boy shrugged and extinguished his torch, then he pulled Freddie into a deep doorway, abruptly ripped down his breeches, went to his knees and wrapped his lips round Freddie’s exposed cock and in a very skilful few minutes brought him to a climax so violent, he almost fainted.

The boy stood, again cocked his head and chuckled. ‘Dies ist kostenlos. Wir schulden Ihnen! Gratis monsieur.’ Then he strolled off into the dark, leaving Freddie stunned and more bemused than ever.