Julia Brannan is the author of the Jacobite Chronicles, a series of six novels which deal with the final Jacobite uprising, which took place in 1745-6, and was effectively the culmination of over fifty years of unrest.
The Jacobite cause began with the involuntary dethroning of King James II/VII in 1688, and his replacement, initially by William of Orange and James’ daughter Mary, and later, in 1715 by the Hanoverians, distant relations of the Stuart claimants. Over the years there were various attempts to restore the Stuarts to the throne, none of them successful.
The Jacobite Chronicles start in 1742, and tell the story of the final uprising and its aftermath through Elizabeth Cunningham, a young English Jacobite of noble birth, her Hanoverian family, the enigmatic but effeminate Sir Anthony Peters, and the Highland chieftain Alex MacGregor and his clansmen.
The story you’ll read here is not in the books, but chronologically would fit into the early part of book three of the series, The Gathering Storm. It features several of the characters who are found in the series. I hope you enjoy it!
The Curious Case of the
April 1744, London.
The party to celebrate the betrothal of Lord Stanley Redburn to Miss Anne Maynard was well under way when Sir Anthony Peters arrived, resplendent in violet satin, and fashionably late. He scanned the room. Everybody who was anybody was there; Lord and Lady Winter, Lord Edward Cunningham trailed by his three sisters and cousin Richard, Thomas and Lydia Fortesque along with several of her unmarried friends, all wearing identical expressions of relief that they could enjoy one of Lord Redburn’s extravagant soirees without being propositioned by the fat old drunkard at the end of it. In one corner of the room a quartet of musicians were unpacking their instruments, readying themselves for the dancing, whilst in another corner card tables had been set up for the amusement of the non-dancers.
Having located his friends, Sir Anthony made his way over to them.
“Where on earth have you been, Anthony?” Edwin Harlow, MP asked. “We’d given up on you!”
“Good evening to you too, dear boy,” Sir Anthony trilled. “Please accept my profound apologies. I have just spent an hour in an agony of indecision as to whether to wear the amethyst or sapphire satin, as I was unassisted by my dear…ah! Here come the happy couple! Does the bride-to-be not look exquisite?”
Everyone looked to the doorway, where Lord Redburn was entering, his mousy fiancée hanging on his arm. Having heard Sir Anthony’s final sentence, she blushed furiously and looked at her feet, as though afraid that if she lost sight of them she would fall flat on her face.
Caroline Hawley deftly lifted a glass of wine from a passing tray and handed it to the baronet, who took it with gratitude and sipped delicately.
“So where is...?”
“She has gone out with Miss Browne,” he said absently, gaily waving a scrap of lace handkerchief at the couple. Anne started to make her way towards them. “She said she owed Miss Browne an evening at the opera, the last one being so rudely interrupted.”
Both Caroline and Edwin turned to the card tables, where a frowning Lord Daniel, oblivious to the entrance of the betrothed pair, was deeply engaged with four companions in a high-stakes game of Loo. Lord Daniel seemed equally oblivious to the presence of his nemesis Sir Anthony, which was probably just as well.
Anne, having negotiated the throng of well-wishers, arrived, at which the baronet executed an elaborate bow before taking Anne’s hand in his lilac gloved one, intending to press a kiss to her fingers.
“Good God!” he exclaimed involuntarily, blinking in the sudden blaze of light emanating from the enormous cushion-cut diamond which obscured half her finger. Anne’s face fell.
“Oh, Sir Anthony, do you not like it?” she asked, crestfallen. “Stanley insisted I wear it tonight. It was his grandmother’s, you know.”
“Why, my dear lady, it’s quite…remarkable!” Sir Anthony gushed, recovering. “It is just the sort of thing I would wear myself, were I of the feminine persuasion!”
Caroline snorted in a most unladylike fashion, hastily covering her faux pas with a cough.
“It is very eye-catching,” she said with complete honesty. It was, indeed, eye-catching, in the way that Sir Anthony’s outfits were; exorbitantly expensive yet utterly tasteless.
The kiss bestowed, Anne removed her hand from the baronet’s, unconsciously casting rainbows round the room and causing several people to look her way. Even Lord Daniel looked up momentarily from his cards.
“I must confess, I’m not used to wearing jewellery,” Anne said, “And it is a little large. Stanley said he will have it adjusted for me, but I am so afraid I will lose it in the meantime.”
“Or that it will be stolen,” Lord Edward pronounced from behind her.
“Oh, do you really think so?” Anne exclaimed, the colour draining from her face. She looked fearfully around the room, as though expecting a masked man to leap from behind the curtain brandishing a pistol and shouting ‘Stand and deliver!’
“I do not think you are in any danger amongst such illustrious company as we have here, my dear,” the baronet countered, glaring at the tactless lord. Poor Anne looked miserable. “It is absolutely radiant, as are you! It complements your outfit beautifully. And you must grow accustomed to such extravagant gestures from your dear fiancé – he is clearly besotted with you. And who indeed would not be with such a delightful young lady?”
After Anne had left them, to continue her blushing circuit of the room, Caroline snorted again.
“God, Anthony, that was overblown, even for you,” she observed.
“The poor girl is ill-at-ease enough being the centre of attention, without having to worry that she will be robbed as well,” he replied. “She deserves to enjoy her evening. Anyway, if anyone tries to steal it, she only has to flash it in his face, and he would be blinded by its light.”
“And if she hit him with it, she’d take his eye out,” Edwin commented. “Please tell me you didn’t like it, Anthony. Even you can’t have found that tasteful.”
Sir Anthony bestowed a wounded look on his friends.
“Really, if I’d known my discernment was to be called into question twice within a minute, I would have gone to the opera with Elizabeth and Miss Browne,” he declared.
Sadly, hardly an hour had gone by before Miss Maynard and her diamond ring had parted company. This was announced by that lady entering the room, supported by Isabella and Clarissa, sporting a distressed expression and a pallor matched only by Sir Anthony’s heavy white makeup.
In spite of Lord Redburn’s assurances that she not worry herself, and that it would no doubt be found by the servants when they cleaned in the morning, Anne was so inconsolable that the soiree was cut short. Some of the guests volunteered to stay and help to look for the ring, whilst others went home in a huff. Anne could not recall losing it. She only knew that she had had it before she started dancing, and then when she went to get some refreshments she had noticed it was gone. So the volunteers, along with the servants, examined all the rooms that she had been in, to no avail.
“I confess I am disappointed that I did not have the opportunity to dance with you myself,” Sir Anthony said conversationally as he looked underneath the chaise longue on which Anne was lying, fanning herself. Even her lips were white, poor girl. “Who had the pleasure that I was denied?”
Anne looked confused.
“Who did you dance with?” he clarified.
“Oh! Well, Mr Fortesque, Mr Reynolds, Lord Daniel, Stanley, of course. I think that was all. Then I was a little warm, so I went to get a glass of punch, and…” She burst into tears, by which Sir Anthony understood that was when the loss had been discovered.
In spite of their best efforts, and another thorough search the following morning, the ring was not recovered.
“Sit down, Mr Abernathy,” the bull-necked heavy-set man said warmly. “Brandy?”
The tall handsome Scot nodded and sat down on the proffered wooden chair. Downstairs, in the main room of the Rose and Crown, some sort of drunken singing contest was under way. Good. They would not be overheard.
“Before I drink your good cognac, Gabriel,” Alex said, “I’m no’ here on my normal business. I’m here to call in a favour.”
Gabriel Foley pursed his lips, but continued to pour the amber liquid into two glasses. Then he pushed one across the table before sitting back.
“Let’s hear it then,” he said.
“An acquaintance of a friend of mine has lost something of great value to her,” Alex said.
“Sentimental or monetary?”
“Both. She thinks it lost, but I’m no’ so sure it wasna thieved from her, although I canna be certain. But if stolen, the thief will be looking to sell it, and that soon, I’m thinking.”
“Ah. And you want me to find out if such a thing happens?”
“I’d much prefer it if ye could find out before it’s sold, if possible.”
Gabriel’s eyes widened.
“Mr Abernathy, do you know how many people in London deal in stolen merchandise?”
“Hundreds, thousands, maybe. But no’ this kind of merchandise. There’ll be but a select few who’d touch this, and it’s my belief ye’ll ken them all, being as you’re the best smuggler in the south of England.”
Gabriel Foley didn’t blink at this piece of apparent flattery, knowing it to be merely a statement of fact.
“And what is this piece of select merchandise?” he asked.
“A twenty-carat cushion-cut diamond ring,” Alex said.
There was a moment’s silence while Gabriel absorbed this.
“And what’s to stop me, if I find this, appropriating it for myself?” the smuggler said.
“Nothing. Except ye tellt me you’re a man of honour, as am I. And it would wipe out me advising ye of the excise raid on your warehouse, which saved you more money than ye’d get from this ring, costly though it is. And your life,” he added.
“Which is more costly still, to me at any rate,” Gabriel said. That had been a big service Abernathy had done for him, and it was a fair exchange to clear the slate. “When was it taken?”
“Yesterday evening,” Alex said.
“If it’s stolen, as you think, and sold already, I’ll find it. If not sold, what do you want me to do?”
“Tell the buyer to delay the sale, to say he needs to get the money together, some such tale, and make an appointment to do the deal. After dark, if possible. If necessary my friend will recompense the dealer.”
“Through you,” Gabriel said.
“Through me,” Alex agreed. He smiled, but his slate-blue eyes were cold and hard. Gabriel took the hint. Ask no questions.
“We have a deal, Mr Abernathy. I’ll be in touch.”
The young man was soberly though expensively dressed, in dark grey velvet breeches and frock coat, white silk stockings, and grey leather shoes. He was clearly a gentleman, and in an area of town that, though not affluent, was not one in which he would normally look out of place.
Nevertheless, he did look out of place. This was because he was clearly on edge, and every minute or so would look around apprehensively, his hand straying to the hilt of his sword, which swung in its scabbard at his side. At the entrance to the narrow street down which he had to go to reach his destination, he looked round again, then listened intently.
Reassured, he made his way down the alley, and was mere feet away from the building he was aiming for when a tall figure materialised as if from thin air in front of him.
Startled, the young gentleman stepped backwards, colliding with an equally tall figure behind him. The gentleman reached for his sword, but before he could draw it, a large hand seized both sword hilt and hand in a powerful grip, while an equally brawny arm wrapped round the man’s body, trapping him.
The grey-clad man did not need to see his assailant to know that here was a formidable and no doubt ruthless footpad, and as if to reinforce that impression the tall man in front of him, who wore a black scarf over the lower part of his face, and a wide-brimmed hat shadowing the upper part, produced a pistol, which he pointed at the victim’s chest.
“Now, Sir,” said the man who was holding him, in a rough London accent, “if you’ll just be giving my friend here all your money and jewellery, we’ll be grateful, and no harm’ll come to you.”
“You can’t shoot me!” the young man exclaimed, struggling against his captor’s grip, to no avail. “Help!” he shouted.
The masked man in front of him sighed and swung the pistol almost casually, striking the young man on the side of the head with the barrel. He gave a low moan, and slumped in the arms of his captor.
Briskly the two footpads relieved their victim of the items they required, namely a sword, a small velvet bag and a pair of dark grey velvet breeches. Then they propped him gently up against the wall of the building he’d been heading for, which had previously been lit, but was now shrouded in darkness. The second assailant, also masked, examined the man carefully, feeling for his pulse, and then gently slapped his cheek, which elicited another low moan. He nodded to himself, then stood up.
The two robbers carried on walking, past the dark shop and round the corner, after which they removed the scarves. Then they continued on their way, pausing only to throw the sword and breeches into the river.
“Sorry I hit him, Alex. I ken ye tellt me no’ to, but I did it gently,” the younger of the two men said, his fair hair gleaming in the moonlight. “I canna understand why ye didna want him hurt though. Nae doubt he expected a servant would get the blame. Lord Daniel. Is he no’ the bastard who--”
“Aye, he is,” Alex interrupted. “Ye did well. There’s no lasting damage done. Hopefully the wee gomerel will think twice before playing Loo again, though I doubt it. Now,” he said, patting his coat pocket, in which the small velvet bag sat, “let’s reunite this with its owner.”
“Oh, Sir Anthony!” Anne exclaimed, beaming and holding her hand up for him to slip the hideous ring back onto her finger. “How can I ever thank you?”
“There’s no need to thank me at all, my dear Anne,” the baronet simpered. “Seeing your radiant face is thanks enough.”
“I cannot imagine how it could have fallen into the garden, though,” Anne said. “I didn’t go outside at all that evening.”
“Well, it was underneath the balcony, you know, and the doors were open. Maybe it fell from your finger when you were dancing, and one of the other dancers accidentally kicked it through the doors. I blame the gavotte, my dear. All that leaping about. It exhausts me even to think about it!”
“I will take it to my jewellers today and have it adjusted to fit your slender finger, my sweet,” Lord Redburn said. “I am sure you will have it back in time for our card party this Saturday.”
“Oh, Sir Anthony, do say you will be able to come!” Anne cried.
“I would be delighted to! You know I do not play well, but I will be happy to observe.”
“No, Sir, I am afraid you will have to play,” Lord Redburn put in. “Highbury’s son was taking a short cut to his club last night when he was attacked by a large band of robbers, and took a blow to the head. So we are short a player for one of the quadrille tables.”
“Lord Daniel? How dreadful!” the baronet cried. “I trust he is not badly hurt?”
“I believe not.”
“Excellent. And hopefully he will think twice in future before attempting a short cut to achieve his aims. I would be happy to play,” Sir Anthony said pleasantly.
© Julia Brannan
About the Author
Julia has been a voracious reader since childhood, using books to escape the miseries of a turbulent adolescence. After leaving university with a degree in English Language and Literature, she spent her twenties trying to be a sensible and responsible person, even going so far as to work for the Civil Service for six years.
Then she gave up trying to conform, resigned her well-paid but boring job and resolved to spend the rest of her life living as she wanted to, not as others would like her to. She has since had a variety of jobs, including, telesales, Post Office clerk, primary school teacher, and painter and gilder.
In her spare time and between jobs, she is still a voracious reader, and enjoys keeping fit, exploring the beautiful Welsh countryside around her home, and travelling the world. Life hasn’t always been good, but it has rarely been boring.
A few years ago she decided that rather than just escape into other people’s books, she would quite like to create some of her own and so combined her passion for history and literature to write the Jacobite Chronicles.
People seem to enjoy reading them as much as she enjoys writing them, so now, apart from a tiny amount of transcribing and editing work, she is a full-time writer. She has recently plunged into the contemporary genre too, but her first love will always be historical fiction.
Follow the Tales…and Discover some Diamonds
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5th December Antoine Vanner Britannia’s Diamonds
6th December Nicky Galliers Diamond Windows
7th December Denise Barnes The Lost Diamond
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9th December Lucienne Boyce Murder In Silks
10th December Julia Brannan The Curious Case of the Disappearing Diamond
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12th December Annie Whitehead Hearts, Home and a Precious Stone
13th December Inge H. Borg Edward, Con Extraordinaire
14th December J.G. Harlond The Empress Emerald
15th December Charlene Newcomb Diamonds in the Desert
16th December Susan Grossey A Suitable Gift
17th December Alison Morton Three Thousand Years to Saturnalia
18th December Nancy Jardine Illicit Familial Diamonds
19th December Elizabeth St John The Stolen Diamonds
20th December Barbara Gaskell Denvil Discovering the Diamond
21st December Anna Belfrage Diamonds in the Mud