What I Assume I'm Missing After A Lifetime Without Invitations To Join The Duke On His Pleasure Barge

I’ve been reading Anya Seton’s Katherine for the first time, which is strange because I’ve been reading books exactly like/clearly based on Anya Seton’s Katherine my entire life, which is basically why I’ve been way more prepared to join the duke and his retinue on his pleasure barge than I ever need to be. There are two kinds of books that feature duke’s pleasure barges: sweeping historical romances that are like, Ivanhoe-level period-accurate, and byzantine space operas that are Dune-level sex-negative and sex-obsessed. The main difference is that, in the latter, the duke’s pleasure barge might be called something like the Baronial Dissipation Cruiser, M’Lord’s Gratification Skiff, the Archduke’s Canoe of Delight, the Royal Mirth Bark, the Sultan’s Beguilement Hulk, the Arch-Magnifico’s Raft, Earling Gentry’s Scow, The High-Time Sloop of the Eternal Caliphate, the Imperial Diversion Galley, the Viscount’s Clipper of Distraction, or whatever, but it’s all the same thing.

And it kind of sucks that I’m in some ways super-qualified to be a duke’s understanding mistress, because there’s no realistic outlet in my life for those specific attributes and abilities (the duke’s lawful wife would LOVE me and I would NEVER alienate the bishopric, I can tell you that much).

I would be so GOOD at being on a duke’s pleasure barge! I am prepared to:

  • recline on satin

  • discreetly take the Duke’s hand

  • treat his known enemies in court with perfect condescension and exquisite good manners!!!

  • enjoy the strains of gaiety from the nearby minstrels’ barge!

  • watch other boats plying across either the water or the stars!

  • skim lightly over the waves!

  • tip the helmsmen for steering us briskly through the river-traffic!

  • lazily trail the hand not holding the Duke’s through the current!

  • look at galleys from Venice laden with spices, or galleys from the Hapes Consortium laden with guns of command!

  • either ignore the heads of traitors and criminals displayed along the riverbanks in order to better enjoy the duke’s favor, or gaze at them with shock and horror to demonstrate my relative freshness and unspoiled beauty compared to the jaded jades of the court!

  • eat something spiced!!

  • drink something from a flagon!!!

  • toss a sweetmeat to a jongleur, whatever that is!

  • laugh carelessly as an overblown monk or bishop falls in the water and is fished out, sans dignity, by a vaguely French dude who will alternately act as my sole friend at court and provider of ominous warnings!

  • learn what Calais is!!

  • craving the Duke’s indulgence!

  • watching my now-denuded former rival for the Duke’s affections look on with barely-concealed fury from a lesser barge floating nearby!! Jealous though my former rival may be, they would not dare strike at one so clearly in royal favor…….(my duke is a royal duke)

  • eat an exotic treat new to court like a “fruit”

  • display my period-unlikely white, even teeth in a pearling, striking laugh! My rival gazes at my teeth in DESPAIR!!

  • Surely death and misfortune could never strike the merrymakers on the duke’s pleasure barge!!! It is impossible that today could be my last day of true joy, not when I have only just begun to enjoy my new station in life!!!!