Susana [to the Reader]: I’m afraid Lady P had to return to the 19th century for a christening (no, not Damian and Theresa’s this time, but one of her own daughters’ offspring). She promised to return after she’s had a comfortable coze with her daughters and grandchildren, but in the meantime, she sent someone who she said was a personal friend of Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the Prince Regent.
Lady Beauchamp: I would not characterize our acquaintanceship in quite that manner, Miss Ellis.
Susana: Forgive me, Lady Beauchamp, but I am not finished speaking to the readers.
Lady Beauchamp: Well, do hurry, then. I have an important social engagement this afternoon.
Susana [taking a deep breath]: Yes, well, Lady Beauchamp is the former Leticia Snodgrass, who was presented in London about the same time as Lady P’s niece-by-marriage, Theresa Ashby. You can read more about that in the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa, which is a free read on my web site: http://www.susanaellis.com/pub.html.
Lady Beauchamp: Is it really? I daresay I should like to see how I am characterized in the story.
Susana [hurriedly]: Perhaps we should get back to the subject at hand, you being a marchioness and your time being so valuable and all. Why don’t you begin by telling us about your marriage and your family?
Lady Beauchamp: Of course. I was quite sought-after in my first season—many offers were made for my hand, you know—but there were only a handful of dukes that year and they were all married, so I chose to wed Lord Beauchamp. We had a fabulous wedding at St. George’s, and the Prince kissed my hand and called me the most beautiful bride he’d ever seen.
Susana: And your husband and family? Please tell us about them.
Lady Beauchamp: Fortunately, my youngest, George Augustus, takes after his mother. [Smiling] He has the most adorable cherubic face and blue eyes so like mine. I think it quite likely that his hair will lighten before long as well.
Susana: And your older son?
Lady Beauchamp [grimacing]: It is most unfortunate that Robert William takes after his father. Sturdy, bookish, and quite dull. At least dear Robbie has not lost his hair as his father has. Lord Beauchamp is much older than I, you know. His first wife gave him only daughters, but it was I who gave him his heir and a spare. [Preening]
Susana: I…see. Well, now that my readers are informed as to your…uh…pedigree, let us move on to the topic at hand. How did you become acquainted with the Princess Charlotte, Lady Beauchamp?
Lady Beauchamp [wrinkling her nose]: Of course. Well, we had met in passing at ton events when she was a child, although rarely with her mother, since her father wished to limit her exposure to her mother’s eccentricities. [Coughing delicately]. Blood will tell, however. Lady de Clifford, who had the charge of her at the time—only a baroness, you know—gave her far too much freedom. The girl had no sense of propriety—quite the hoyden as a child, but it was far worse when she reached adolescence.
Susana: Well, adolescence is a difficult time for everyone. I taught thirteen-year-olds for twenty-five years, you know. The best thing about it is that it eventually passes. I suppose the Princess showed the usual interest in the opposite sex?
Lady Beauchamp [shaking her head]: Oh, much worse than that, my dear Miss Ellis! If it wasn’t one of her cousins (illegitimate, you understand), it was William, Duke of Gloucester. They all took her fancy at one time or another. The rumors were rampant all over Town! Upon this proof that she took after her scandalous mother, the Prince Regent made arrangements for a marriage with William of Orange, hoping for an alliance with the Netherlands. It all came to nothing of course. Stubborn, stubborn girl! Not at all the sort of girl who ought to be a princess!
Susana: Do you know why she didn’t like the Prince of Orange?
Lady Beauchamp [curling her lip]: Indeed I do. She confided in me once—quite soon after she and Prince Leopold had settled at Claremont House—which is near Beauchamp’s estate in Surrey, you know—that he refused to promise to allow her mother to visit them after they were married because of her scandalous reputation, and after that, she steadfastly refused to have him. [Leaning closer to Susana] Of course, by then her mother had already fled to the Continent, and she never saw her again anyway.
Susana: How sad!
Lady Beauchamp [shrugging]: Was it? Many would say it was all for the best.
Susana: So you socialized with the royal pair after their marriage. What can you tell us about them?
Lady Beauchamp: Quite a boring pair, really. Prince Leopold—who was quite impoverished, you understand, before he wed the heir to the throne of England—took rather too much of an interest in agriculture for my taste. Of course, he and Beauchamp used to tramp all over looking at crops, of all things. Her Royal Highness thought it was quaint.
Susana: But they got on well together?
Lady Beauchamp [reluctantly]: I suppose they must have. I never heard talk of rows between them, and her manner of dress became more sedate after her marriage. Indeed, Prince Leopold seemed to have a calming influence on her. We shared a box at the races once, and when Her Royal Highness began to show rather more enthusiasm than was proper, her husband caught her attention and said, “Doucement, chérie,” and she immediately smiled and regained her composure.
Susana [eyes filling with tears]: How sweet! What a shame their time together was so short! Were you around her during her pregnancy?
Lady Beauchamp: Her confinement, Miss Ellis. Do try to exercise a bit of restraint in your speech, even though you are American. [Sighing heavily]. Indeed I did see her a few times, although as her condition advanced, she was kept in seclusion. Considering all of the doctors who were consulted, one would have thought at least one would have been able to assist her safely through her trial. But no, she was allowed to eat until she reached elephantine proportions, and then they tried to starve her until she turned despondent. Why, Sir Richard Croft was not even a physician! My own husband would never have allowed a mere accoucheur near me when I was brought to bed. But it’s like my mother says, everything the Prince Regent touches ends in failure. Born under an unlucky star, she believes.
Susana: I understand Prince Leopold never recovered from the death of his wife and son.
Lady Beauchamp: Nor has England either. One would think the world has come to an end. The King has no legitimate grandchildren and his youngest son is over forty. The city closed down for two weeks and within a few days there was no black cloth to be had, as all of England was in mourning. Beauchamp said there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen during the funeral, when she was laid to rest with her son at her feet in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. To be sure, I can’t imagine what will happen to the succession now. I suppose all of the royal princes will run out and marry and try to sire an heir as quickly as possible. [Pursing her lips] Well, all I can say is they’d be well advised to do it soon, because the King’s health deteriorates as we speak, and the Regent isn’t much better. [Sliding her chair closer to Susana] My dear Miss Ellis, it occurs to me that you must be in possession of—shall we say?—interesting information about what happened with the succession. Perhaps you would be kind enough to indulge my curiosity?
Susana [glancing at her watch]: Oh dear, look at the time! If you do not return immediately, Lady Beauchamp, I fear you will be late for Lady Pritchard’s Venetian Breakfast. Do accept my sincere thanks for condescending to speak with me this morning!
Lady Beauchamp [with narrowed eyes]: As it happens, you are correct, Miss Ellis. I really must take my leave of you. However, you can be sure that I shall seek out Lady Pendleton as soon as may be to discover what she knows. [She waves her arms and disappears.]
Susana [gripping the arms of her chair]: I do wonder how this time travel thing is managed. Lady P has mentioned something about an old lady who runs the apothecary shop on Dapple Street, but she has so far declined to go into detail. [Frowning] When she does return, we are going to have a long chat about a few things I discovered after she left. For one thing, my digital camera is missing…after she went on a photography binge taking pictures of everything, even the engine of the car. And then there is a little matter of charges on my credit card for $800 at Toys R Us and more than $300 at the Battery Warehouse. Did she hear nothing I told her about the Prime Directive?
Lady P will be back soon. As always, please do comment if you have any questions you’d like to ask Lady P about the late Georgian/Regency era. She does love to chat!