[From time to time, I will illustrate my story characters with: Richard Armitage as Lord Christian Blount Earl of Sussex, Kate Winslet and Emma Lady Hamilton as Lady Madeline Lucretia Sinclair, Dame Maggie Smith as Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott, Polly Mabrey as Lady Elizabeth Blount, Crispin Bonham-Carter as Lord Harold Blount, Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine Blount the Dowager Countess of Sussex, Rupert Penry Jones as Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay, Corin Redgrave as Squire Sutton Sinclair, Amanda Root as Mrs. Russell, and others as noted.]
Authors Content Note: “Encouragement” is a frothy love story with sometimes humorous and sometimes dramatic themes of love and relationships. It will mostly be at the PG and PG-13 movie levels. Specific chapters or passages may have a further rating of: D for dramatic emotions, and LS for love scenes that are tenderly sensuous and not explicit. And I will rate the chapters accordingly. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide for a chapter, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer. And as is my habit, I will summarize the previous chapter’s events at the beginning of each chapter.
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: Having returned from Lady Madeline’s country home of Watford Hill to London with her father Squire Sutton Sinclair in his carriage, Christian Lord Sussex was eager to see his betrothed since Squire Sinclair had not yet given his approval for the betrothal to proceed. However upon finding Lady Madeline and then Lord Christian comforting her after her revealing the she wants to honor her late Mama by having yellow roses in her bridal bouquet—and she become weepy for not having her Mama with her on her wedding day—Lord Christian and Lady Madeline were found embracing by her father, Squire Sinclair. At first enraged by the indecorous intimacy and liberty that Lord Sussex was taking with his daughter, Squire Sinclair soon calmed down when it was explained why Lord Sussex was embracing—and thus comforting—Lady Madeline, his daughter.
“Encouragement, A Regency Tale of Love and Romance”,
Ch. 15 (PG): Betrothal Ring and Such
A betrothal needs a betrothal ring to seal the promise of love and fidelity. And after Lord Christian Blount the Earl of Sussex scoured his family jewelry vault in their London mansion Sussex House Monday evening after his return to London from meeting his future father-in-law Squire Sutton Sinclair—and then meeting up with his betrothed Lady Madeline Sinclair–Lord Christian was underwhelmed, with his betrothal ring options. That is not to say that the heirloom jewelry in the Sussex House vault was not expensive, nor beautiful, it is just that Lord Christian felt the jewelry to be too large and gaudy for his young bride to be, Lady Madeline.
Lady Madeline Sinclair is an exquisite and rare human being in her betrothed’s eyes and in his heart. And Lord Christian wants to match his betrothal ring to her sensibilities. And Lord Christian was slightly worried that he would have to seek to extend his already thin credit with some tradesmen by buying something new. For until he receives Lady Madeline’s dowry payment on their wedding day in under two weeks, he needs to be cautious with their remaining funds.
Happily, Lord Christian’s grandmother the Dowager Countess of Sussex Lady Catherine Blount will intervene—eventually–whilst Lord Christian has tea with her today. He knocks upon her bed chamber’s adjoining sitting room’s door to join her for tea on Tuesday February 13, 1816, since she is too infirm to traverse the stairs to take tea in the main floor’s drawing room of Sussex House. When he opens the door, he finds his Grandmother in an entirely feminine room of pink and cream chintz and gilt dusting several furniture edgings. But it does contain several comfortable chairs as well—including one man sized chair that Lord Christian generally uses.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “Come in, come in. Oh! It’s is you, Christy!” She smiles lovingly. “I thought that it might be the girls.” By which she refers to her granddaughter Lady Elizabeth known as Lizzie en famille, and her grandson Lord Christy’s betrothed Lady Madeline Sinclair.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “No.” He chuckles. “It is just me, Grandmother.” He smiles and strides toward her sitting in her favorite cushioned wing chair. “Lizzie seems to be with Lady Madeline and Harold is … well somewhere. So you shall have only me for tea with you, today.”
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “Your joining me alone for tea is never a just, dear boy.” Lord Christian smiles boyishly at her—despite his thirty years–and the mantle of Earl now settled upon his broad shoulders—Lord Christian is still a young man in need of guidance and support now and again. “And both Lizzie and Lady Madeline are expected for tea. Lizzie promised that they would not be late.” She looks a bit perturbed.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Yes, well, the ladies have their shopping and such to do, I expect—what with Lizzie’s presentation ball being this coming Friday.” He hints derisively—him not truly knowing where his sister is, but trusting that his Grandmother knows. And he is correct.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “Oh no, Lizzie is all sorted out.” Lord Christian raises his eye brow in curiosity. “Lizzie has gone with Lady Madeline to St. Timothy’s Church, for their soup kitchen and children’s nursery for the working mothers.”
Lord Christian quickly stands in agitation and worry.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Alone? Without a chaperone to protect their safety?” Lizzie and Lady Madeline could be set upon by thieves, thugs, or worse. An unprotected lady or woman in the depths of London’s poverty stricken districts is a target too tempting for miscreants to miss—and Lord Christian knows this all too well.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: Patting his arm, Lady Sussex attempts to soothe her grandson. “Now be at ease, Christy. I believe that Lady Knott has sent two footmen with them. And they are traveling in the smaller carriage to avoid notice.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “But Lizzie and Lady Madeline can not be cooking for the destitute, nor tending to their children’s needs, are they? I know for a fact that Lizzie does not even know how to boil water.” He looks at his grandmother incredulously.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “No, they are ladling out food and passing out donated clothes—it is so cold this time of year for the destitute, especially the poor children.” She sighs. “And though well bred young ladies are not conversant with kitchens, even I know how to boil water—so I can make tea [(2)].” Then she ruminates. “I did it once, in the fifties, I think. ” She refers to the 1750’s. When I was a young girl. We were visiting our cottage South of London and our cook had gone to fetch more foodstuffs supplies, and Mama wanted her tea early. So I heated water in a sauce pan on the stove and poured the hot water into the tea pot and added the black tea leaves.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Well! That is an accomplishment, Grandmother!” He smiles and sits back down, calmed by knowing that his sister and intended are expected shortly from their do gooding.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “Only partially, because I had forgotten to strain the tea leaves. And Mama, her so not wanting to make me feel badly about my poor efforts, drank the tea—leaves and all.”
Lord Christian smiles indulgently at his Grandmother. Then he looks over at the teapot next to her—wondering.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: Picking up the tea strainer, she smiles. “Do not worry, Christy. I will not require you to drink tea leaves.” He smiles sheepishly.
Just then, Lady Madeline and Lady Lizzie literally burst into the Dowager Countess of Sussex’ sitting room—with faces flushed with enthusiasm. Lord Christians stands out of politeness. But he is very glad and relieved to see them whole and unscathed.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Thank god! There you both are! I was going to fetch you myself, if you had not returned by half past.” He embraces his little sister Lady Lizzie. Then he clasps the gloved hand of his betrothed Lady Madeline.
Lady Madeline: “Oh, please do not scold us, Lord Christian.” She pouts as she curtsies to Lady Sussex.
Lady Lizzie: Kissing her Grandmother Lady Sussex’ cheek first, Lady Lizzie then proclaims to her brother. “No! Do not admonish us one bit, Christy! Maddie and I were helping the poor as our Lord Christ commands us!” She exclaims blithely.
Smiling wincingly, Lord Christian asks in a dubious tone.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Helping?” Lady Madeline rolls her eyes at his mocking tone.
Lady Madeline: “Yes, helping!” She replies indignantly. “My Grandmama Lady Knott sponsors daily midday feedings for the poor—and they may take a loaf of bread home with them for their other meals. And some of Grandmama’s friends help out with donations of money or clothing for them also. And there is a nearby ramshackle building that my Grandmama is having renovated into small flats for families. Some of the out of work fathers are earning a wage helping with the renovations—whilst the mothers or widows are working on the first floor in a sort of community sewing group in one large room. We get cloth scraps and used clothing that they mend or remake into wearable clothes. Lizzie and I also helped out by watching their little ones, while they worked. The children are so sweet and their living conditions so grievous.” Lady Madeline shakes her head sorrowfully. “The extra clothing not needed by the families is sold for extra income for the communal sewing group to purchase more supplies to make new clothes as a self sustaining effort.”
Christian, Lord Essex: “That is a most honorable endeavor, I commend you.” He smiles with pride for his betrothed Lady Madeline’s compassion.
Lady Lizzie: “I helped, too!” His sister Lizzie whines!”
Lady Madeline: “Oh Lizzie was a great help!” The two young ladies embrace. “And we invited St. Timothy’s youngish Assistant Vicar to Lady Lizzie’s presentation ball on Friday!”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “What?” He asks in consternation. In Lord Christian’s mind, a young assistant vicar of an impoverished parish is not of their station. “I am certain that this young vicar is a fine young man, but he would feel out of place at Lizzie’s ball.”
Lady Madeline: “No he would not, Lord Christian. He is a perfect gentleman. Even you would not find fault with his manners.”
Lady Lizzie: “Oh please let him come, Christy. He was wounded in one of the nasty wars ten years ago and had to make a new life for himself after he recovered.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Very well.” Lord Christian signs. “What is this Vicar’s name and we will send him an invitation?”
Lady Lizzie: “Vicar Whitby.” She smiles readily. “He fought in the Fourth Coalition against Napolean in 1806 [(3)]. But he said that after being wounded, he mustered out and sought a peaceful and contemplative life and he became a vicar.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Whitby?” Lady Lizzie nods. “Odd name.” Lord Christian says contemplatively. “There is a town in Yorkshire called Whitby. I wonder if he was born there?”
Lady Madeline: “We do not know.” She shakes her head. And Lizzie also shakes her head.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: Feeling and looking more tired after watching her grandchildren chat, she waves her hand. “Though I am certain this Vicar’s origins are interesting to someone, shall we get on with our tea?”
Lady Lizzie and her brother in unintentional unison: “Yes Grandmother.” She chirps. “Yes Grandmother.” He agrees deeply.
After everyone’s tea is poured and they are sipping and nibbling at their biscuits, the Dowager brings up the main topic of discussion.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “Lady Madeline, I know that my grandson, Christy, has been scouring the Sussex House vaults for a suitable betrothal ring for you.”
Lady Madeline’s cheeks blush charmingly as she glances at her betrothed Christian Lord Sussex—her Lord Christian.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Grandmother! I would rather discuss this in private.”
Lady Lizzie: “Oh please! Do not make me leave the room. I want to see Maddie’s ring, too!” She gazes at her brother imploringly.
Lady Madeline remains silent, noticing the frown on her intended’s face.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Hhhh!” He runs his hand through his thick dark hair. “It’s just that … I did not find anything suitable. So I fear that I must buy you a new ring, Lady Madeline.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh.” She sighs in disappointment.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Is that a problem?” He asks of his intended.
Lord Christian is interested in the response to his question. And her not wanting not to seem churlish, Lady Madeline winces charmingly.
Lady Madeline: “Well … It is just that I am sentimental—and practical. My dear late Mother’s ring will go to my eldest brother for his future bride. So I was rather hoping that there might be a Sussex family heirloom betrothal ring that I might cherish.” She gazes up hopefully at Lord Christian.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “I had hoped to give you such a sentimental heirloom ring. But my review of our Sussex family heirlooms only yielded overly large gems that would dwarf your delicate hand—making them look clownish, I fear. You should have something as exquisite and delicate as yourself for your betrothal ring from me.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh!” She exclaims in joy. “How lovely of you to guess my tastes.”
But truly, it was no guess on his part. Lord Christian had only to recall Lady Madeline’s sparing use of jewelry—and then what she had worn in his presence only containing small stones, but of the finest quality—for him to surmise her tastes.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “Ah! Then I might be able to provide you with some betrothal rings to consider.” Lord Christian quizzically looks at his Grandmother. She smiles. “What Christy does not know is that I, too, had thought about your betrothal ring and knew that there was a selection of more refined and delicate rings that had been set aside in a separate box because they did not have parure [(4)] sets to accompany them. So I sent my ladies maid to ferret it out for me, and I have it here.” She motions to her ladies maid hovering in her dressing room adjacent to her sitting room. The ladies maid comes forth, presents the small four inch by eight inch and three inch high jewelry box, then she retreats back to the dressing room and closes the door. Lady Sussex hands the jewelry box to her grandson. “Here is the jewelry box, Christy. There are two layers of betrothal rings inside.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Grandmother! Thank you for thinking of that. I did not know that there was such a jewelry box of fine betrothal rings.” Lady Sussex beams with her grandson’s obvious delight.
Then everyone looks at Lady Madeline who is sitting very primly and properly on the sette with Lady Lizzie—though her insides are bursting to see the rings. She is trying to maintain a steady breathing, but it is difficult with each passing moment building her excitement.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “Christy, lift up the lid, then set the top layer next to the box with the bottom layer–so that Lady Madeline may see all of the rings at a glance.” She smiles lovingly. Lady Sussex appreciates that her soon to be granddaughter-in-law is sentimental.
Lady Madeline: She gasps with her hand to her upper chest. “Ohhh! They are all so beautiful.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “And I know that you also mentioned you were practical, Dear Lady Madeline. But I beg you to let your heart choose your ring.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh, thank you! And I did not mean practical in the sense of the ring style, but in where it comes from. You see, I cannot go from seeing and helping people living in poverty stricken conditions to having a large sum of money spent on me for my betrothal ring. I would feel utterly frivolous.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Yet when you choose one of these rings, you will still be wearing a beautiful and expensive ring.”
Lady Madeline: “I know. But the fact that the ring will have a history of love associated with it, makes me feel that that legacy of love is more valuable than the ring itself.” Then she squeezes her betrothed’s hand. “And I hope that it will bring us glad tidings for our marriage.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: Squeezing her hand back, he smiles warmly at Lady Madeline. “As do I. Now please look at each ring and make your selection for your betrothal ring from me.”
Lady Madeline nods and then she adopts a very serious face as she reviews each ring. She only picks up a few of the rings, and Lord Christian notices that her ring style selections vary. After several minutes, she has narrowed down her choices to one of three rings that she sets on the table—their gemstones are a diamond, a ruby, and a sapphire. The gemstones meanings [(5)] are an important consideration as well—with diamond meaning “eternal love”, a ruby conveying “passion and courage”, and a sapphire representing “honesty, loyalty, purity, and trust”.
However, Lady Madeline is also interested in the historical stories behind each ring, and Lady Sussex shares them.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “Well, my dear. Each of these rings does tell a tale. The diamond belonged to my late husband Earl’s grandmother Sophia Blount, Countess of Sussex. She and her husband were, naturally, a marital alliance of two strong families. But it was said that within a year of marriage, they fell in love with one another and lived a very long and happy life together. The ruby was worn by a fiery Princess Marina of Spain who married her Earl of Sussex by running away with him when he was an ambassador to Spain. That marriage caused an international incident that almost caused a war. But when their first born son was presented to his grandfather—the King of Spain—all was forgiven. And finally, the sapphire ring, has a less happy tale, perhaps.” She becomes melancholy. “Though the ring his very beautiful, the Countess who wore it was only married for twenty years before her beloved husband died, and my husband became the Earl. My Mother-in-law aided her son as he navigated becoming the new Earl. And then not long after my husband and I married, she went into seclusion and died before our son was born.—your father Christy.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh. How sad!” She sighs.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “It is.” She nod solemnly.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “So? Have you made a decision, Lady Madeline?”
Lady Madeline: “I have.” She smiles shyly up at him, then holds out her ungloved left hand to him. “Please place my betrothal ring upon my finger.” Then she does something extraordinary, she closes her eyes.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “But you have not indicated which of the two remaining rings you like the best.” Him at least guessing correctly that the sapphire ring is out of the running.
Lady Madeline: “I leave the choice up to you, Lord Christian.” She smiles, still with her eyes closed. She does not want to influence his selection either way.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “But what if I choose wrongly? You would not receive the ring you want, Dearest?”
Lady Madeline: “Either ring you choose will be the ring that I want—because you gave it to me.” She insists.
Lord Christian frets and perspires for a few moments, then he makes a snap decision and selects her betrothal ring and slips it onto her ring finger on her left hand. You may open your eyes now.” He smiles.
Lady Madeline: “I am almost afraid to see my ring.”
Lady Lizzie: “It is beautiful!” She gushes.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “No cheating, Lizzie. Let Lady Madeline see her ring first.”
Then Lady Madeline opens her eyes at gazes at her betrothal ring. It is a small ring with gold filigree band sides. The central one carat round diamond is set low to be one with its gold filigree setting [(6) right].
Lady Madeline: “Oh, Lord Christian! It is beautiful!” She holds the ring up to the light and turns it every which way—seeing the sparkling facets. This is just what I wanted!” She says delightedly. “It is perfect!”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “You are certain?” Lord Christian hopefully asks Lady Madeline.
Lady Madeline: “I am.” Lady Madeline smiles brilliantly at Lord Christian.
Both Lady Madeline and Lord Christian would like to do more than merely gaze soulfully at each other and clasp hands. But they have an audience in Lord Christian’s younger sister, Lady Lizzie—and their grandmother the Dowager Countess of Sussex. Lady Catherine senses her grandson’s amorous wishes, and she sets them free.
Dowager Countess of Sussex: “Lizzie Dear, please help me to my bed chamber for a nap. Since we have settled on the betrothal ring, I am quite tired.” In truth, she is quite tired as she stands. Lord Christian and Lady Madeline and Lady Lizzie also stand.
Lady Lizzie: “Certainly, Grandmother.” Then Lady Lizzie lets her Grandmother link her arm to her and she looks over her shoulder and says. “Thank you for including me in the visit to St. Timothy’s, Maddie. I enjoyed it immensely!”
Lady Madeline: “And I thank you for accompanying me.” She replies sincerely.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “I will see my betrothed safely home to her Grandmama Lady Knott”.
After the elderly lady and her granddaughter leave the Dowager Countess’ sitting room, Lady Madeline and Lord Christian are alone. And they look at each other shyly. Or at least. Lady Madeline is shy as she gracefully sits upon the sette. Lord Christian cannot take his gaze from her. He feels drawn to her as inevitably as a moth to the flame. Joining her on the sette, Lord Christian once again clasps her hand in his. Then he bring each hand to his lips and he kisses them—lingering especially upon the finger where his betrothal ring gift now rests.
They do not speak as they gaze into each others’ eyes. Yet, they do not need to speak. Lord Christian cups her right cheek with his left hand. Lady Madeline mirrors his caress as she places her hand upon his right cheek. Then they each lean in and press their mouths together in a feather light kiss. Lord Christian kisses her with petal soft kisses, remembering that she is a maiden and must be treated gently. However Lady Madeline wants more of a kiss from her betrothed this time, and she presses her lips more firmly upon his lips, and she puts her arms around his shoulders and neck.
Lady Madeline’s tentative boldness undoes Lord Christian, and his arms glide around her torso, gently pulling her closer to him as he deepens their kissing. His kisses are tender as he moves from her mouth to kissing her cheeks, both eyes, and her nose—before descending to her neck. And at every turn, Lady Madeline follows his lead and kisses him back in those places. Except, when his kisses reach her neck, she runs her fingers through his abundant hair—inflaming his desire. And then two short knocks upon the outer hallway door intrudes upon their kissing and they pull back from each other with restraint.
Christian, Lord Sussex: Panting heavily, he tenderly clasps her hand in his. “Only ten more days, My Darling. And then we shall be as one mind, one heart, and one body.”
He gazes into her eyes to gauge her reaction. By her kissing, he would guess that she is of a passionate nature—which will make their wedding night go easier for her. And yet, he senses that she is unknowing about what he references. That is as it should be, he thinks. She is a maiden and he will gently and patiently guide her into their loving each other when they are wed.
For Lady Madeline’s part, she, too, is breathing quickly. The rising and falling of her chest indicates her heightened state of awareness of her betrothed. She thinks that his kisses are intoxicating. And it takes a few moments for her to calm herself from the delightful joy that rushes through her. As she opens her eyes, she and Lord Christian gaze at each other once more and smile. Then they rise, with her taking his arm, and they walk out of the sitting room and into the hallway as Lord Christian escorts her downstairs to her waiting carriage.
They will contrive to see each other every day this week leading up to Lord Christian’s younger sister’s presentation ball on Friday. And then they will focus upon Lady Lizzie at her ball on Friday—or try to, for in ten short days, they will be husband and wife.
To be continued with Chapter 16
“Encouragement”, Ch. 15 References by Gratiana Lovelace, November 07, 2016 (Post #996)
1) The “Encouragement” story cover is an image representing our young heroine Lady Madeline Sinclair, is the young Emma Hart in a straw hat at 17 years old in painted by George Romney in 1782; she was later to marry Sir William Hamilton in 1791 and become Emma Lady Hamilton, was found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma,_Lady_Hamilton#/media/File:George_Romney_-_Emma_Hart_in_a_Straw_Hat.jpg ; For more about Emma Lady Hamilton, nee Emma Hart/Amy Lyon please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma,_Lady_Hamilton
2) Tea drinking in the UK goes back to the 1600’s, for more information, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_in_the_United_Kingdom
3) Information about the 1806 Fourth Coalition of the wars against Napoleon may be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Fourth_Coalition
4) A “parure” is a jewelry set containing more than two items—such as a necklace, earrings, broach, & tiara– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parure
5) The gemstones meanings are an important consideration—with diamond meaning “eternal love”, a ruby conveying “passion and courage”, and a sapphire representing “honesty, loyalty, purity, and trust”. For more information about gemstones and their meaning, click here.
6) The image of Lady Madeline’s beautiful one carat gold filigree heirloom betrothal ring from Lord Christian was found at http://www.bloomingbeautyring.com/wp-content/uploads/bfi_thumb/antique-vintage-style-filigree-rings-llmoix98iv78beu8cfju92foex3z7nl4sksl8fp3d0.jpg
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