Author’s Dramatic Content Note: I write romantic love stories for adults, aged 18 and older. So most of the chapters will be PG-13 due to mature themes (M), or dramatic moments (D). And some of the chapters have romantic and sensual, but not explicit, love scenes that I will label as (L), and such. So if you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.
Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links that I cite contain general information merely to allude to a place, person, concept/theory/belief, history, or artifact, etc. This story is a work of fiction, and people and their thoughts and actions are figments of my imagination and should not be taken as real or as fact. And though the general backgrounds of the characters and the story’s contextual setting involve mentions of the Christian religion—with an Anglican/Episcopal focus—this story is a romance, not a religious tract.
[And from time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of: Richard Armitage as Prof. Benedict Somerset, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Leicester, Loretta Devine as Connie Velasquez, John Lithgow as Seminary President Maynard Casten, and Jane Alexander as his wife Portia Casten, Charles Dance as Benedict’s father Edward Somerset, Helen Mirren as Benedict’s Mother Elizabeth Somerset, Dawn French as Benedict’s elder sister Lady Alexandra Somerset Solsbury, James Nesbit as Benedict’s elder brother Edmund Somerset, Chris Pine as Laura’s younger brother Steve Leicester, Max Charles as 5 yr old Caleb Somerset, Samantha Colley as Lady Alexis Solsbury, and others as noted.]
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: Amid Benedict and Laura considering staying in England for the next few years to be around Benedict’s aged parents, Steve’s and Lady Alexis’ nascent feelings for each other are deepening—especially so for Steve, who wants to marry her. Of course Lady Alexis’ mother and her Uncle Benedict were suspicious about Steve’s pronouncement and interrogated him about his suitability, given his prior history with women during his twenties and how much his law firm position earned him. Steve also gave details about the recent and sizeable inheritance they will receive soon from a maternal aunt. So Steve is tacitly given the approval to court and then to seek Lady Alexis’ hand in marriage. Steve just has to see of Lady Alexis wants that, wants him.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 27: The Right Thing
What with Steve Leicester tacitly brokering Lexi Lady Bath’s and Lord Benedict’s approval to court and possible marry Lady Alexis Solsbury, the only person whom Steve needs to consult with—apart from her father Ian Solsbury, the Earl of Bath—is Lady Alexis herself.
Lady Alexis: “What questions?” Lady Alexis asks, while looking innocently at Steve and everyone else, in his sister’s, and her soon to be Aunt Laura’s, hospital room. Lady Alexis had not been in the room for the whole Steve wants to marry Lady Alexis discussion. The room is quiet and still.
Steve: “Alexis, I don’t know about you, but I’m in need of some caffeine—and a less sterile ambiance.” He notices the drab pale green walls for the first time—their attention prior to this has been so focused on getting everyone through their transplant operation and well enough to be released from the hospital, that the décor was irrelevant. “Let’s grab a cappuccino at the coffee shop across the street from the hospital. Hmmm?” He smiles hopefully.
Lady Alexis: “Welll, I don’t know.” She hesitates and looks at the stunned faces of her mother, uncle, and soon to be aunt. “Is everyone alright? Is there something you’re not telling me?”
The responses by her Mother, Uncle, and soon to be Aunt range from a high pitched sighing “No Dear.” to a gritted “No!”, and finally, a polite and fatigued. “No.”
Steve: Gazing into Lady Alexis’ eyes, he reasons. “Laura needs to rest, without all of us tiring her out. Let’s just grab a cappuccino and let her do that.”
Lady Alexis: “Oh! Sure!” She sighs in relief. “We’ll see you later, Laura.” Lady Alexis smiles and waves at Laura, who nods and closes her eyes. “Uncle Benedict.” He nods. “Mummy.” Who warmly hugs and kisses her daughter in farewell.
A few minutes after Steve and Lady Alexis leave Laura’s hospital room, the remaining adults in the room each exhale sighs in letting out the tension in the room.
Lexi: “I had no idea that Alexis was feeling so … unsettled about her betrothal and non married state.” She pouts.
Laura: “It happens. She sees her friends having attentive boyfriends and getting married, but she isn’t.”
Benedict: “Laura, are you hinting that’s why you married your first husband? Because you felt your life was unfulfilled?” Laura doesn’t respond, but gazes at him sternly for bringing up her situation. “I don’t want Alexis jumping into a relationship as a means to getting married, just for the sake of being married.”
Lexi: “Nor do I. But her Papa Ian and I have long thought that Collin Gilbert has turned out to be not what we had hoped for our daughter Alexis. And yet, I don’t know if Steve is right for her either. I just want us to do the right thing for Alexis.”
Laura: “Then let her find her own way. You have to let her grow up and snip those apron strings.”
Lexi: “I have never worn an apron in my life!” Lexi Lady Bath says a bit indignantly—like the pampered aristocrat she is.
Laura: “Allow me to reframe the metaphor—think leading strings.” Laura uses the Regency novel turn of phrase. Alexis nods.
Benedict: Sitting down next to Laura’s bedside and clasping her hand in his, he wonders. “But what if it goes horribly wrong? I don’t want Alexis to get hurt.” He thinks about his first girlfriend Gretchen, who didn’t want to be a minister’s wife and left him after two years of them dating and being lovers. And Benedict was the one hurt by her rejection. So much so, that he had sworn off women for fifteen years, intending to live a life of celibacy his remaining days. Then Laura came into his life and gave him hope for a more fulfilled future for himse;f, with love and a family in it.
Laura: “Have a little faith, Reverend. Of what I know of Steve’s prior relationships, he has remained friends with each of the ladies, who went on to be happily married to other men.”
Benedict: “How many women were there?” Benedict sputters.
Laura: “Less than you might think. After his college years and twenties easy going lifestyle, Steve has been much more selective and dated only two women—both in his law school years four and six years ago. Since joining his law firm three years ago, Steve has been so career focused that he hasn’t mentioned to me that there was anyone special in his life.”
Benedict: “There still could have been someone whom Steve dated and he just didn’t tell you about.” He thinks about Gretchen—whom Benedict did not speak about to his family. So perhaps subconsciously, Benedict had an inkling that they weren’t going to marry—though it was still a shock to him when Gretchen turned him down when Benedict proposed to her.
Laura: “Of course, you’re right. But then, I don’t suppose that you have revealed everything about your romantic past to Lexi here—or to me.” Laura smiles at a flummoxed looking Benedict—who stays silent. “And Lexi, none of us are perfect, we can only hope that the love relationship we find …” She reaches out and clasps he fiancé Benedict’s hand. “… will accept our imperfections.”
Benedict: “To me, you are perfect, Laura.” Benedict smolders and reverently kisses her hand. Then he smiles mirthfully. “Except for that annoying habit of yours of always being right.” Benedict kisses her hand.
Laura: Smiling, Laura nods. “And that is the crux of it. Finding someone who will love us unconditionally—even knowing about our faults.” She turns to Benedict. “And I’m not always right—just usually right.” She smiles impishly and he leans over and kisses her gently upon her lips.
Lexi: “Well at least you and Benedict are a fated love match. It remains to be seen if Alexis and Steve are.”
Laura: “Let’s give Steve and Lady Alexis the space that they need to get to know each other better in the coming weeks. And if either or both of them decides that they are a better family friendship than romantic partners, that will be their choice—without outside interference. And if it is love and Steve and Alexis want to marry each other, I hope that we respect their choice.” Laura gazes at Benedict, he nods. Then she looks over at her soon to be sister-in-law Lexi, Lady Bath.
Lexi: “Your right, Laura.” She nods. “It’s their lives. And they have to explore whether or not their lives can be blended together as husband and wife.” Alexis waves farewell as she starts to leave Laura’s hospital room. “Thanks! I’ll just check in on Mummy to tell her what we’ve decided—about non-interference with Alexis and Steve, etc.” Then she leaves.
Benedict marvels at Laura’s ability to broker a peaceful acceptance of the situation before them, it is just one more reason why he loves her. And he feels very fortunate and grounded to have her as his future wife.
Meanwhile, not knowing whether or not Lady Alexis’ parents and family will cut them some slack, Steve escorts Lady Alexis to the coffee place across the street from the hospital. It is a long time family owned establishment—and the 60’s décor looks it with wood paneling and leather booth seating along the row of windows facing toward the hospital and more conventional table seating toward the back. The smell of coffees brewing and the sound of cappuccino machines sputtering out their individual servings add to the overall sense of this being a coffee shop. There is also a limited menu of small finger sandwiches and desserts available from a local bakery.
As they sit across from each other in a comfortable small leather cushioned booth sipping their steaming hot cappuccino’s—French Roast for Steve and hazelnut for Lady Alexis—Steve’s palms become clammy. He has never seriously courted someone before, with the intention of marrying them. Dating in America is a rather different activity than courting—at least with regard to how dating has evolved in the States. But with Lady Alexis, how Steve proceeds from here can make the difference in both of their futures—either together or apart.
Steve: Taking her hand in his while they wait for their cappuccinos to cool down enough to sip them, Steve leads with honesty. “I like you, Alexis. A lot.”
Lady Alexis: Smiling, she responds a tad shyly. “I like you, too, Steve.”
Steve: “That’s good! Helpful.” He rubs his palms together in nervousness.
Lady Alexis: “Helpful?” She tilts her head in confusion. “Why helpful, particularly.”
Steve: “Welll. It’s just that with me having a month’s leave from the law firm so that I can stay in England—ostensibly to help during my sister Laura’s initial recovery from the transplant surgery–I thought that it would be nice for us, you and I, to get to know each other better.” Steve is starting to perspire with nervousness. He gulps a sip of the tepid bottled water left by their server. What the Brits seem to have against cold drinks—let alone ice for drinks–escapes him.
Lady Alexis: “Are you alright, Steve? You seem to be unsettled about something. Is it something to do with Laura and Benedict? I think that she and Uncle Benedict make a great couple!” I smile encouragingly to him.
Steve: “So do we!” I blurt. So much for my savoir faire in the romance department.
Lady Alexis: “We? Oh! You mean, you and I.” I blush. “Well that’s nice!” I smile, still not quite understanding where Steve is going with this conversation.
Steve: “Only nice?” I pout. “Were our kisses not as exciting to you as they were to me?”
Lady Alexis: Blushing again, she looks down at her cappuccino drink then looks up at Steve. “I liked them, very much!” She gushes.
Steve: Grinning, Steve relaxes. “Well then, we should try them again sometime.” I tease her–my now getting back into my charm stride.
Lady Alexis: “Yes, lets.” I raise my eyebrows and shoulders in unison, in my successful attempt not to squeal with joy.
Steve: Taking Lady Alexis’ small hands in his, Steve clarifies his intent. “Alexis, meeting you has been extraordinary. And you have quite knocked me off my axis.”
Lady Alexis: “Really? I did that?” Her eyes widen in astonishment.
Steve: “You have, delightedly so. And I would like us to get to know each other better—to see if we might have a future together. Hhhh!” There! I said it!
Lady Alexis: “A future together.” I ponder that notion. “As what exactly?”
Steve: “Well, as lovers.” Steve places her palm upon chest where his heart resides, under his clingy sweater. “Soulmates. Husband and wife. Parents. All of the above.” He clarifies.
Lady Alexis: “Ohhh!” I sigh thinking about his suggestion—since he is not proposing, per se. Not yet.
Steve: “Is that a good Oh, or a bad Oh, my Sweet Alexis?” I grin bemusedly at her.
Lady Alexis: “Oh! It’s a good oh, Steve! Definitely good!” She emphasizes to him, to leave no doubt in his mind about her interest in him as well.
Steve: “Whew!” I sigh. Now I just have to figure out ways that we can get to know each other better—in addition to us making love.
Lady Alexis and Steve have a delightful time together this week as they run errands for the family. Lady Alexis also takes Steve on a tour or two of London tourist sites—The Tower of London and one of those open top tour buses. And he attends a charity function with her. It was a little awkward at first for Lady Alexis in explaining her connection to Steve, since they had previously agreed to wait to announce anything official. So her friends smiled and gave her inquisitive looks which Lady Alexis smiled at, but tried to ignore.
For Steve’s part, he is enjoying squiring Lady Alexis around London. Though he notices that apart from her charity work, Lady Alexis doesn’t seem to have a large circle of close friends. This puzzles Steve because although she is received cordially by everyone they meet, there seems to be only two or three confidantes among her large number of acquaintances. And of Lady Alexis’ close friends, he notices the curious glances at he and Lady Alexis as they mingle. Steve posits that they are probably wondering about the status of Lady Alexis’ betrothal with Collin Gilbert—whom no one has either seen nor hear from for months, including Lady Alexis.
But Steve and Lady Alexis’ nights make up for some awkward daytime events. With their families still mostly spending their nights at the hospital—except for when they spell them—Steve and Lady Alexis are left alone at night. Well alone as one can be with two townhouses full of servants. But they do enjoy some privacy together.
As a child, Lady Alexis had realized the secret garden passage from her parents’ family townhouse where she is staying to her grandparents adjacent townhouse where Steve is staying as a guest. Something about it being dark outside, under the star light canopy of light, and them being sleepy that tends to open the romantic flood gates for their midnight tete a tetes and tender kissing sessions in the comfortably cushioned gazebo in her grandparents gardens. The nights are cool, but with the gazebo walls not taken down yet for Spring, they are warm enough. Despite it having been an unusually cold and long Winter in England—the gazebo is their oasis and retreat.
When Lady Alexis reaches the gazebo for their third night home together at the townhouses—Tuesday, May 2nd –and Steve has a surprise for her.
Steve: “Ta da!” Steve opens his arms wide for Lady Alexis to see the slight transformation he has made with incorporating a wide enough cushioned lounger that he bought for them both to lie upon together.
Lady Alexis: “Ooh! That looks comfy.” Then her eyes sparkle minxishly. “But where will you sit, Steve?”
Steve: “Hm!” He pouts with fake indignation. “And here I thought that you might welcome our being able to become cozier together.
Lady Alexis: “Are we not comfortably seated and cozy already?” She smiles while gesturing to the original seating pushed to one side to accommodate the larger lounger.
Steve: “Yes, but this wider lounger will allow us to be cozy together.” Steve sits, then swivels and lies down. He beckons to Lady Alexis with an outstretched arm. “Come.”
Lady Alexis: “Alright, but if anyone finds us and objects to our cuddling together here, I’m blaming you.” She jests as she lies down next to him. Lady Alexis knows very well that their servants likely know what they are up to—which has so far, been quite innocent.
Steve: “There, that’s better.” I enclose my arms around her in a tender embrace.
Lady Alexis: “It is.” She snuggles into him. It is all very innocent. They are wearing their casual day clothes for warmth—though Steve also helpfully covers them with a warm throw blanket. “What shall we talk about tonight? We already know each other’s likes and dislikes, preferences, and favorites.”
Steve: “Yes! Who would have thought that we would both like Caramel Praline ice cream and that we vote progressive in our respective countries.” I ask rhetorically and burrow my face into her neck. Again her jasmine scent overwhelms my senses and sends my desire into overdrive. So I have to keep telling myself to take it slowly with Lady Alexis.
Lady Alexis: “Ha! That tickles.”
Steve: “Ooh! Another ticklish spot. You know, Alexis, I would love for us to go away some weekend and explore all of your and my ticklish spots together.”
Lady Alexis: “That almost sounds like an invitation.”
Steve: Kissing the back of her neck, he pulls her to lie flush against him. “It is. A guidebook recommended a little out of the way hotel in the countryside, just outside of London– where privacy is assured.”
Lady Alexis: “Hmmm. Sounds like you’ve been doing your homework.”
Steve: “Well I can coordinate arrangements without a secretary to help me, you know.” I flash a grin. “Will you come? I have booked tentative reservations for us for next weekend, starting Friday, May 12th. I knew all too well that this coming weekend with the patients all coming home to the townhouses will be busy ones.”
Lady Alexis: “Yes, this weekend will be busy. But May 12th is only the weekend after next!” Which means she and Steve will have known each other and dated for just two weeks. It still seems awfully soon to Lady Alexis for she and Steve to become intimate. Steve feels her tense within his arms.
Steve: Calmly smiling, Steve responds to her in soothing tones. “Yes, the 5th plus 7 days equals the 12th —10 days from now.”
Lady Alexis: “Are you going to put the moves on me?” A question that elicits both excitement and uncertainty in her.
Steve: “Ha ha ha ha ha! I think I already have. And we could have easily had an assignation here already in the gazebo. But I want our first time to be special—in a comfortable bed with pink rose petals strewn about, …” He hands her a pink rosebud [(2) below] .
Lady Alexis: Sniffing her lovely pink rose, Lady Alexis sighs. “Hhhh! It’s beautiful! Thank you, Steve!”
Steve: “You’re welcome.” I kiss her sweetly. “Now where was I? Oh yes, … you in a silk negligee, me … not.” I quirk upwards a very naughty eyebrow. And she giggles cutely.
Lady Alexis: “Ha ha ha ha ha!”
Steve: “… and a plush rug in front of a roaring fireplace ..” He notices Lady Alexis quirking up a querying eyebrow, and he explains. “… for later, should we wish to vary our lovemaking locations.”
Lady Alexis: “Hhhh!” She sighs deeply—in nervousness or happiness, Steve can’t yet tell.
Steve: “Besides, our weekend away together is not strictly for making love—and we will only go as far as you are comfortable, My Sweet Alexis.” They kiss tenderly for several minutes. Then he slowly draws back. “So are we a go for our possibly scandalous weekend?” I ask mirthfully. Lady Alexis hesitantly nods her head in the affirmative. And Steve gives an inner cheer.
And with each of the two nights following–until the family descends upon them in bringing the three patients home on Friday–Steve and Lady Alexis enjoy their evening cozes in the gazebo, with them growing more and more comfortable with each other.
The following Friday, May 5th is when all three patients are allowed to go home from the hospital to their London townhouses. They will still have weekly checkups at the hospital for the next month and they must stay in London. So the townhouses are convenient and comfortable. And they will at least be within easy walking distance for visits of family to each of the patients.
And though Lady Alexis and her family are staying in their Solsbury family townhouse, it is adjacent to her grandparents, Duke Edward and Duchess Elizabeth’s townhouse—where her Uncle Benedict, his betrothed Laura, and Laura’s brother Steve are guests. And Lady Alexis’ Uncle Edmund and Aunt Angharad and their five year old son, her little cousin Caleb–who is still recovering from receiving his soon to be Aunt Laura’s kidney–live in the adjacent townhouse on the other side of the Duke and Duchess’ townhouse. And Benedict’s townhouse on the other side of his brother Edmund’s town house, is being let to the good family friends and family, the Gilberts of Leicester.
Prior to the accident–and at her daughter Lexi Lady Bath’s urging–Duchess Elizabeth had conversed with her good friend Lady Andromeda Gilbert the Marchioness of Leicester about the possibly distant family connection of Laura and Steve Leicester to the Gilbert family. However, with the car accident and the injuries it caused, and the kidney transplant between little Caleb and Laura–and the lower left leg amputation to Duke Edward—Duchess Elizabeth has not heard if her friend Marchioness Andromeda has found anything out.
So Duchess Elizabeth invites the Gilberts to a light luncheon on Sunday May 7th after everyone had settled in at home. All the family is invited. And she chose a midday meal because 83 year old Duke Edward’s good humor lessens as the days wear on—with or without his lower leg amputation. And these Gilberts are the titled and landed Gilberts leasing Benedict’s nearby townhouse—who are not closely related to the Collin Gilbert that Lady Alexis was and still is technically betrothed to, from their childhood.
And the curious glances at Lady Alexis and Steve also seem to be in evidence at the pre-gathering before the Duchess’ light luncheon this Sunday May 7th.
Lady Alexis: “Steve? How are you doing in remembering who is who of the Gilberts?” Lady Alexis asks in concern with her two small hands holding onto one of Steve’s large hand, after noticing Steve looking shell shocked.
Steve: “It’s not so bad. But they certainly have a profusion of family members.”
Albeit Steve noting a distinct shortage of male bloodline members in the Gilbert family. There is only the charming and grandfatherly Marquess of Leicester Arthur as patriarch and his Earl of Leicester son Randolph—who is about Steve’s age of 36 years. Then of the Gilbert women—in addition to the Marchioness Andromeda–there are the Earl’s family of his wife the Countess Eileen and their twin daughters Lady Daphyne and Lady Diana so far, and the Earl’s as yet unmarried younger sister Lady Eliza—named after Duchess Elizabeth.
It is getting warmer outside now, so everyone is dressed coolly, as if for a garden party. Laura is wearing a sparingly patterned flowery dress with cap sleeves that Benedict’s sister Lexi Lady Bath loaned her, since the type of clothing that Laura brought with her to England from the States was minimal. Though Laura is still healing and has to pace herself, so she sits in a comfortable armchair in the parlor before luncheon as they all converse.
Even Edward Duke of Exmoor joins them for luncheon after Benedict carries him downstairs and sets him down into that contraption as the Duke refers to his motorized wheelchair—of which, he as two, one wheelchair for his bed chamber and one for the main floor. Duke Edward and his younger son Benedict along with his elder son Edmund are chatting with Arthur Gilbert Marquess of Leicester. And even Lexi Lady Bath’s husband Ian Solsbury Earl of Bath is present—him not being able to get away previously while everyone was in the hospital due to common wealth agricultural trade meetings that he was leading in Australia.
Duchess Elizabeth corners her friend Andromeda the Marchioness of Leicester for any news about Laura and Steve Leicester’s possible connections to the Gilberts of Leicester via their great grandparents.
Duchess Elizabeth: “Well? Have you found out anything about Laura and Steve’s possible relationship to your family?”
Marchioness Andromeda: “Yes, and it is … complicated.” She obfuscates while gazing at Steve Leicester with a querying brow. “You mentioned that Laura is in possession of a locket with a portrait of their great grandfather in it. I would be grateful to examine it.”
Duchess Elizabeth: “Yes. Laura is wearing the locket necklace now. Shall we join her and my daughter Alexandra for a moment?” The Marchioness nods and they go to the ladies.
Meanwhile, Steve and Lady Alexis are enjoying a relaxing conversation with the Earl and Countess of Leicester, or Randolph and Eileen as they preferred to be called.
Steve: “It is an honor to meet you, Lord Leicester, My Lady.” Steve nods his head in a short bow to the couple and Lady Alexis curtsies.”
Lady Alexis: “Hi Randolph!” He kisses her cheek. “Hi Eileen!” Then she and Eileen kiss cheeks.
Randolph: “What say you just call me Randolph, Steve. From what Mama seemed to indicate, we are possibly distant cousins.” He holds out his hand and Steve shakes it.
Steve: “If our having a family connection is true, we would welcome having more family. You see it is just Laura and I now.” Lady Alexis nudges him with her elbow. Steve smiles and puts his arm around her. “Well! In addition to the Somersets and the Solsburys.”
Randolph: “And it’s always in good stead for you to have distinguished family connections, such as the Somersets and Solsbury’s” Then he asks of Lady Alexis soto voce. “Any chance that we might pair up my sister Lizzie over there with an American chap? She’s declined all of the British men we have suggested to her.”
Lady Alexis: “Well, I don’t know.” Lady Alexis’ relationship with Steve is still in the early stages—with them still gingerly negotiating their upcoming weekend in the country, let alone no mention has been made of her traveling to America with Steve, either for a visit or permanently.
Steve: “I can think of one or two of my law colleagues still unattached. But it will need to be your sister’s choice.” He emphasizes for Lady Alexis’ benefit. “Perhaps she will visit …” He nearly says visit us—getting ahead of himself to a time, he hopes, that he and Alexis live in the States. “… the States some day.”
Randolph: To Steve. “We should make up a four some for golf this week. Perhaps Benedict and Edmund will join us.”
Steve: “I would enjoy that very much. As a junior member of my law firm, my days are long, so I don’t get to enjoy leisure activities much. This trip to England has been my only extended period of time off in three years.
Randolph: “Well, we could always do it up right and go to Andrews, Scotland to play golf this coming weekend.”
Steve: “Unfortunately, I have another engagement.” He squeezes Lady Alexis’ hand in his. “And I fear that Edmund and Benedict will wish to stay close to home and their healing family members—as do I for my sister Laura.”
Randolph: “Of course. Well, perhaps this week we can play on a local course and save Scotland for a future visit.”
Steve: “Thank you, Randolph. I will look forward to it.”
Having not spoken till now– since she tends to be on the shy side when meeting new people—Eileen the Countess of Leicester asks her husband.
Eileen: “You were saying Randolph, about Steve’s connection to our family?” Then she turns to Steve and graciously says with a smile. “And please do call me Eileen.”
Steve: “Thank you, My Lady, Eileen.” Then noticing that he and Lady Alexis are being summoned, he offers his apologies. “Ah! Eileen, Randolph, please excuse Lady Alexis and I for a moment. The Duchess is beckoning to us.”
Steve is unfailingly polite to everyone. And Lady Alexis especially appreciates the consideration that Steve shows her when they are in company with others—by using her title Lady Alexis when addressing her. Though in private, he uses her first name Alexis only—which makes her tremble with joy.
As they walk toward Duchess Elizabeth sitting in a chair next to Laura and Lexi Lady Bath sitting on a settee—Marchioness Andromeda must have left them briefly–Lady Alexis squeezes Steve’s hand clasped in her hand. She thinks that he easily chats with everyone. This bodes well for them presenting him to English society—as either an extended family member, or more particularly, as her husband at some future date.
Duchess Elizabeth: “Ah. Children, please join us and sit.” She motions to the adjacent settee that is arranged closely for private conversations. And they sit.
Lady Alexis: “Oh, Grandmama Duchess! Do you have news about Steve and Laura’s possible family connections to the Gilberts?”
Duchess Elizabeth: “I do. You are paternal cousins thrice removed. The locket with your great grandfather’s portrait as the second son three generations ago, is a miniature of a much larger portrait hanging at Leicester House near Nottingham.” She states without emotion since she is trying to contain the emotions that will naturally be associated to her further explanations.
Laura: “How nice! A piece of our heritage puzzle solved.” She smiles.
Steve: “Right, Sis!” He smiles, too.
Duchess Elizabeth: “Of course all will have to be verified through birth certificate scans that Laura had the presence of mind to bring with her electronically. But it looks like you are the rightful heir of the Leicester legacy.” She lets that thought sink in.
Lady Alexis: “Oh Steve!” She exclaims in excitement and bounces in her seat. If she marries Steve, and he is legally made the Marquess of Leicester, then she will become a Marchioness—a higher rank than what her mother hoped she would be with her betrothal to Collin Gilbert, Earl of Wickham. So she wouldn’t be disappointing anyone by not marrying Collin. Except, maybe Collin.”
Steve: Steve is dumbfounded by what the Duchess is alluding to. “My apologies, Your Grace. But I don’t quite understand what you mean by me being the rightful heir to the Leicester legacy. Lord Arthur Gilbert is the current Marquess of Leicester and his son Lord Randolph is the current Earl of Leicester. And Randolph seems like a really great guy! He has even invited me for a foursome of golf this week. How could England strip him of the Earldom and give it to me? Isn’t there a statute of limitations on something like that?”
Laura joins her brother’s concerns–but also having heard in total from the Duchess what Marchioness Andromeda discovered about the family connection—seconds what the Duchess has told him.
Laura: “It is true, Steve. The Duchess showed me electronic scans of the documents patent. Our Greatgrandfather was a second son to the 5th Marquess of Leicester. His elder brother was the Earl of Leicester, our Greatgrandfather was the Viscount of Leicester, and their youngest brother was the Baron of Leicester. Greatgrandfather left England with his love who became our Greatgrandmother—whose locket I am wearing now—when his family was intact. But ten years later, his elder brother died not long after becoming the Marquess–when their own father had died. So not being able to contact our Greatgrandfather his brother in the States in time regarding the succession—before several inheritance legacy laws would strip the Gilberts of their land, wealth, and titles–his youngest brother had our Greatgrandfather declared dead and the youngest brother incorrectly became the Marquess, him also having the rights of bestowal for the titles of Earl and Viscount of Leicester. They don’t have any letters or journals indicating the brothers ever saw each other again. And I do not remember hearing or reading about any family stories indicating that the two brothers had ever had contact with each other either. We and the Gilberts are family—we share their heritage back hundreds of years to the time of Queen Elizabeth the First. With us technically and legally being the senior branch of the Gilbert Family. You have but to claim it as the only living male heir of our Greatgrandfather, and the Gilberts revert to the status of Barons. And you will become the Marquess of Leicester.”
Laura hands her brother Steve a Gilbert family tree—that is also their family tree, which Steve thinks looks like a template for an NCAA March Madness basketball playoffs brackets—and is just about as complicated.
Steve: “My God!” He sighs in distress under his breath and runs his hand down his face in stupefaction. Steve had taken an elective law course about English inheritance and primogeniture laws for fun during his law school years ago. Since Steve’s family had emigrated from England, he was curious about England. So Steve knows that what his sister Laura says about the British inheritance laws is true—and with no statute of limitations. “Does Randolph know?” Steve asks in a daze as he looks at his similarly dazed sister Laura.
Duchess Elizabeth: “No, but he will be informed—later today, once they return home. And my friend the Marchioness … which she no longer is—Lady Andromeda Gilbert the Baroness of Leicester told her husband, of course. And the Marquess, now Lord Arthur Gilbert, the Baron of Leicester stands at the ready to assist you in claiming your rightful Leicester inheritance and legacy.” The Duchess greatly admires the Marquess and Marchioness for their stoicism in the face of losing everything they have worked for and preserved over the last 100 years or so years.
Steve: “I am overwhelmed! At the most in seeking our English heritage, Laura and I hoped to find some family members. We never thought that we would somehow be displacing our new found family members from their heritage that they have stewarded for over a century!”
Lexi Lady Bath: “Steve, it is our understanding that you cannot refuse your rightful Leicester legacy, or it will revert to the crown as being unclaimed. And when you claim the estate as a new inheritor—at today’s tax rates—the estate will be assessed a 20% tax. This will be a great hardship to the estate because most of the wealth of any peer’s estate is in its large land holdings. And no one wants to break up the Leicester estate by selling off land and tenant farms and buildings—possibly putting its tenants in an unfavorable position with some future landowner wanting to drive up rents or to drive them out completely.”
Steve: “After luncheon, I suggest that the Marquess inform his son Randolph of these unusual circumstances. Because—with your permission Duchess, I think that we need to have a frank family chat before pursuing the next steps to preserve and protect the Leicester legacy and estates. And by a family chat, I hope that the Somersets and Solsburys will also be in attendance. We need all of our brains at work—the gentlemen and the ladies.”
The Duchess nods her head in agreement about the proposed meeting, her already knowing that everyone would have to be informed, in due course, after she broke the news to Steve and Laura Leicester. Except Randolph Gilbert’s 7 year old young twin daughters will be allowed to play board games with the recovering Caleb Somerset in Edmund Somerset’s Townhouse, under the supervision of Lady Eileen Gilbert the current Countess of Leicester for now, and the girls’ mother.
Luncheon was lovely, but there was a slight pall cast over it because of the impending discussion by the Leicester, Gilbert, Somerset, and Solsbury families. Steve opens the discussion. All eyes are upon him.
Steve: “First let us thank our gracious host and hostess for our lovely luncheon and gathering here today. To the Duke and Duchess of Exmoor.” Steve gestures to them and everyone claps politely. Then knowing that he cannot stall, Steve dives in. “Thank you for coming together to discuss the development that I assure you has surprised and overwhelmed myself and my sister as much as it has you. And I thank both the Marchioness of Leicester and the Duchess of Exmoor for investigating the details—with my sister’s help by sharing some documents that we have.”
The room is so silent, you could hear a pin drop—that is, if there weren’t plush Aubusson rugs on the wood and marble floors. And, of course, the last to be informed about the developments is scowling—namely Lord Randolph Gilbert, the current Earl of Leicester, whose current Marquess father Lord Arthur Gilbert pulled him aside just 10 minutes ago and gave him unexpected news that they are not technically nor legally titled peers of the Leicester estates and financial holdings, and why.
Duke Edward: “You best get to it, Boy, or you’ll have a revolt on your hands!” Said in his best curmudgeonly tone. His wife sitting at his side, Duchess Elizabeth, pats her husband’s arm, then scolds him with her eyes.
Steve: “Right, Your Grace. Well then. Before luncheon today, my sister Laura and I were informed by the Duchess of Exmoor –and after consultation with the Marchioness of Leicester–that our Greatgrandfather Gilbert Leicester (nee Edward Gilbert) was prevented from obtaining his rightful Marquess of Leicester inheritance and legacy over 100 years ago because he had emigrated to the States since his family did not accept his choice of bride—my Greatgrandmother, and his younger brother couldn’t find him to inform him. So in the interest of saving the Leicester estates and legacy at that time from reverting to the crown, my Greatgrandfather’s younger brother declared him dead and inherited the title.” Then gesturing to the Gilberts—Marquess and Marchioness, and Earl and Countess—Steve further clarifies. “And your branch of the Gilbert Family is the inheritor of that long ago legacy. A legacy that might now be in peril because I am told that since I am the rightful legal heir as the only male descendant of Gilbert Leicester (nee Edward Gilbert), and that I must claim it or risk the titles, lands and funds being returned to the crown—which would leave our Gilbert family right back where we started from over 100 years ago. And my goal, our goal—with my sister Laura’s concurrence—is not to displace our new found Gilbert family from their inheritance and legacy. Being a part of your fine family is sufficient for us. So we must work together—and with an exceedingly astute English inheritance law attorney—to find a way to maintain the status quo of Lord Arthur and Lady Andromeda as the Marquess and Marchioness of Leicester, as well as, Randolph and Eileen as the Earl and Countess of Leicester—with their male descendents as inheritors of the estate.”
Randolph: “How much?”
Steve: “What do you mean?”
Marquess Arthur: “Randolph, be quiet!” The Marquess certainly does not want his son to offend Steve and cause Steve to withdraw his offer to not claim the title.
Randolph: “Father, he has had his say, and now it is our turn to question him about it.” Randolph stares at Steve.
Steve: “Ha ha! Randolph, your stare could incinerate a dragon.” Making a jest doesn’t go well with Brits. And Randolph is fuming.
Randolph: “Well perhaps I am looking at a dragon. A thief in the night.” He spits out. “And I did not give you leave to address me familiarly, I am Lord Randolph, Earl of Leicester.”
No one says “For now.” But they think it.
Steve: “Actually you did say that I could address you as Randolph, right before you invited me to play golf with you this week.” Steve smiles jauntily.
Randolph: “That is …”
Duke Edward: “Boy!” He addresses his remarks to Lord Randolph. “You would have never survived a world war with your whining. Now sit quietly and listen. Because this young man here just might be your family’s savior. And Steve, get on with it!” The Duke waves his hand in a rolling motion.
Steve: “Yes, Your Grace. Thank you. Randolph, I’m just your cousin, Steve. And I hope to remain just a cousin, because that is all Laura and I want. And I am in no way disparaging the English peerage system. I and we hope to honor it by helping to leave in place the best stewards of our Gilbert Family Leicester legacy—you and your father.” Then addressing everyone, Steve continues in marshalling his troops. “What I need for you to provide—since you have the English connections and know how—are the names of the brightest legal scholars and attorneys in the land. Because fighting Crown Peer status and inheritance laws will be difficult, but not impossible.”
Randolph: “What could you possibly know about English law?” Lord Randolph just has to get one more objection in, to try to save face.
Steve: “Actually as an American lawyer, my specialization is wills, trusts, and inheritances. And …” Steve goes on before Randolph can interrupt him. “… I took a year long three two hour class sessions a week of course training on the English legal system and Crown and peer inheritance laws—from Oxford University, via our class cohort skyping. So my former distinguished Professor Morton Linley will be one person whom we might seek guidance from. Any questions?” Steve stares at them with laser like precision.
With the family meeting concluded, the English Gilbert Family seems somewhat mollified as several of them nod—even Randolph. But Steve’s hoped for fiancé Lady Alexis Solsbury wears a most confused and disappointed look on her face. So after taking their leave of everyone, Steve and Lady Alexis walk out to the terrace of her grandparents townhouse, in order to get some air.
Lady Alexis: “You were great in there, Steve!” She states encouragingly.
Steve: “But? There is always a but.”
Lady Alexis: “But, this new development, complication–whatever you want to call it– will put a wrench into our weekend plans, maybe even for our relationship.”
Steve: “No, neither is happening. If I have learned one thing in my life, it is that we must tend to and cherish our relationships. You and I will be gone on our romantic weekend from Friday to Sunday. The lawyers aren’t working then either. Trust me.” Lady Alexis starts to protest, but Steve lays a staying digit upon her lips. “I’m a lawyer, Sweetheart, I know. Yes, I work long and late nights to all hours on my cases, Monday through Thursday. But the weekend is mine.”
Lady Alexis: “Okay!” She says, but Steve senses some reluctance on her part as she bites her lower lip.
Steve: “Are you disappointed that I didn’t consult with you about what I intended to do about the Leicester legacy?”
Lady Alexis: “A little bit. For a moment there, I was excited about possibly being a Marchioness—that is, if we marry. But then I thought, why would I want to be a Marchioness? To outrank my Mama? Not happening. Ha ha ha!”
Steve: “Ha ha ha! Whew! I’m so glad. I was worried that …” Now Lady Alexis places a digit upon Steve’s lips to stay his response.
Lady Alexis: “A title doesn’t matter to me Steve. What I really want out of life, Steve, is a happy home and family like my parents and grandparents have—a deep love with my husband, and lots of children around me.”
Steve: A broad smile crosses Steve’s face. “And I will endeavor to help you create that happy home, with us together.”
Lady Alexis: “And you’re doing the right thing by keeping your new found Gilbert cousins safe and honoring the Leicester legacy that they have built these past 100 years. And I honor you for that.”
Steve: “Thank you, My Sweet Alexis.” Alexis and I kiss with tenderness and love—nothing too scandalous. Our restraint caused in part by our looking forward to our private and hopefully romantic weekend retreat coming up in a few days.
And though there were some legal tussles surrounding the Leicester estates, titles, and legacy that ensued over the next few weeks—cites of English case law precedents, Crown Peer establishment laws, etc.—Steve Leicester and his English Gilbert cousins do win their court case to retain the Leicester titles, estates, and legacy in the hands of their English cousins, the Gilberts. And their unlikely ally was Her Majesty, the Queen, who with the proclamation of her grace and favor that the Marquess and Earl of Leicester in the names of Arthur Gilbert and Randolph Gilbert, respectively, retain their ownership and inheritance of the Leicester titles, estates, and legacy, etc. And that Steve Leicester is named only as a tertiary Gilbert family Leicester heir—with the title of Baron Leicester–in the event that all of the current Gilbert Family male Leicester heirs peter out. So Randolph with so far only fathering his twin daughters, needs to get cracking—as Steve jokingly told Randolph after the final judgement decree was finalized. And then they finally went to play golf the next day.
So all that remains is for Laura Leicester and the two Somerset patients –Duke Edward and little Caleb—to get well enough for a delayed later Summer wedding sometime in August.
To be continued with Chapter 28 End and Epilogue
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 27, December 30, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1131)
1) The Somerset: A Time to Love” story cover is a composite of two main images:
a) Background–Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user AlicePopkorn2]
b) Prof. Benedict Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (2012 Promo by Roberta Ascroft, pix35) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
c) a crucifix image is from MS Office Clip Art;
2) A pale pink rosebud was found on Pinterest at https://i.pinimg.com/736x/52/39/a8/5239a84dffb5ced8fb830c1891936b2a–watercolour-flowers-rose-buds.jpg
Wattpad Ch. 27 story link:
Previous Ch. 26 blog link, with embedded illustrations: