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The Wolf and The Lamb: (1) Green Meadows


In the coming weeks, lovers of Georgian history might like to follow running instalments of THE WOLF AND THE LAMB, First Book in the Berkeley Series which covers the years 1783 - 1799. (Kindle version of the ebook imminent.) The Series tells the extraordinary story of Mary Cole, 5th Countess of Berkeley. She was beautiful, a woman of destiny with a well-developed business acumen and a genius for handling issues of class and gender.



When Mary Cole, a butcher's daughter, caught the eye of Lord Berkeley, it was as flint to tinder. A libertine and a forsworn bachelor, he was taken aback that the Catholic-reared beauty refused to be his mistress. Within weeks he'd brought her family to bankruptcy. When, still, she eluded him, he devised a theatrical plot to abduct her.

It was then that he knew he could not let her go.

Aided by his corrupt chaplain, Hupsman, the Earl duped his 'shepherdess' with fake nuptials.

Tumbling to the truth, Mary became passionately committed to gaining her eldest son's birthright. With an astonishing grasp of pastoral economy, she repaired the Berkeley fortunes while a succession of children compounded her plight.

Her estranged sisters, meanwhile, were moving among the glitterati of Pitt's England and the New America and their scandalous activities had to be curtailed at the highest level before a legal knot was eventually tied.

Upon Hupsman's death, the temptation to affirm the ‘first marriage' proved too strong for the Earl and Countess and they conspired in a criminal act to ‘find' the registry. The upshot was a sensational trial in the House of Lords in 1811 whose repercussions were to shake the foundations of the Berkeley dynasty for ever and put Mary's life at risk.

Was that marriage a sham? Or was it a timeless truth?




Prelude

"I have been as much sold as any lamb that goes to the shambles!"

Often she had watched them in the fickle days of spring, skipping about the lush meadows of Gloucester, exulting in the gift of life. Steadily they grew fat and independent of the placid ewes, unaware of the shadow of the butcher's blade, or that they were destined for some rich man's table.

That was long ago, when Mary was a slip of a thing and Pa kept The Swan Tavern at Barnwood and grazed livestock there. He used to send his meat into the city of Gloucester and numbered among his customers many of the great houses of the Vale. They were well-known, the Coles. Folk grumbled about their airs and graces, but William Cole was a respected tradesman who never sold anyone short. He was proud of his three lovely daughters, of whom Mary was the youngest, and had high hopes of his fourth child, his namesake, Billy, despite the shameless way the women of the household mollycoddled him. His wife, too, was a comely body who earned pin money by nursing sick and newborn infants and saw no contradiction in this humble occupation and that state to which she aspired. "For," observed she, "high birth or lowly, tis nought but an accident. Nobility of character is what signifies." Mary possessed a natural reserve and took this dictum to heart, but her sisters were wanton and Cole was relieved when his eldest, Ann, took up with Will Farren, a likely fellow in the same trade as himself, and went to live in Butchers' Row, Westgate, in wedded safekeeping.

Life was simple then. The sun always seemed to be shining. Mary delighted in picking nosegays of sweet peas and lavender from her father's garden and went capering off to school with them, adding poppies and buttercups and Queen Anne's lace along the bridle way.








But in the year 1783, when Farmer George was King and Mary was full-grown, the recent death of old Cole marked a dramatic change in the family's fortune....



Ring Out Wild Bells




On the anniversary of the marriage of George, Prince of Wales to Caroline of Brunswick, 1795, an excerpt from THE WOLF AND THE LAMB, First Book in the Berkeley Series. Lord Berkeley ruminates upon the broken vow to remain a bachelor made by his royal boon companion.

The Princess Caroline of Brunswick was a regular hoyden, but the Ambassador gave no inkling of what to expect. His instructions were to bring her back safely, skirting war-torn France. This took the best part of four months and allowed rumour to precede the entourage. When it filtered through to the Prince of Wales, he subsided into despair. She was as coarse-minded as a farmhand and swore like a Thames bargee. She spent no time in ablution and dressed with little forethought, her overblown bosom straining at the seams of her gown like grapefruits tumbling from a Covent Garden pannier. Her figure was dumpy and her countenance fresh and rubicund, as though she were bursting in upon one of Queen Charlotte’s sedate tea parties from a high-speed gallop across mountain and moor.

No wonder Frederick sings the praises of the Brunswick Court,” said the Prince. “To dilate upon my cousin’s assets would be perjury!”

He was in a lather about his forthcoming ordeal. Instead of greeting his bride at Greenwich where she landed, inauspiciously, on All Fools’ Day, he sent a detachment of the Light Dragoons to usher her to St James’s Palace and confronted her in the Red Saloon with Lord Malmesbury at her elbow. It was the most desultory greeting the envoy had ever witnessed. His Royal Highness was visibly nauseated and took no steps to meet the Princess halfway. “Harris, I am not well. Pray get me a glass of brandy,” he ordered and fled the room.

The Ambassador fielded the repulse with professional aplomb, sure that conciliation would follow. The Princess had attempted to kneel in accordance with English etiquette, but the Prince swiftly raised her up in a manner that suggested she had put a foot wrong. Peeved by her reception, she complained to Malmesbury: “Je le trouve très gros, et nullement aussi beau que son portrait.” The criticism sounded less devastating in the diplomatic tongue.

Just seven days later, their wedding took place in the Chapel Royal with heralds trumpeting and all the ritual of sacred ceremony. A contagion of church bells broke out across England to inform all her subjects, from Count to commoner, that the Heir Apparent had a wife.

How the bridegroom managed to consummate the union on his wedding night when, as the Duke of Norfolk observed, he had ‘shot the cat’ was anybody’s guess. Caroline told one of her ladies-in-waiting that he had fallen into a drunken stupor and spent the chief of the night in the hearth. That none should be in doubt he had done his duty, there was soon compelling evidence of his prowess. Exactly nine months later, a daughter was born. They called her Charlotte after the Queen.










The bells of St. Dunstan, Cranford, swung into motion and cascaded into a sonorous peal while the fragrance of bluebells and violets clung to the damp of evening.

Hark!” said Mary to the children. “That is to tell us the Prince of Wales is married.”

Freddy listened, starry-eyed. “Did you have bells, Mama, when you were married?”

Goodness me, no,” replied his mother. “It was a very quiet affair. You see, I was not a Princess. I was poor as a church mouse and along came your Papa upon his white charger and carried me off.”

The poor sap’s gone to his doom,” said Berkeley in elegiac tones.

You would not marry to save your bacon,” Mary chuckled wryly. “Children, it is dusk. Time for bed. Price is waiting to take you up.”

By the time the Princess of Wales was delivered of an heir in January, 1796, Berkeley had an unwelcome feeling that he was lagging behind.























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Happy St David's Day!

New Eve Publishing 2011

ISBN 978-1479341696

A children's play about Mary Jones, a Welsh girl of Georgian times who saved for six long years and walked 25 miles barefoot to obtain a rare copy of the Bible in Welsh. Her amazing story saw the British & Foreign Bible Society launched in 1804. This edition launched to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

This is a one-act/4 scenes play for 8-11 years and has been successfully performed in the UK and New Zealand. It runs for approximately 30 minutes and is especially designed as a children's presentation within an act of worship.

The play can also be read as a story.

Excerpt:


Narrator (1)

It was autumn of the year 1792. Across the Channel, Revolution was rife and King Louis XVI had only months to live. In Britain, John Wesley was at rest in his grave after a lifetime of service to his Lord. His zeal for the gospel had fired all parts of the country and had helped to stem a crisis of the kind in France. Everywhere, chapels were springing up. The Methodist mission hall in the village of Llanfihangel in North Wales was well-attended and one of its most enthusiastic worshippers was a young girl of eight. Her name was Mary and she was the daughter of Jacob Jones, an ailing cottage weaver, and his wife, Molly, who made ends meet with a patch of land and their loom and spinning wheel. Mary loved nothing better than to sing the Lord's praise and to listen to the spellbinding tales of olden times from the Bible.

One evening, after a bright and blustery day, when folk had deserted the market in Abergynolwyn and gone home to supper...


Rocking The Dynasty




'The plot rides the heart-stopping ups and downs of a remarkable marriage and reveals how the tightrope between truth and illusion can swiftly turn into a hangman's noose.'

You've heard the term 'berk'. It conveys idiocy, doltishness, an agent of reckless escapades and madcap follies. But do you know its origins? A contraction of 'berserk' or 'berserker', perhaps? Well, 'berserker' is derived from the Viking and a noted raider, Harding the Dane, was the forefather of the family in this saga, but 'Berk' is a diminution of 'Berkeley' and, according to legend, was first attributed to the sons of Mary Cole, 5th Countess of Berkeley, protagonist of the Berkeley Series.

Mary gave birth to eight sons (seven living) and five daughters (three living). Among them was a distinguished Admiral, Maurice Frederick Fitzhardinge Berkeley, several MPs, a glorified gamekeeper, a tearaway officer in the 10th Royal Hussars, the Prince of Wales' Regiment. Harriette Wilson, upper class courtesan of the day, who liberated funds from a battery of illustrious figures on the understanding that they were firmly edited from her wickedly mischievous memoirs, described this last, Augustus, as 'a young savage' on account of his volatile temper and crude imagination, but appears to have found sight of his banker's drafts as welcome as the Duke of Wellington's.

However, the apple of Mary's eye was 'Fitz', the eldest son, a hard-drinking blade, around whose rightful heritage a furore swirled for decades, both before and after the 1811 Peerage Trial. He came to inhabit a half-world encompassing theatrical, cultured and country pursuits. He enjoyed the society of servants, celebrated beauties, hostesses, wives, widows, maids and mummers, never knowing quite where he belonged, a hostage to his chequered ancestry and the ineptitude of his noble parent. He was to feature in a number of court cases of the 19th century for whippings, firearms offences, divorce proceedings and breach of marriage contract.

From an early age, he knew how to manipulate his mother. She was no sop, but nursed a sore conscience for her part in striving to 'make right' the cruel deceit practised upon her by the Earl. Such were the twists of destiny, that a fake marriage proved impossible to disavow. Despite that the Countess had retrieved the family estates from ruin, something no mistress (and seldom a woman) would have attempted, the House of Lords was disinclined to believe her testimony and she was forced to flee the country in the thick of the Napoleonic Wars, on the advice of the Prince Regent, with a jail sentence, and possibly worse, hanging over her head.












Synopsis...

When the Earl of Berkeley narrowly escapes death in a duel at Arundel Castle, he realises the outcome is not what his opponent intended. His wife has been compromised by a deadly foe, Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, brother of the Prince of Wales.

After a long spell of seclusion, the Countess is launched upon the beau monde. The couple strive to subdue gossip caused by the failure of the 1799 Pedigree Trial to recognise their first marriage. A careful strategy must be adopted to ensure their eldest son succeeds to his father's honours.

The blood of kings and tradesmen runs in Fitz's veins and he struggles with a conflicted identity. In many minds, his courtesy title, Lord Dursley, is far from fixed, whilst his reputation for philandering is every bit as robust as Lord Berkeley's. Equally at home in Green Room, boudoir or barn, his proudest conquest is The Fair Greek from Smyrna, bewitching wife of the English Consul in Egypt.

Dursley's beautiful and tiresome Mama dare not put a foot wrong. The Prince of Wales is courting her favours and her watchful spouse well understands that safeguarding her virtue may exact penalties as surely as risking her good name.

Among other intrigues, Lady Berkeley finds herself caught up in the Delicate Investigation of Princess Caroline, banished wife of the throne's heir. A scandal involving risqué conduct and an adopted child brings the Princess into disrepute, a scenario exploited by her husband who wishes to divorce her. One of his chief spies, Lady Charlotte Douglas, grew up in Gloucester and is familiar with Mary Cole's past. She tells how a distinguished barrister once enjoyed a liaison with the Countess at a time she vows she was married.

The Earl's demise after a tragic accident means his widow must confront the House of Lords Committee of Privileges alone. Witnesses are summoned from every stratum of society and her history taken apart. Rogues emerge to stake a claim upon the Berkeley fortunes and romantics to set the record straight. The aristocracy closes ranks. Royal promises are broken and allies melt away as the lengthy hearing wends its sensational course before Cumberland inflicts the coup de grâce.

It seems the only emblem of true loyalty is a Jacobite white rose.


This Second Book spans the years 1799 - 1811 (which ushered in the Regency era).

ISBN 978-0-9556877-3-0


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String Theory












Image courtesy of Eva Browning



A poem for Valentine's Day



strings make music

even heartstrings

respond to the vibrations

of the universe


mythic islands

may quicken some

corner of a foreign field

despite quiescence


but gravity's

less potent than

electromagnetism

throughout planet earth


scientists say

I wonder what

that means for us who walk it

there's no pulling strings


bowstrings slacken

and violin

strings stretched taut across the bridge

may quiver and crack


thread gems of days

on strings of gold

love knot the bright beginning

love not strained ends but


keep fine purchase

on silken cords

lest pearls be mired underfoot

iridescence lost