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The Other Miss Tudor


Berkeley House, Spring Gardens, as it looked in the 1850s

When Lord Berkeley conferred the name 'Miss Tudor' on Mary Cole at the time of their secret 'first' marriage, he little expected that fate would contrive some spectacular confusion.


 At number 55, Brook Street, the premises of Messrs Boodle & Partington, Mr John Scriven, took a pinch of snuff, sneezed heartily into a discoloured linen handkerchief and attempted to realign his focus upon the parchments before him. The firm had never been busier. It serviced more than one hundred clients, true patricians of British society, of which the Lords of Grosvenor were the most notable. Since the demise of his father two years ago, the 2nd Earl was running amok with elaborate extensions at Eaton Hall, Cheshire, and buying rambling estates in Dorset and Hampshire. In addition, he was laying the foundations of a grandiose plan for the restructuring of Mayfair which would take decades to realise, the acquisition of racing bloodstock and fine paintings, meanwhile, occupying his leisure hours. He was, in short, not a man to twiddle his thumbs and kept Boodle’s clerks permanently at their quill-driving.

Mr Thomas Whalley Partington of Manchester had been a former attorney of the Grosvenors. His passing, in the nineties, had left Edward Boodle, himself past his salad days, to reflect upon the future. He had since set on a handful of eager colts from among whom a business partner might emerge. The latest of these was John Boodle, his nephew. Though the young man had a quick brain and was keen to make his mark, his slowness in coming to terms with the baffling genealogy of interbred aristocrats who drew their baptismal names from the same font, had caused some perplexity.

As he pored over the conveyance deed of Shaftesbury acres for Lord Grosvenor, Mr Scriven, the clerk, could not help catching the drift of a conversation between the elder and younger Boodle. The door into Mr Edward’s office was slightly ajar.

“Ours not to query, dear boy. Always remember, we deal in abstracts. We are paid to interpret the law in the best interest of our clients. Have a humbug!”

Boodle, junior, stared at the striped comfits and shook his head. “But there is a Lady Berkeley, is there not?”

“I have been encouraged to think so. But to tread the labyrinthine ways of his lordship’s mind, upon my word, it is beyond the very limits of human endeavour! Perhaps it suits his purpose now to abandon all pretension of that estate.”

“There must have been marriage lines. Did the House of Lords not ask to see them?”

“I believe so. Recollect, evidence of an older ceremony was also produced,” said Mr Edward in tones of shuddering gravity. He glanced at his nephew in a pointed manner from under his caterpillar brows and lowered his voice. “He may wish to make a more conducive match for the succession before it is too late. Tempus fugit. Nature is not always complicit in matters corporal.”

Young Boodle hooked his thumbs under his waistcoat sleeve-holes and observed a pigeon foraging the gutterspouts of a roof on the opposite side of the street. “But then he’d need a divorce by Act of Parliament if he is to be believed, and if not...”

“It does not bear scrutiny, dear boy. If mankind got its just deserts, Berkeley should have swung long ago! It may interest you that when Mr Scriven was down at Cranford last autumn, he chanced upon Mrs Price in St John's church. She was a governess with the family, whom he had met during the period the missing entry turned up. She gave him her solemn opinion that the second rite would prove no sounder than the first. She states Miss Tudor’s name remained unchanged until the clergyman who was supposed to have married them in 1785 had passed on. Now that good woman was employed by the Berkeleys for several years in a trusted capacity and ought to know a thing or two.”

John Boodle whistled through his teeth. “Let’s hope he cautioned silence!”

“But to the matter in hand,” said Mr Edward, tying some ribboned manuscripts, the air heavy with peppermint. “Take these to Miss Tudor, witness her signature and that of any second party, and bring them back without delay. Berkeley is most anxious now to close the book on this.”

Mr Scriven could not help but eavesdrop. He glanced across at his colleague, Mr George Bastard, a paragon of discretion, wondering how aware he was of what was being said. The Bastards claimed descent from William the Conqueror and their history had entwined with the Grosvenors’ ever since. Lawyers and politicians, the knub of present generations was based in Devon and familiar with the Barings, causing Mr Scriven to ponder the ever decreasing circles within the corridors of power.

“Bear in mind, Mr John,” he warned, peering above his wire-rimmed spectacles as the lad passed his desk, “that Lord Berkeley had a great deal to hide concerning Miss Tudor's relations.”

“Trade, if I recall, Mr Scriven. Guaranteed to send an upper customer into a rare old taking, that."

“If only that were the measure of it!”

The clerk slipped the deed into his brief case, along with documents to be copied by a law-writer in the rundown Grosvenor Market, and left the office in resigned mood. His uncle was right. To fathom the ways of the aristocracy was not his remit. To carry out their instructions was.

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He strode smartly along Davies Street and up to bustling Piccadilly and the more sedate area of The Mall, then turned into Cockspur Street past the premises which were the subject of his mission. Whatever his plans for the dynasty, the crafty old rascal, Berkeley, clearly meant to keep his mistress close, for Berkeley House was just around the corner in Spring Gardens, on the edge of St. James' Park in a pretty wilderness first tamed and planted by George London, Master Gardener to Queen Anne. Berkeley's grand pied à terre was leased from the Crown and the grounds of Carlton House were just over the way. Boodle cut through the narrow passage by Wigley's Rooms, mentally bracing himself to execute orders.

The exterior of the mansion was forbidding, shadowed by a holly tree of venerable proportions, now beaded with scarlet berries, but the white paintwork was flawless and the lion's head rapper gave a good account of itself around the neighbourhood. The aging retainer who answered looked as puzzled as his office would allow. His head was permanently kinked to the right as if the habits of obeisance had moulded him.

"His lordship made no mention of an appointment this morning. No, indeed. I fear he is not at home."

"Actually, my business concerns Miss Tudor," said Boodle hopefully.

"Oh no, sir. We don't go by that name any more. Not since Nelson's glory in Egypt, sir. One moment. Pray step inside whilst I make enquiry."

Boodle gave a low gasp as he ventured over the threshold and swept off his hat. The inside of the house, like any Venetian palazzo, offered an entirely contrasting impression. It was engulfed in a calm such as he had noticed in the paintings of the Dutchman, Vermeer. The sinuous lines of the balustraded staircase were supported on fluorspar pillars topped with ebony acanthus leaves. Arched islands of sunlight fell obliquely across a floor refulgent as the Serpentine in winter's vice and almost as hazardous. The clatter of the servant's departing tread was soon softened by carpet and Mr Hughes, the boys' tutor, could be heard declaiming a speech of Shakespeare's Anthony, enlisting all ears. A muffled conversation within one of the nearer rooms resolved itself and presently a young woman of quite exceptional beauty appeared. She seemed a little surprised. "Oh! I see you are not Mr Boodle."

"John Boodle, Mr Edward's nephew, but recently articled, ma'am. At your service," declared the clerk with an extravagant flourish designed to confound his trembling shins.

"Come into the Morning Room where we shall not be disturbed. Thank you, Reynolds."

The visitor gave his hat to the butler and followed the Countess into a room awash with light and exhibiting many pictures of naval engagements in which members of the Berkeley family had figured. She indicated a carved sofa in the latest Egyptian mode that looked as if it might put to sea given orders from the Admiralty.

"Now please feel at liberty to explain yourself. I am no stranger to his lordship's business affairs in Town and country. I am also very familiar with the casting up of accounts."

The clerk wrestled with his shiny new brief-case which slithered about most disconcertingly upon the silk-pile carpet.

"It concerns your property is Cockspur Street, ma'am."

"Do we have property in Cockspur Street, Mr Boodle?"queried the Countess with an elegant frown.

"Number twenty-five, above Morley's Hotel and next to the British Coffee House?"

"I think I am not aware of it."

Boodle's heart began to thud, on the brink of panic. "Your own property, ma'am," he said, withdrawing the conveyance deed.


"Let me see."

The moment he relinquished the document, he knew there had been a mistake. Her ladyship's brows arched and her gaze expanded. A cold electricity crackled through the atmosphere. The parchment slipped to her lap while she considered a puff of cloud gliding past the window. Lily Tudor! A pretty serving-maid with a will of steel. After all these years! No wonder she had been so keen to leave the Castle. "Tell me, " she said at length, "are you acquainted with this female?"

"No, indeed. I know nothing of her saving that she sometimes goes by the name, Amy Knight. An actress, I believe." The damning echo of his own words, consigning the party in question to the third person, made its impact. Boodle's face was incandescent. "Profoundest apologies, my lady. I see there has been a grievous error. I do not know how such a thing has come about. What can I say?"

Lady Berkeley handed back the deed. "You were merely executing your duties, Mr Boodle," she said with grace and gravitas. "I'm afraid your journey has been quite fruitless and am very sorry for it. Reynolds will show you out." She lifted the handbell and dismissed him politely to his fate.

He could not get outside fast enough. He left with his coat unbuttoned and stood on the portico step, absently tossing his hat over his unkempt curls and tugging it down. The cross-wind was strong enough to carry him off to the antipodes. Indeed, he wished it might! There would be ructions. This would mean total loss of the reputation for efficiency he was so anxious to foster. It could even ruin his prospects! He'd be relegated to tea-making, like Joe Slack, the minion who was struggling to master calligraphy.

Boodle, senior, hearing the news, bowed his head and covered  it with his hands. "Armageddon! This signals the departure of a revered client, cornerstone of this practice. What could you have been thinking of, boy? The address was trumpeted loud and clear upon the documents."

"Wasn't to know the lady was in situ prior to the Agreement."

"A simple enough commission and you have failed to cut the mustard! What have you failed to do, eh?"

"Cut the mustard, Uncle. I thought...Miss Tudor...from what you were saying..."

Edward Boodle's eyes shot up to the gods and his flabby jowls shook. "Meteors will rain!"

"To be candid, sir, I think you exaggerate," said his nephew, gaining command of himself, his vision a little glazed. "Lady Berkeley is uncommon pleasing. She has the patience of a seraph. I'd warrant she won't breathe a word."

The judicial paw came down upon the desk with an almighty thud. "Nonsense! You have no idea of the gentle sex! The next time Berkeley returns from some infernal gambling venue unable to redeem his vowels, he will hear from her, mark my words!" Boodle rose from his chair and strode stiffly to the window, his hands linked behind his back. "But we shall not anticipate matters, I think. Well goes the case, dear boy, when wisdom counsels. Remember that."

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 From THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS, Second Book in the Berkeley Series

A Hat That Lets The Rain In


Photo: Getty Images 



At the Gloucester Election of 1810, young Lord Dursley puts his reputation on the line as the rightful heir to his father's title and honours...


'Cleave to the Crown though it hang on a thorn bush.'

When Election Day came, Dursley couldn't get the phrase out of his head. He knew it pertained to King Richard III, Duke of Gloucester, and his fate on Bosworth Field three and a quarter centuries ago. The old Coat of Arms of the city had depicted Richard's emblems, the York and Lancaster roses, the boar's head  and a sword, horseshoes and nails, symbols of the ironworks and smithy trades. “For the want of a nail, the kingdom was lost,” Carrington had declaimed from under the eaves of his minatory brow.

More inspiring was the Commonwealth Coat of Arms which had superceded it, with its rampant lions bearing swords, and a crown built of stone bricks. Fides Invicta Triumphat was the underpinning legend. Unconquered faith triumphs.

Dursley thought of including the motto in his speech, but decided against it. It was sailing too close to the wind. A Shakespearian theme might inspire oratory. Not one to wax lyrical about 'this sceptr'd isle, 'this other Eden', his mind ran upon Bolingbroke's role in Richard II, the subtle art of engaging the modest voter in a bid for a fairer society. The more he considered this, the more he liked it. It was radical and daring and smacked of a new regime in tune with something in the air he couldn't quite label. He would remind his listeners of their historic links with the Crown for the last thousand years and how the Berkeley dynasty had played a sterling part in husbanding Gloucestershire's resources. His mother had done her best to stifle amusement at the notion. What would be uppermost in everyone's mind, she said, was taxation.

The carriage turned into Westgate and a sharp draught funnelled through the jetties from the Quay. Blossom showered down from the whitebeams and cherry trees. With Dursley, were Bloxsome, the attorney, and his old tutor, Carrington. Lord Berkeley had failed to put in an appearance at breakfast and the Countess had said briskly: “Fitz, your father is indisposed this morning. He sends apologies and says, pray, take the barouche. He will catch up with you when he has collected himself.” It was not a promising start, but a Whig candidate could not afford to dwell on that now.

It was a Friday, not a market day, but the enfranchised of the county had turned out in force.

“A good crowd to see you presented with the Freedom of the City, Carrington,” Dursley quipped as they drew up in front of the Tolsey, a classical building which served as the Town Hall. It was surmounted by urns and a pediment carved with the Gloucester arms.

They were all there in the oak-panelled hall, Lord Moreton Ducie, the Duke of Beaufort and his brother, Lord Edward Somerset, the Packers and Purnells, the Clutterbucks, Hyetts, Gardners and Lysons', Sir Berkeley Guise and members of the Clifford family. They all knew what was best for their own prosperity and how that was certain to benefit the nation. Lawyers consorted with landowners, the Militia with merchants. Divinity graduates tried to put themselves in the way of a living. Messrs Hodgkinson and Jessop were among the crowd, a pair of civil engineers drafted in to estimate the next stage of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal which had languished for want of subscribers for many years. There was a sense of wheels turning, and wheels within wheels. The hum of optimism struck the Viscount as thick with conspiracy.

“Good to see you, young Dursley,” Norfolk greeted him with a convivial slap on his shoulder blade. “The petitioner for the Whigs. Ha! Ha! A nip of port to irrigate the vocals, what say you? Gentlemen?”

“Your Grace is most hospitable.”

“Noted for it, my boy. Mustn't forsake my reputation, though it may forsake me! Now, where is Berkeley? I trust he don't continue to ail.”

“Unavoidably detained. He will be along in a jiffy, sir.”

“If not a well-sprung chariot. Ha! Ha!”

Carrington proceeded to engage the Duke over some confidential matter in buttery tones, thus enabling Bloxsome to hail a colleague among a coterie of chin-clutching advocates close by. “Well, I'm blessed. Tis a tidy while since you put in an appearance!” He turned to Dursley, “Your lordship, may I present to you William Fendall, a keen legal wit you wouldn't wish to fall foul of!”

Fendall bowed. He cut a distinguished figure, grey at the temples, well-groomed, soberly clad with his lawyer's falling bands. There was about his posture a suggestion that the law was a vehicle for dramatic irony. Fleetingly, he hesitated before looking Dursley full in the eyes, his own registering a fine interest. “Your humble servant, sir,” he declared with a stage bow. “For a moment there, the image of the Countess came winging across the years.”

“I take it you refer to my mother. You're a friend of hers?”

“Our paths did indeed cross at one period. I recollect your uncle, Mr Farren, was seeking to enter the profession. Whatever happened to William Farren, I wonder?”

“Never met the fellow,” said Dursley in faint discomfiture. The chamber was probably full of people he didn't know, but who knew him and were likely better informed of his family origins than he was.

With a nonchalant air, Fendall ran his gaze over the gathering. “There was a rumour he took off for distant climes.”

“He died,” replied Dursley, “for my aunt married a well-to-do Virginian.”

“The other Mr Farren omitted to mention that.”

“The other Mr Farren?”

“His brother, Mr Ellis Taylor Farren.” Fendall nodded towards their graceless host. “You see him there, where he's always to be found, in the shadow of the Duke.”

Dursley's eye homed on a thick-set fellow of middle years, a neater version of the late politician, Mr Fox. His demeanour was watchful, furtive, both bullish and bullied. “Never saw him in my life!”

“A butcher, sir, of some repute. Long patronised by His Grace and duly recognised by the city fathers. Ain't that right, Bloxsome?”

“I believe it is. If I may interrupt, your lordship is being signalled. It is time to advance to the podium,” said Bloxsome. “They will wish to draw lots for the speaking order.”

A hunted look hardened Dursley's pupils. He hoped to have the advantage of Sandys by being second to speak. He rifled his inner pocket for the rallying rhetoric that suddenly inspired no passion. There was no sign of the Earl. That wouldn't look well to this crowd, hungry for happenings, for change, for revolution. The New Inn and the King's Head had contributed hogsheads of cider and ale to the campaign which loosened the tongues of the rowdy element mustered behind the pillars at the back of the hall. Games of chance were going on, the exchange of ribaldry, raucous argument threatening fisticuffs, fiddlers were fiddling and tinkers tipsy. Redcoats moved among them, shoving them with the butt of their rifles when disorder threatened.

Sir Edwin Bayntun Sandys, having so far failed to reach the poll, lots were not drawn. Dursley was conducted to a chair at the back of the dais, well clear of the clamorous onlookers, while Sir Berkeley Guise read an address, already published in the Gloucester Journal, in which Admiral Berkeley recommended his nephew to the electors, promising he would devote himself heart and soul to the county's interests. His family's long-established connections in Gloucestershire were earnest of his suitability to represent its people in Parliament.

Minutes later found Dursley rising to speak. His limbs were numb, but he quickly gained the mastery of himself by imagining he was in audition for Mr Brunton. He trained his eye on a million dustmotes powdering the sunbeams from an oval window in the gallery. Embracing confidence with humility, he spoke of the great honour conferred by the Admiral's trust and of a pride in the Berkeley name and heritage that would never lose sight of civic duty, nor obligation to neighbours and tenantry.

“Howzat, then, Younker?” cried a surly voice among the mob. “Brag's a good dog, but Holdfast be better!”

“Aye, don't halloo till you're out of the wood, sir,” called a barrister.

Determined not to be baited, Dursley raised his voice to full forte. If he had caught anything from his father, it was that nobility did not have to justify itself. The Reverend Mr Hughes, his younger brothers' tutor, was more of a classicist than a  modern thinker, but, last summer, had opened a discussion with him on the theories of Adam Smith. The Wealth of Nations had proved surprisingly useful, dealing as it did with efficiency, the harnessing of human drives and mechanical invention. This was a new era and the past was fast uncoupling itself. Smith's writing had been consolidated by a recent essay of Mr David Ricardo who spoke about putting a wholesome value on labour.

It began to dawn on Dursley how gifted his mother was in practising those truths she knew by instinct and sharp observation. How irksome to have to recognise her simple genius and her relentless energy when he needed to think of her as foolish and misguided!

There were catcalls, grumbles about taxes, tolls, and hours at the treadmill which were like broomstick handles shaken at space. Dursley began to feel the first tremors of elation, akin to when he scaled the pele tower at Eton. The sea of upturned faces avidly expectant, shuffled below the blinding limelight from outside. He was riding the crest of the wave, his own man, detached from parental steerage and mere sibling awe. He could succeed, he knew it! Abandoning his notes, he sketched a gilded view of the future, a blend of egalitarianism and liberal landlords. His listeners were enthralled. As he drew to a resounding close, there was a stunned hush.

The next minute, riotous handclapping broke out. Shouts! Cheers! They were cheering him! Throwing their hats into the air! Stamping their feet! What had he said that wasn't the high-flown propaganda of the hustings?

Lord Ducie came forward to thank him and pumped his arm, followed by other notables who'd promised support. The Duke of Norfolk, a down-to-earth champion of the people, was unwontedly effusive. “Splendid, sir! Splendid! Need to tone it down in the Chamber, however! Credit to the Berkeley name! Not your pater's son, eh? Pity old Fox, rest his bones, ain't here!”

“That'll give Beaufort a run for his money,” said Ducie in Dursley's ear. “Itching to extend his influence in the city, but I can't see Sandys trumping you.”

As Dursley thanked them and turned away, he caught sight of his father in the shadows of the portico, the daylight behind him, leaning awkwardly on his cane. He was being ushered to a leather bench where he was swiftly attended by Bloxsome and members of the Dursley Town Council. Dursley sidled nimbly through the press towards him. Now, many familiar faces impinged upon his vision. Some nodded above their conversations. The snippets he overheard were not wholly to his liking.

“ stranger to the footlights, I gather,” Fendall was saying. “Keeps the company of opera-dancers down at Chelt'nham.”

“In the blood, so I hear,” guffawed the next fellow. “Aunt was a trouper. Lily asserts she was the Diva of Dublin.”

“Rum business,” said a third. “He'd best make the Commons. The Lords won't wear his cockeyed history!”

He reached his parent, his euphoria dwindling.

“Well done, my boy! I hear you acquitted yourself with distinction!”

Bloxsome bowed. “You have the makings of a fine politician, if I may say so, sir.”

The Viscount snatched a glass of Meursault from the tray of a passing lackey and took a sip in acknowledgement. “You may, Bloxsome. The prophets shall yet prove false.”

Bloxsome consulted his timepiece: his brows shot up. “Beaufort's man will need to look sharp.”

“With Somerset past the post, he's not without representation.”

“Eleven o' clock is the deadline,“ said the Earl briskly. “Never could abide tardiness. A man fit for purpose should be punctilious in his habits!”

“I dare say my lord is eager for the capital dinner which will follow,” smiled the attorney.

The noise had risen in volume, carrying hints of hysteria. Presently, the High Sheriff, Nathaniel Clifford, rose and rapped his gavel several times so that the cacophany ebbed in waves.

“Attention! May I have your attention, please! There is an important announcement! Thank you! Gentlemen, I have in the last five minutes received a note of hand from the Tory contender, Sandys of Miserden. He deeply regrets that, owing to unforeseen circumstances, he is unable to proceed to the Poll and thanks all those who have so generously supported him.” Beaufort's agents looked at each other aghast. “That leaves only one conclusion, and it is with great pleasure that I pronounce the Whig petitioner, William Fitzhardinge Berkeley, Viscount Dursley, the proper person to take on his sponsor's mantle.” The crier of the court echoed that Lord Dursley was duly elected.

No show of hands! No moments of attenuated agony! No waiting for his opponent's address! The whole chamber broke into uproarious huzzahs. Dursley was stunned. A tingling chill travelled his spine. He glanced at the Earl and saw...what? A look he'd not quickly forget, but would only afterwards construe.

It was the crowning success of his life! They were clapping. They were calling his name. He made his way back to the dais and uttered a broken speech of gratitude, capped with a pledge to serve the people well.

“Mebbe you'll lend an ear to the common run,” boomed a savage-looking yokel in the crowd. “Youm at least half Johnny Raw!”

“Aye, pretty cant, but what credentials have ye, sir?”

“You've gammoned our betters, but you ain't gammoned us!”

Such phrases spiked the jubilation. The champion was escorted out by Militia and hustled into the civic coach, decked with swags of laurel and beribboned knots of may. His heart was thumping. He tugged at the window strap and hoisted it shut. A swarm of eager faces peered on the other side of the glass, grim, Hogarthian caricatures, scenting prey. His gut squirmed in antipathy. The tide had turned on a farthing, the welter of insults only half-drowned by the thrall. They were trying to uncouple the horses from the shafts while the vehicle rocked violently upon its well-oiled springs. Fortunately, the soldiers smartly intervened and the coach lurched off on its lap of honour behind the band of the South Gloucesters. The cavalcade processed along Westgate and Southgate, Eastgate and Northgate, past Butchers' Row and Bell Lane, the New Inn where Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days' Queen, had put up. It rattled past the homes and haunts of his mother's history of which he was selectively unaware and had no connection with. The streets were thick with people cheering and flag-waving. They had run out on the pavement for a spectacle and scarcely knew what it was about, or who was elected. It was like Palm Sunday and Dursley was beleaguered by emotions he could neither separate nor recognise.

And then he saw it. Scrawled on a wall were words that cut through the commotion and mocked the trumpet and thunder of victory: Berkeley's bastard beats all! By a fluke of chance, the very next moment, he caught sight of none other than Amy Knight, only a foot or two from the window. The gangling youth above her wore his formal hat pushed to the back of his head. Her expression, vividly captured, spoke of self-possession and wry amusement.

There was a grand banquet that evening at the King's Head Inn for nearly three hundred elite of Gloucestershire politics. Another speech was called for and, the adrenalin still coursing, Dursley met the obligation roundly. Lord Berkeley, looking ashen and exhausted, left early. When Dursley arrived home, his father had gone to bed.

From THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS, Second Book in the Berkeley Series

Bolting The Door With A Boiled Carrot


 Excerpt from THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS, Second Book in the Berkeley Series


Over the teacups, the ladies discuss their menfolk and ponder some vexing issues.


It stood close to the shore, a miracle of restrained classicism,
amid chenille lawns, hibiscus, oleander and bougainvillea. The
exterior betrayed no sign of the Byzantine excess with which it
was later ‘beautified’. John Nash’s piped onion domes and
pinnacles connoting far-flung empires, which the Reverend
Sidney Smith was to liken to St Paul’s having gone to sea and
pupped, had yet to be conceived.

But to enter the Pavilion was to wander into a fable, its
atmosphere secluded from the world outside. Tales of
Samarkand and Ming Mandarins, Flying Carpets and Indian
Moghuls were easily evoked and seemed to bear witness to
Britain’s expanding global trade, despite wars and rumours of


All the Berkeley children ventured within these walls from
time to time, but Henry, Moreton, Grantley and little Mary liked
especially to romp with the younger FitzClarences, Dorothy
Jordan’s children by William, Duke of Clarence. Mrs Fitzherbert
was a close neighbour on the Steine and would bring Minnie
Seymour to join their nursery games with spinning tops and
pebbles, or play hide-and-seek and put on gloved puppet shows.

Sometimes Mrs Fitzherbert arrived ever so discreetly and it was
whispered that there was a secret passage from her house into
the royal apartments. While the womenfolk discussed linctus
and dancing lessons, weaning and morning wear at one end of
the Long Gallery, the gentlemen mixed whist and politics at the
other, else went on a tour of inspection of the new domed Riding
School and stables which equalled anything those Habsburgs in
Vienna could boast.


 Maria Fitzherbert

Mary found a soul-mate in Maria Fitzherbert and also enjoyed
the gentle society of her sister, Lady Haggerstone. Dora Jordan
was always sparky company, a good sport who could handle
any situation with pithy humour. The Duke must have been in
stitches half the night! It occurred to Mary that these three ladies
were Catholic-bred and therefore inclined to be in tune with her
own upbringing.

One afternoon, when the Prince had gone racing up to London
because the King had some bee in his bagwig about the
education of the Princess Charlotte, leaving his brothers William
and Frederick in residence, these women found themselves
taking tea together. Mrs Fitzherbert (‘a fine doorful of a woman’,
as Dora described her behind the scenes) confessed her dismay
at the tussle with Isabella Hertford’s lawyers over the wardship
of Minnie.

“It was her mother’s dying wish that the infant be entrusted to
my care.”

“How painful it must be, ma’am, to think of losing her now,”
said Mary.

“Indeed, but I think Prinny has prevailed with Isabella and we
might reach an amicable settlement, though I could wish he had
asserted a little less charm! Thankfully,” Maria added at a
discreet volume, “the liaison quickly waned, for it is
insupportable to share one’s beloved with a third person, do you
not think?”

“We women are forgiving creatures,” sighed Frances
Haggerstone. “We must turn the other way with good grace, or
grow vexed and shrewish.”

“Why, faith!” cried Dora, “be hanged to that! I’d lace his port
with jalap of an evening. He’d be sure to spend the night in the

The four women chuckled together. “I think that might be
accounted treason,” demurred Maria.

“His grandfather died in the closet, though not of an overdose
of jalap, I’m thinking!”


Dorothy Jordan

Mrs Fitzherbert sat back in her Sheraton chair and rested her

saucer against her ample bosom which nicely fielded spills from
the bone china cup hovering somewhere above it. “Yes, we must
overlook the peccadilloes of our better halves. But His Highness
did promise the Pope that he was a reformed man, else I should
not have been able return to him.”

“You might as well whistle a jig to a milestone if you expect
fidelity from Adam’s sons,” reflected Dora.

“Dear Maria, you were nothing short of saintly in making way
for the Princess Caroline when Prinny sought to do his duty,”
said her sister.

“And we all know what a disaster that was! When I think of
that poor child shut up at Windsor with hardly a glimpse of her
parents, I cannot help but compare her situation with the
freedom enjoyed by my own dearest Minnie.”

The group fell dutifully silent. They all believed that Princess
Charlotte and Minnie Seymour were half-sisters and that it was
not their prerogative to comment.

“Ah, no man ever wore a scarf as warm as his daughter’s arm
around his neck,” claimed Dora. “His Hoighness can’t be blamed
for wanting the little Princess removed from Blackheath. The

“I can only think them exaggerated,” Mary remarked. “Would
our future Queen behave in such a wanton manner?”

“You are a good-hearted creature, Lady Berkeley, but make no
mistake where the lady of Brunswick is concerned there’s no
smoke without a conflagration.”

“What about the choild?” offered the actress for mutual

consideration. “He sleeps in her bedchamber, they say. She
didn’t find him under a gooseberry bush, now.”

“At least she doesn’t call him Master Guelph,” Lady
Haggerstone commented. “She has a dozen others housed
nearby who live by her industry in the vegetable plot.”

“An admirable use of her time and energy,” said Mary. “To
alleviate a little of the nation’s poverty is not to be despised.”

The chatter went on in this vein for a good hour when the
Countess of Berkeley begged leave of the party and took her
fledglings off.

“Such an agreeable woman,” Lady Haggerstone remarked.

“Who would have thought her a chambermaid?”

“Hence her empathy with the destitute, Fanny.”

“I can’t think what she’s doing with that old rogue, Berkeley,”
declared Dora. “I reckon she bolted her door with a boiled

“Much as you did, my dear, with William,” said Maria,
looking down her long amiable nose.


 William, Duke of Clarence

"Now if anyone's a reformed character, it is the Earl,”observed Lady Haggerstone.

“His wife has woven quite a spell about him.”

The subject of the Berkeley Peerage was not aired since Mrs
Fitzherbert and the Prince of Wales had aroused scandal of a
similar kind.

“How well Lord Dursley fills his father’s old shoes,” Dora
said. “That one was dealt a double dose of Original Sin, to be
sure. All the eligible mamas-in-law are locking up their

“Not with boiled carrots one trusts.”

Lady Haggerstone shook her head. “Mr Fox was saying the
other day that if only the silly fellow had not been expelled from
Eton, something might be made of him. He has many
accomplishments which would be of service to himself and the

“He speaks several languages with great fluency,” Maria said.

“Aye,” said Dora, “twill be of the bruiser, the pickpocket and
the highwayman. He’s made a fine art of it!”


A Quintessential English Gentleman

On his 85th birthday, a modest tribute to David Gentleman, a very British illustrator whose prodigious talents embrace design, lithography, engraving and painting. 



'You seem to be able to move easily between design and illustration. At one moment you’re doing a stamp or poster that has to represent an idea; at another you’re drawing buildings or figures in a landscape.' John L Walters, Eye magazine of graphic design and visual culture.


I first discovered the world of David Gentleman way back in the late sixties and was captivated. Its delicate precision, its wistfulness, wit and whimsy, palpably express something of the magic and mythology of these Isles. The foursquare foundations of the architecture we cannot forsake, the core of steel in our purpose, the dream we still cherish of a rural paradise, idyllic mansions and thatched cottages, rose-mantled.

The son of Glaswegian artists, Gentleman was born in London and attended St Albans School of Art and, later, following National Service, the Royal College of Art where he studied graphic design. But a leaning toward illustration soon took over and he joined another course under the tutelage of Edward Bawden and John Nash, later venturing into wood engraving, watercolour painting and lithography. His commissions have been wide-ranging and have included clients such as the Royal Mint, the National Trust, Shell and a New Penguin Shakespeare Series. He has designed commemorative postage stamps, and for the Highway Code, plus logos for organisations such as British Steel and the Bodleian Library, and is the artist famed for the striking mural of medieval craftsmen at Charing Cross.

Though Gentleman is widely travelled, as his work testifies, he loves London and has spent most of his life in Camden. One of his favourite views is from the crown of Primrose Hill, though he is no admirer of The Shard and rather resents the despoliation of the skyline.

“It’s not about London. It’s just a poke in the eye from the money men, isn’t it? Proof that they can do anything they want.”

It became manifestly clear his sense of honour and fair play was outraged by the Blair government's decision to wade into the Iraq war. This produced the controversial and hard-hitting 'Bliar' poster splashed with red ink. If it seemed uncharacteristic of an artist identified with all that is traditional in British culture, it was heartfelt and spoke for a broad spectrum of the population.

Gentleman's gifts are wide-ranging, distinctive, unique, and have captured for posterity a spirit of nostalgia for a way of life that is passing, which has formed and inspired us. I wish him a very happy birthday and congratulate him on all the achievements of his fourscore and five years. I hope he is celebrating in grand style!


 Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire


Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire


  Endell Street, Covent Garden, London


Ellen Keeley's Shop, Neal Street, Covent Garden begun by refugees of the Irish Potato Famine


Kelmscott House, Chiswick


Snape Maltings, Suffolk


Camden Crescent, Bath


 Sydney Gardens, Bath



Heningham Hall (Heveningham) Suffolk


Images ©DavidGentleman, courtesy of Tate Britain where they can be viewed by appointment.


Rocking The Dynasty

2015 - the Chinese Year of the sheep and the goat...

The Second Book spans the years 1799 - 1811 which ushered in the Regency era.

'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 were 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.


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.