The week is over, we have celebrated ringing in the new year, and have already started (or stopped) our New Years resolutions! Now we get to relax and read the second part of Dereks submission, and for the first time, we get to see Jane!
‘You may go.’ She departs hastily and I am left reflecting that she usually addresses me
as ‘mother’ rather than ‘madam’ but she will come around in time and she already knows that I mean business. I must, however, tread carefully with her. Fully aware as I am of the trauma of her early years as a small child, having her half sister Mary assigned to wait on her like a servant when she was barely two years old and later, after the violent death of her mother, being declared illegitimate and then being shuttled around the country hither and thither, rarely settling long enough to call anywhere home. It is hardly the sort of early up-bringing to set up any small child for the future.
I settle back in my chair and let out a deep sigh. I call a servant and ask her to bring
me more wine and sweetmeats.
* * *
The carriage arrives on the circular pathway at three thirty. I glance out of the window and notice the Marquis’s coat of arms in gold on the side of the shiny black coach. The footmen alight and go to open the door to let out the little Lady Jane and her nurse, Mrs. Ellen who, I am given to understand, has been with her since birth.
The little girl looks terribly pale and small, her white face shining out from the
wrappings of her fur cloak. Mrs Ellen is a big, chubby faced woman with a warm smile; she will fit in nicely here, I think. I bid a servant to bank up the fire with logs; the nights are still chill at the moment. I bid him instruct another servant to take Mrs Ellen to her chamber and bring the little Lady Jane to me as soon as she has shed her heavy cloak. Mrs Ellen I will interview later.
‘Well Jane you are welcome indeed,’ I say as she enters nervously and advances slowly
towards my chair. ‘I trust you had an agreeable journey?’
‘Yes, madam,’ she replies softly.
‘Not too many bumps and potholes along the way?’
‘Not too many madam.’
‘Why don’t you address me as aunt?’
She nods shyly in agreement. She is dressed in a long, cream coloured pinafore dress
with fur trimmings. Her golden chestnut coloured hair is luxuriant and she is a very pretty little thing. I bid her come nearer and sit down. She does so, slowly, hesitantly, demurely. I smile reassuringly at her. ‘Now Jane, you are to regard this as your home now and for the foreseeable future. You are very welcome here and you are among friends. You will have your lessons every day with our tutor and plenty of time to play or do whatever you want after dinner each day. Do you understand?’
She nods, very slowly and rather mournfully. I nod, I hope reassuringly and realise that
I now have another young girl to take care of and treat warily. I have been advised that her parents are unreasonably strict, that they hound her constantly to do better and reach perfection and that, if it be true, seems an unreasonable expectation from a very young girl.
‘You will study with the tutor every morning, after breakfast and prayers.’
She nods again, does not speak but her expression brightens. She tells me she enjoys
studying, likes learning languages and is particularly fond of Hebrew and Italian. She also enjoys instruction in dancing and deportment and I know I must ensure that these lessons continue. She also says she likes all kinds of musical instruction, both instrumental and singing. I’m thinking though, looking at her, that she is far too young to absorb so much intelligence although noticing the way her face lights up as she tells me she likes reading Plato and other classics, there can be no doubt that she is a willing and happy pupil.
‘What about playtime Jane?’ I ask, gently. ‘What games do you enjoy?’
She frowns, hesitates and replies that she likes to read and write.
‘Yes but after your studies, for pleasure and play?’
‘My pleasures are in reading and learning, prayers and studying the lute.’
I raise an eyebrow but say no more. I smile at her and wonder how she manages to
look both self- assured and vulnerable at the same time. So I escort her out to the great hall and instruct a servant to help install her in her chamber and ensure she has all her books and possessions to hand and ask that Mrs Ellen comes to me when she has settled her charge.
Mrs Ellen arrives in my morning room brightly dressed in blue velvet and wearing a
white ruff. Why she has chosen to dress up I have no idea. She looks flushed, no doubt from running around after young Jane and sorting out all her accoutrements. Her plump face is red but she attempts an open, confident expression.
‘Come in Mrs. Ellen,’ I say. ‘I trust you had a good journey?’
‘Yes, thank you very much Your Majesty.’
‘There’s no need for Your Majesty,’ I say gently. ‘When the king died, so did my title of
queen, even if he tried to perpetuate it for my lifetime.’
She looks uncomfortable and so I smile and try to make her feel at ease. I ask about
Jane over the past few years when I have had but little contact with her. Mrs Ellen confirms that the child is quiet and studious, somewhat withdrawn at times and very engrossed in religion and religious studies. I smile briefly, as I myself am very much involved with the English church and have published a small book of religious thoughts. I enquire about her temperament.
‘She is the sweetest child m’ Lady,’ she says earnestly. ‘But sorely tried.’
‘Oh, how so?’
‘It may not be my place to speak out m’ Lady, but I must say as I find and, in my opinion,
the marquis and Lady Frances are far too hard on the little mite. She is pushed and prodded and badgered by them constantly to achieve perfection in everything she does and she simply cannot stretch to it.’
‘Well she will have no such pressure on her here,’ I say quickly. ‘And you may depend
‘And she is a little diamond in her learning ma’am. I’ve never known a child so
engrossed in the words of the scriptures. And so bright, as bright as a button, she really is.’
‘Well, the girl has quite a champion in you Mrs Ellen, ‘I say, smiling. ‘She won’t go far
wrong with you guiding her.’
I thank her heartily for her information and tell her I will see her at supper when she
will bring little Jane down to me. She leaves me and I go out into the grounds where it is
fresh but brightening somewhat before the onset of evening. Thomas will arrive very soon and will doubtless cheer me up; he usually succeeds in doing so. Meantime I have been charged with the further education and deportment of the Grey’s daughter and I will not shrink from that duty.
With my forthcoming marriage in a few short weeks and another little girl to look after
in the manor this indeed is the start of a new phase in my complex life.