Authors: Barbara Cartland
Tags: #Romance, #Historical
In England common law Guardianship, an outgrowth of feudal land law, conferred a right that was profitable to the Guardian. Only gradually did Guardianship become a trust for the benefit of the ward. By the thirteenth century, rights of wardship were recognised which enabled a feudal Lord, upon the death of a tenant leaving an infant heir, to administer the tenant’s estate as Guardian during the heir’s minority.
Over several centuries, Guardianship, whether of the natural parent or other Guardian, has slowly become recognised as including the right of custody of the child, control over education and religious training, consent to Marriage, right of chastisement, right of enjoyment of his services, and control of his estate subject to the use of a sufficient portion for his or hers education and maintenance.
By the Act of 1660 the father was given power to appoint by will or deed a Guardian for his children to act after his death and the mother was helpless to interfere with the father’s appointment. Under provision of this Act, however, she could be designated as Guardian if the father had made no appointment, or as joint Guardian if he had, and she was also permitted to appoint a Guardian to act after her death. Similar progress occurred regarding rights of custody.
In Europe the children’s laws extended to the protection of life, prevention of ill-treatment or cruelty, regulation of dangerous occupations, the imposition of employment restrictions and the compilation of a children’s charter.
In England ill-treatment proscribed by law originally consisted of blows or threats and was gradually broadened to include neglect to supply necessities. At the same time children of well-to-do parents, however they were treated, found themselves powerless in the hands of their Guardians and the Guardians’ power to marry them when they were old enough was usually reinforced by the Courts.
Anybody seeing the Marquis of Raventhorpe driving his phaeton would have been impressed.
With his high hat on the side of his dark head, his whipcord coat fitting without a wrinkle, a cravat tied in a new style that had not yet reached St. James’s, he was the epitome of elegance.
At the same time those who knew him well were aware that only a first class tailor like Weston could conceal the muscles he had developed as an acknowledged pugilist in Jackson’s Academy.
Hessians, shining like mirrors, covered his slim but very strong legs, on which he walked many miles in the pursuit of game birds.
One might have thought that with his great entails, his enormous wealth and a handsome countenance that made every woman in the
long for his attention, the Marquis would have looked if not delighted with life, at least contented.
On the contrary, the cynical lines on either side of his firm lips and the fashionable droop of his eyelids made him appear disillusioned, as if he mocked at everybody he encountered.
He was well aware that while the younger bucks copied his outward appearance, the older members of his Clubs shook their heads and said his arrogance and air of condescension showed that he was spoilt.
The Marquis, however, ignored all criticism and continued to live as he wished to do, winning all the classic horse races and maintaining at his ancestral home a perfection of organisation that infuriated the Prince Regent.
“I cannot understand, Raventhorpe,” he said the last time he was staying with him, “why in your house I have better food, better attention and certainly better wine than I have in my own.”
There was a testy note in the Prince Regent’s voice, which told the Marquis that he was jealous. This was not surprising, as he liked not only being considered the “first gentleman in Europe”, but also to be first amongst his friends and to excel, just as the Marquis did, at everything he undertook.
“I think the answer, Your Royal Highness,” the Marquis replied, “is that you expect perfection, and that, sir, even with your tremendous ability and perceptiveness, is almost impossible to find, especially where ‘The Fair Sex’ is concerned.”
The Prince Regent had laughed as the Marquis intended him to do, but, when his visit was over, he said to one of his other friends,
“I am damned if I will go there again in a hurry. I like to be at least on equal terms with my host and not to feel that he is one up on me in every particular.”
His friend, because he wished to toady for the Prince Regent’s favours, expostulated that that was impossible. Nevertheless it was something that was more or less acknowledged in the
and so indisputable that few people bothered to comment on it.
The Marquis was at the moment on his way to call on a young lady who he thought matched his ideal of perfection.
For years, in fact ever since he came of age, his relatives had been on their knees asking him to marry and to make sure that the Marquisate, which was of fairly recent creation, although the Earldom went back several centuries, continued.
The Marquis’s two nearest relatives, first his brother and then a cousin who had followed him as his heir presumptive, had both been killed in the war against Napoleon.
It was therefore imperative that the Marquis should take a wife in case, by some unfortunate though unlikely accident, he was killed while fighting a duel or break his neck out hunting.
Alternatively he might catch one of the diseases so prevalent in London that the people had stopped worrying about them.
The Marquis, however, had declared he would never marry unless he found a woman who he thought was perfect enough to bear his name and sit at the head of his table.
The ideal of perfection stemmed from the fact that he had adored his mother, who had died when he was only seven years of age, but who had lived long enough to have remained in her son’s mind as somebody beautiful, dignified, warm and loving.
Every woman he met, and the majority of them made sure that they
meet him, failed on one count or another to come up to his requirements.
But now, when his family and friends had almost despaired, he had met Lady Sarah Chessington and decided that she was in fact the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
There were a number of people to tell the Marquis that they would make a perfect couple and that no two people could be more handsome or in fact so exactly suited to each other.
Lady Sarah was the daughter of the Fifth Earl of Chessington-Crewe, whose horses continually tried to rival the Marquis’s on the Racecourse.
His estate on the borders of Hertfordshire had been acquired only half a century after the Marquis’s father had acquired theirs.
The Marquis’s house had been completely rebuilt by the Adam brothers fifty years ago, but that did not detract from the fact that there was a mention of the land on which it stood, belonging to a man named Raven, in
All this had persuaded the Marquis logically that Lady Sarah was the wife he was looking for.
He therefore, without hurrying himself in the slightest, had made it clear to her that she held his interest.
Lady Sarah had been feted and acclaimed as an ‘Incomparable’ when she first appeared on the London scene and that the Marquis should admire her was no less than what she expected.
She was, however, clever enough to look both surprised and flattered at his attention. When he finally decided that she possessed the attributes he required in a wife, he had notified her that he would be calling on her this afternoon.
After an early luncheon in his house in Berkeley Square, he had stepped into the phaeton he had recently designed and which had been a sensation from the moment he drove it down St. James’s Street.
It was not only smarter, better sprung and more manageable than any other phaeton ever seen, but it had an elegance that seemed part of the Marquis himself.
And the four horses that pulled it were a perfectly matched team, which made all the horse-lovers in the Clubs grind their teeth as he passed.
Perched high behind on the small seat, which always seemed somewhat precarious, was a groom wearing the Marquis’s livery and cockaded hat, who always sat in the correct position with his arms folded and without moving, however fast his Master travelled.
It took the Marquis under an hour to reach the Earl’s ponderous and rather over-spectacular iron gates that opened onto a long drive of oak trees.
The Marquis could see the house in the distance and thought that architecturally it was an ugly building and later additions to it badly designed.
At the same time it was undoubtedly impressive and the gardens surrounding it were well cared for.
He was aware, however, that the Earl had expended a great deal of money in buying a house in London in which to entertain for his daughter Sarah, the family mansion being too small for the ball he gave for her and for the receptions which often involved entertaining two or three hundred guests.
The Marquis could not help thinking that if he married Lady Sarah, as he intended to do, the Earl would feel such extravagance had been well worthwhile.
He knew that
were dangled in front of eligible bachelors like flies over trout, but the snag was the very obvious hook of matrimony. Once the fish was caught, there was no way of escape.
The Marquis, who had avoided many varied and ingenious baits over the years, could not help feeling that the Earl was a lucky man in catching the largest fish of them all.
It would have been mock modesty if he had not realised he had no equal amongst the bachelors of the
and there was no parent in the whole length and breadth of the land who would not have welcomed him as a son-in-law.
Lady Sarah had first attracted his attention at a large ball given by the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, when in her white
gown she had looked, he thought, like a lily.
He had not, however, given her more than a passing glance, since he was at the time enjoying the company of the attractive wife of a foreign diplomat, who fortunately spent a great deal of his time travelling.
The diplomat’s wife was only one of several beautiful, witty and sophisticated women who passed through the Marquis’s hands before he made up his mind to meet Lady Sarah.
Strangely enough, he had found himself noticing her at every party, at every assembly and at every ball he attended.
Each time he could not help thinking that she was looking more beautiful than the time before and that she had other attributes that he was sure were not to be found in most
She moved with grace and without hurrying herself – her hands with their long, slim fingers were still and not needlessly obtrusive and when she spoke it was in a soft low voice.
If there was one thing the Marquis disliked, it was hard voices.
Several of his most ardent
affaires de coeur
had come to an end because he found that however lovely a woman might be, if her voice irritated him, he could no longer bear to be in her company.
His mistresses, who were too numerous and, as some wag had said, ‘changed with the seasons,’ came under the same criticism.
There was one entrancing little ballet dancer he had set up in a house in Chelsea who was dismissed after only a few weeks because she had a hoarse voice in the morning that grated on his Lordship’s sensibilities.
The road to Hertfordshire, being the main thoroughfare to the North, was kept in better condition than most other roads out of London.
The Marquis made good headway, so that he arrived at Chessington Hall a little earlier than he had expected.
There was, however, a groom waiting outside the front door to lead his horses to the stables.
Stepping down from his phaeton, the Marquis walked languidly up the red carpet, which had quickly been rolled down the stone steps and through the front door into the not very imposing hall.
The butler in a pontifical manner went ahead of the Marquis to show him into what he was aware was the library, although it did not contain half as many books as did his own at Raven.
“I’m not certain, my Lord,” the butler said respectfully, “if her Ladyship is downstairs, but I’ll inform her of your Lordship’s arrival.”
The Marquis did not reply and thought a little cynically that Lady Sarah, anticipating his arrival, had doubtless been waiting eagerly at the top of the stairs and she would join him the moment she was officially informed he was there.
Slowly he walked across the room and, as he reached the fireplace, he noticed an indifferently painted picture of horses over the mantelshelf.
Then he was aware that a fire which had clearly been lit in the grate only a few minutes before was smoking badly and the Marquis disliked smoking chimneys.