Far Beyond Rubies
When the popular Charles II died in 1685, he left a country torn by religious controversy, but no legitimate children. The throne passed to his Roman Catholic brother, James.
It was an anxious time for the people, whose fears increased when James II became so unpopular that he was forced into exile, and his daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, succeeded to the throne.
The Act of Settlement was passed in Parliament in 1701 to prevent a Roman Catholic inheriting the throne. This meant the Roman Catholic son of James II, by his second wife, Mary of Modena, could not become king.
In 1702, James’s childless younger daughter, Anne, inherited the throne from her sister Mary, and Mary’s husband, William of Orange.
Anne’s Protestant heiress was Sophia, the granddaughter of James I. If Sophia died before Anne, Sophia’s uncouth son, George, Elector of Hanover—who spoke no English—would be next in the line of succession.
Anglicanism, a mixture of ancient Catholic ritual and Church government with Protestant tenet, was the official national religion, re-established by law in 1660. Queen Mary and Queen Anne were staunch supporters of the Anglican Church.
Anglicans and non-conformists united in their loathing of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholics, or papists, as they were called, were suspected of endlessly plotting against the Government, and their civil liberties were restricted. For example they were forbidden to travel more than a mile or two from home.
“Bastards, Juliana! You and your sister are bastards.”
Aghast, Juliana stared at William, her older half-brother, although, not for a moment did she believe his shocking allegation.
It hurt her to confront William without their father at her side. At the beginning of April, she and Father were as comfortable as ever in his London house. Now, a month later, upon her return to her childhood home, Riverside House, set amongst the rolling landscape of Hertfordshire, his body already lay entombed in the family crypt next to her mother’s remains. Would there ever be a day when she did not mourn him? A day when she did not weep over his loss?
A cold light burned in the depths of William’s pebble-hard eyes.
Juliana straightened her neck. She would not bow her head, thus giving him the satisfaction of revealing her inner turmoil.
William cleared his throat. His eyes gleamed. “Did you not know you and your sister were born on the wrong side of the blanket?”
Anger welled up in her. “You lie. How dare you make such a claim?”
Hands clasped on his plump knees, William ignored her protestation. “You now know the truth about your whore of a mother,” he gloated.
Well, she knew what William claimed, but did not believe him. “You are wicked to speak thus. My mother always treated you kindly.”
“As ever, you are a haughty piece.” William’s broad nostrils flared. Anger sparked in his eyes. “My dear sister, remember the adage: Pride goeth before a fall, however, do not look so worried. I shall not cast you out without the means to support yourself.”
William rang the silver handbell. When a lackey clad in blue and gold livery answered its summons, he ordered the man to pour a glass of wine.
Juliana watched William raise the crystal glass to his lips. What did he mean? How could she maintain herself and her sister? She had not been brought up to earn a living.
She looked away from her half-brother to glance around the closet, the small, elegantly furnished room in which she kept her valuables and conducted her private correspondence before her father’s death.
Now it seemed, William, the seventh Baron Kemp, and his wife, Sophia, had sought to obliterate every trace of her by refurbishing the closet. Where were her books and her embroidery frame? Where was Mother’s portrait? Rage burned in the pit of her stomach while she looked around her former domain. Juliana wanted to claw William’s fat cheeks. It would please her to hurt him as he was hurting her. No, that wish was both childish and unchristian. She must use her intelligence to defeat him.
At least her family portrait—in which her late mother sat in front of Father, and she and William, dressed in their finest clothes, stood on either side of Mother—remained in place. One of her father’s hands rested on her pretty mother’s shoulder, the other on the back of the chair. A handsome man, she thought—while admiring his relaxed posture and frank expression, both of which depicted a man at his ease.
At the age of five, she already had resembled Mother when Godfrey Kneller painted her family in 1693. They both had large dark eyes and a riot of black curls, as well as fair complexions tinged with the colour of wild roses on their cheeks. She touched her narrow, finely sculpted nose. Judging by the portraits, she inherited her straight nose, oval face, and determined jaw from Father.
Her hands trembled. After Father died, she knew life would never be the same again. Yet nothing had prepared her for what would follow.
Today, when she first stepped into the spacious hall, it seemed as though she had also stepped over an invisible threshold. From being a beloved daughter of the house, she had become her half-brother’s pensioner. Knowing William and Sophia’s miserly natures, she doubted they would deal kindly with her. Yet she could not have anticipated William’s appalling accusation of illegitimacy, and his arrangement—whatever it might be—for her to earn her living.
The lackey served William with another glass of wine.
William jerked his head at the man. “Go.”
Her head still held high, Juliana looked at tall, fleshy William. She liked him no more than he liked her. Indeed, who would not dislike a man so parsimonious that he neither offered his half-sister the common courtesy of either a seat or a glass of wine? Infuriated by his gall, she clasped her hands tighter, trying to contain her anger and keep her face impassive.
She shivered. Today, when she alighted from the coach, rain soaked her clothes. On such a wet, grey day, why did no fire blaze in the hearth? Here, in the closet, it was scarcely warmer than outdoors. She clenched her hands to stop them trembling and imagined the heart of the house had died with Father.
“You shall put your fine education, which our father boasted of, to good use,” William gloated. “You shall be a teacher at a school in Bath.”
Fury flooded Juliana’s chilled body. “Shall I?”
“Yes. Our father saw fit for you to have an education far beyond your needs. You are more than qualified to teach young ladies.”
“Beyond my needs? Father admired Good Queen Bess and other learned ladies of her reign. He deplored Queen Anne’s lack of education. Our father decided no daughter of his would be as ignorant as Her Majesty and her late sister, Queen Mary.”
The purple-red colour of William’s cheeks deepened. “Enough! I despise over-educated women.”
She stared at him. Undoubtedly his mean-minded wife had influenced him. Sophia was jealous because her own schooling comprised of only simple figuring, reading, and writing learned at her mother’s knee, whereas Juliana benefited both from the tutors her tolerant father, the sixth baron, had engaged, and her father’s personal tuition.
William interrupted her thoughts. “You have no claim on me. Moreover, our father left you naught in his will. To make matters worse the estate is so neglected, I cannot afford—”
“Cannot afford,” she broke in, outraged. “What nonsense is this? I have lived here for most of my life. Father encouraged me to familiarise myself with Riverside estate. I know every detail of it. Father even encouraged me to examine the accounts. I assure you everything is in perfect order, and the estate is profitable.” Scornfully, she assessed the poor quality of William’s black broadcloth coat and breeches. “You are a wealthy man. Besides the income from the Kemp estates, you have the revenues from those you inherited from your mother, God rest her soul. You could bear the expense of half a dozen siblings.” She glared at him. “I shall ask nothing for myself, but what of my sister?”
Despite her pride, Juliana’s heart pounded with fear for Henrietta. Although she cared little for William, who had rarely spoken a kind word to her, she adored her eight-year-old sister. She would do all in her power to care for and protect the child.
While she waited for William’s answer, she thought how different their lives would have been if, when she was ten-years-old, Mother had not died after giving birth to Henrietta. Although she should not question the will of God, sometimes it was almost impossible not to.
William shifted in his seat. The brass buttons of his waistcoat strained in the buttonholes due to the pressure of his sizeable girth. Juliana wrinkled her nose. Unlike their fastidious father, her half-brother did not bathe regularly. In fact, he reeked of stale perspiration, partially masked by musky perfume which nauseated her.
“Henrietta shall go to school.” William averted his eyes from her. “After all, I am a generous man. I shall pay for her education. She may think herself fortunate. I am under no obligation to support her.”
Juliana did not doubt he would send Henrietta to a school which charged the smallest possible fees, one which skimped on good food—a school at which clever Henrietta would learn little.
William sipped his wine. Did he want her to cry? If so, he would be disappointed. She would no more do so now than when she was a child, when he pinched her or pulled her hair out of jealous spite because he believed Father favoured her. Yet William never had any reason to envy her because Father had told her he loved William as much as he loved her and Henrietta.
How heartless her half-brother and his wife were. When Father died, they ordered her to remain in London, and at the time of Henrietta’s greatest need, confined her to Riverside House. For the first time since their marriage two years earlier, William and Sophia had returned to Riverside. Now, William’s cruel plan to send Henrietta away from home astonished her.
“Pay attention, Juliana!”
“I am all attention. You told me you will send Henrietta to school,” Juliana said, jerked from her still raw grief by outrage, yet determined not to make a fool of herself by pleading with him. “Be good enough to excuse me, I must see Henrietta. Where is she?”
“I have no patience with the snivelling brat. On my orders, she is not allowed out of the nursery.”
Juliana’s dislike of William flamed like a live coal. She could not endure the unreasonable fool’s behaviour for another moment. The sight of Father’s favourite gold ring, set with a diamond, on the puffy finger of William’s right hand, brought a lump to her throat. The diamond, of the finest quality, caught the light, displaying the colours of the rainbow. She coughed to check rising emotion. “I am going to the nursery.”
William raised his hand. “Grant me a moment more of your time.” He smirked. “Those of your clothes my lady wife deems suitable for your new position are in her tirewoman’s chamber, where you will sleep tonight.”
So, Sophia had appropriated her silks and satins, velvets and furs, before relegating her to a servant’s bed!
An outraged tremor ran through Juliana. More than likely, instead of the large bedchamber reserved for the mistress, Sophia had moved into the smaller, more comfortable one she, Juliana, had always slept in; the one adjoining the large bedchamber traditionally used by the Master of Riverside.
The thought of William sleeping in her courtly father’s bed intensified her grief. Never again would Father summon her in the morning to partake of hot chocolate and read to him while he lay abed, or while, on cold days, she sat snuggled up on the large wingchair by the fire.
“You may go, Juliana.”
How dare William dismiss her as though she were a servant?
She regarded William with acute distaste, but mindful of her training in the ways of society, Juliana curtsied before she straightened her back, hands clenched at her side to control her impotent wrath.
After she withdrew, she hurried not to the nursery, but to the closet which had been her father’s.
Without hesitation, Juliana opened a drawer and then pressed a knob at the back which opened a secret drawer in a lacquered cabinet. Smiling, she removed a drawstring purse bulging with gold coins.
Juliana sank onto a chair. Furious with William, she considered her situation. Until now, she took Riverside House—with its pleasure gardens, fruitful orchards, outbuildings, stables, and home farm—for granted, as she did the fertile acres encompassing villages and tenant farms.
Why did Father will the estate—which her maternal grandfather settled on Mother and she left to Father—to William? Deep in thought, she frowned. Why, in spite of his promises not to do so, did Father appoint William to be not only her own, but also Henrietta’s guardian?
Despite her love for Father, resentment stirred deep within her. She stifled it. Throughout his life, her father’s word was always as good as his bond. Now, although broken promises were his only legacy, he would not have failed her without good reason. But what could the reason be?
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