They now go into dinner, after a conversation that lasted for five hours, with Coulancourt noting that war is imminent and impossible to forestall.

               The whole thing, the whole man in a nutshell, Edward thinks, delighted with the irreducibly concise manner in which these notes have been written down and assembled here. He has only just obtained the Coulancourt conversation, and he now realizes for the first time that Napoleon had all the information he needed to avoid a war a full year before he started it. Furtnermore, Alexander’s ‘secret strategy’ had been devised long before the invasion, and was evidently never a secret, not from anyone who needed to know it. Napoleon has made the fatal error of underestimating an enemy — yet he’s infinitely resourceful. How will it end? How? This is what all of Europe is asking now, as it rests upon a razor’s edge.

             Fortunately, the mail has now resumed, and he soon finds out from Vincy’s informant long before most of the world knows anything.  

               With an army of raw new recruits spread around the centres of his old corps, what’s left of them, Napoleon is now facing the allied armies of Russia, Prussia and Austria, which had all entered Dresden. His new Grand Army is largely children, pensioners and the disabled. The title has become a sad mockery of valour and courage. The War of the Sixth Coalition proceeds back and forth across the scarred, exhausted continent. He enjoys a minor victory at Lutzberg; and then suffers a resounding defeat at the hands of General Blücher on the Katzbach. He’s next defeated by the armies of Prussia and Sweden aat Grossbeeren. This is followed by what becomes known as the ‘Battle of the Nations’, or ‘Battle of the Three Emperors’, at Leipzig, where the Grand Army endures its worst defeat yet. 600,000 men are on the field; but many of Napoleon’s German soldiery defect to join the Coalition; and the French are expelled from Holland, allowing that ungainly plucky youth, William, Prince of Orange, finally to return home.

            “This must be the beginning of the end,” Louis-Philippe says triumphantly, a future once more burning in his eyes. But the end is still not yet. And no one can possibly imagine what that end will be.

                Russians comprise more of the alliance than the nervous Austrians and muddled Prussians combined, and Czar Alexander is commanding them himself, Kutusov having died, vanishing over boreal horizons to meet up with his lost comrades-in-arms in a Russian heaven, where the Black Madonna dances with Cossacks, and the angels are all in furs. For the deeply religious czar, this is now a holy crusade, and he’s determined to liberate Europe from the Ogre Azazel, the fallen one.

                Something resembling the sun, but much paler, occasionally gives us a ghastly stare, as England sags and squelches around us. Three depressed sparrows attempt singing tunefully in the brown gardens.

             ‘Ah, spring is in the air,’ says Sir John Wentworth, on his first limping visit to Castle Hill.

            ‘I should hope so,’ says Edward. ‘It’s nearly June…’ He’s pleased to see the likeable old rascal, in spite of everything.

             Sir John has lost a lot of weight, though, and seems downcast, blurred at the edges. Without skimming the cream off Nova Scotia, his income must be severely reduced; and he dresses accordingly, in plain worsteds and a linen neckcloth. There’s a cobweb snagged on the tail of his grey wig, and he plucks at it in vain throughout his visit. Is it, wonders Edward, that tangled one woven by those who practice to deceive? No, it’s the web that spanned Castle Hill’s main doors until half an hour ago. He’d forgotten to add that chore to his lists. Ah, there’s the why Julie thought missing. Sir John evidently has some naval friends at Greenwich, for he comes bearing news of the war in America, news that hasn’t yet reached the papers. It’s a marvel that any news ever does. The Americans have invaded Lord Simcoe’s base of Fort York in Toronto Bay, burning it to the ground. The garrison managed to escape mostly unharmed, and the Yankees sailed away soon after.  In retaliation, our forces marched as far south as Washington, which they set on fire, razing President Madison’s new residence to the ground. Check. They also burned Buffalo and Detroit. But most of the heavy fighting has occurred back and forth across the Niagara River, especially at Queenston Heights, where Edward had stood gazing across the turgid waters at a seemingly barren United States, barren but peaceful then. A final attempt to grab Montreal was easily repulsed too, he learns, and the Indians are proving invaluable to us – as Sir John Johnson had long ago predicted they would. Check. It is later in the year that he receives a much-delayed letter from Louis de Salaberry, who says his son, Charles, has so distinguished himself in the Niagara fighting that he’s now hailed as the ‘Hero of Chateauguay’, a battle which defeated the Americans so conclusively that it may well have ended the war. Check and Mate. We are now claiming to have won it – but then so are the Americans, although with scant evidence to substantiate their claim. Truth be told though,it’s probably a stalemate – but their losses are higher than ours. Apart from the Niagara conflicts, the fighting had been notably undistinguished: it was more like a feud than a war — and it will drag on miserably for much of the year, as squabbles between neighbours tend to do. 

               ‘I shall now write with the news of Eduard’s death,” Julie decides. “At least they’ve had one cause for celebration…” Even she’s not convinced of this, although Louis sounded upbeat.

              ‘Just be careful with the wording,’ he says, ‘in case it falls into the wrong hands…’

            ‘Must you always say that? I’m not an idiot, you know…’

            ‘No, you’re not – far from it…’ The age of chivalry has not yet expired, and good manners are going strong, a cornerstone of good society, as they always will be – of this he is convinced.

              In another example of the army’s macabre insensitivity, a few days earlier they’d been presented with a summary of young Eduard’s autopsy report. The bullet killing him had been a clean shot and he would have felt no pain.

             “And you find that a consolation, do you?” Julie had said scornfully. 

              “No. Not in the least. It just revives the sorrow…’ And the sorrow is revived again today, as he watches her write to the Salaberrys. How much simpler those distant days were…days when he still commanded a regiment and was accorded a little respect ar home. He only needs a little. 

            His habitual response to disturbing emotions now, as it has been before on occasion, is to have his horse saddled and ride hard through the woods. But on this day, again as he has done before, he rides too hard, for the horse trips, throwing him onto rocks. One arm is broken; his jaw and nose are fractured, with his lip torn; and there are big purple bruises all over his big pink body. He manages to stagger back to the house, where a sawbones is called, and then he’s confined to his bed for many months, lucky to be alive – as his doctors tell him every time they visit. Julie fusses over him tenderly of course, differences pushed aside; but the healing process is very slow, and so painful that he wants no visitors at all. Naturally enough, his social work comes to a very abrupt halt. Lying there, with the house creaking around him, his clocks tick-tocking on their tables, and a muffled tweet coming in from the drizzled garden, he sometimes wonders if the fall was his way of punishing himself for Eduard’s death. He does feel some guilt over it, even though he’s not guilty. What a time to be laid up in bed, he thinks, devouring war news with his laudanum. First no army career, now this. Why? Who? It could well be voodoo.

              The end is surely approaching – the war’s, not Edward’s. Czar Alexander’s forces take Berlin without a fight: the French simply leave the city. Napoleon is slowly being pushed back towards the frontiers of France. The war between Russia and Persia ends with a treaty ceding what will become Georgia, Dagestan and most of Azerbaijan to Russia. But the Duke of Kent’s eyes are swimming over the page now, so he lies back, gazing at the portrait of Julie burning on his wall. She steps out of the painting, bringing him the copy of Robert Southey’s new biography of Nelson that he, Edward, had requested.

            ‘He’s now Poet Laureate,’ she says, in a reverberating voice, a voice of earth and rocks and subterranean caverns measureless to man. Isn’t there a sunless sea down there too somewhere?

          ‘N-nelson is?’ he asks her tremulously, reaching to touch her glowing cheek.

             ‘No, silly, Southey,’ she tells him, with an echo, the kind that rolls around the cupola of s stately pleasure dome. Like the Prince Regent’s in Brighton. Or is it Branadu?

            ‘And on that ch-cheek,’ he says, ‘and o’er that b-brow, so soft, so calm, yet eloquent, the smiles that win, the tints that g-glow, but tell of days in goodness spent, a mind at p-peace with all below, a heart whose l-love is innocent…’

             ‘How utterly beautiful!’ she exclaims, kissing his trembling hand. ‘Did you write it for me?’

             ‘Ah. Alas, no, m-my darling. Lord B-byron published it a few months a-g-go…’ His lips feel like someone else’s lips – an old pike’s fat flappers, perchance. The mind’s acting up too. So are the colours in this room. Christ, he thinks, I’d never noticed how very beauteous everything is in here. Does it always glow? 

               She has trouble getting his attention, and in the end snaps her fingers in his face, which makes him jump from his skin as she says, ‘Edward, darling, have you been taking too much laudanum?’

          The crack of her fingers now flaps around like a bat somewhere up in that plaster sky, so his answer is not a speedy one, but it comes: ‘Th-think so, y-yes. It’s all they g-give me…’ He’s not sure if he said this or just thought it, so he says it again. Or thinks he does.

             ‘As I said,’ she seems to say, ‘you don’t have to take it all…’ But she’s now beginning to dissolve into dacing white flames.

              There seems to be no need to speak again, so he remains in a silence that is far from silent to him. Wooden beams and masonry play a constant and not unpleasing, if rather formless music. There’s a crumbling tower to climb now, but the spiralling staircase doesn’t appear ever to reach those green battlements. In fact, it doesn’t seem to go anywhere at all. As you walk up, you find you’re walking down, and then you’re walking up and down at the same time. But you don’t mind this. Now Nelson is watching him warily from the cover of a book. Since thought is now speech, he finds he’s already told the revered late Admiral that he should have stayed in Quebec. I know, I know, says Nelson, shrugging. I would have, I wanted to; but some bugger tied me up and tossed me in the hold. He waves the arm he no longer has, saying, I struggled, and I still had me old arm. But by the time I’d got loose we’d reached the bloody Atlantic. It’s just one of those things, ain’t it, matey? But Edward is no longer listening to him. Kublai Khan has asked his advice on transportable pleasure domes, and now he only needs to find a sacred river called Alph, or Ralph. But this is a dream within two other dreams, one of them offering him a nice long sleep on fat feather pillows, and it is an offer he cannot ree…fuze…

              Even the cracking flapping bat settles down on a pillow next to his, and soon they’re both snoring like the Castle Hill drains.

-xvii-

              It is Monday, February 21st, 1814. Napoleon has been victorious in three battles against the Austrians under General Blucher; but there’s been no news of his whereabouts for some time now. Weatherall, who’s just galloped all the way from London, comes running into the sick room, coughing violently. ‘Boney’s dead!’ he gasps, trying to catch his breath. ‘The Bourbons have been restored on the throne; it’s, it’s…’

          ‘What?’ he says, propping himself up on his elbows. ‘How?’

              ‘We just got a semaphore from Dover,’ Weatherall pants, his face crimson. ‘Some French colonel, a Bourbon, landed there at dawn. He told them to send the message, then he set out himself – but he won’t be here until tonight or tomorrow…’

              ‘Well, it’s wonderful news…’ He’s not at all sure about this.

            ‘Indeed,’ says Weatherall, loosening his collar. ‘Government securities are soaring on the Stock Exchange…’

            Are they? I wish I had some. What exactly is a government security, Fred?’

                 ‘You lend the government money, and they give you more money back some years in the future. Providing they have any money then, that is.’ 

                      What both these men combined know about money could be engraved on an eyelash.

                ‘Ah,’ says Edward, blinking. ‘Doesn’t sound like a very good idea, does it? Aren’t they legally obliged to pay back what they promised?’

              ‘They don’t ptomise anything.’

               ‘Dear me, What sort of blockhead throws his money away in such a dubious fashion? I mean on such a seemingly dubious scheme. Perhaps “doubtful” is better?’ 

              The answer to this comes on very swift wings indeed, though. His brother Augie — Augustus, Duke of Sussex — wishes he had some government securities too; but his wish comes true, since he buys many bonds that afternoon, when their price has already doubled yet is still rising.

                 By now the whole city is fizzing and boiling with the news, the bonds, the soaring markets, money falling like manna, manna tasting like money, a city made of money, towers of it, highways, landscapes where it grows on trees as well as in the grasses, bush, rivers choaked by money to be netted, fished out, or dived for from money-boats with money-sails, ocean-going money sliding over money-seas of fathomless money to the fabled Lands of Money, where every enterprise is a bank filled to the rafters with money, money used to buy more money, until there’s enough to purchase continents of money, and one day soon moons and planets of money, an entire universe of money-galaxies teeming with money-stars, and then the kind of heaven that lets you take it all with you to add more to the luminous mountains of celestial money, home of the Great Banker, creator of money, made in his own image, of winking gold and creamy vellum. A pause in which to pant. Ah, is there anything else on earth that so quickens the pulse, so liberates the soul and sets men’s blood on fire the way just the mere thought of unlimited free money does? No? Yes? But listen to the entirety of London Town effervescing under the stony stare of a vapid sun in a flat sky, for what are minerals and gases compared to the cosmos of cash-unending, of gestating money that shits out monies all day and night in the money-strewn streets and money-laden lanes of a monied Spiritus Mundi? Or maybe its just the bilious rumbling of greed?

                 Old Bishop Fisher back at Kew used to say that these little things are sent to try us. In retrospect, you wonder if “try” meant some kind of trial, which means rules and fairness – if it doesn’t it should – or if it was “try”, as in “drive you barmy”, where there are no rules, and fair play is as likely as pink rain. You also wonder who the sender of these “little things” is, or was in Fisher’s mind, where God seemed to be be lurking behind most things. Could an ordained bishop and eminent theologian think of God as some sort of mischievous sprite? Does any other society on the great globe deify an astral kid who sees how many legs he can pull off an astral spider before it dies an astral death? Presumably that’s a symbolic death, Edward tells himself, since you can’t die if you’re dead – or can you? Doesn’t Christ mention a “second death”? Or is that Revelations, where everything and anything is mentioned? If you read it backwards under water and reverse every 17th letter –or it is the 18th letter, which gives you nine, since 1+8=9, and nine is – ABCDEFGH – I, meaning oneself. So… that “second death” is me, is it? Which would be the Self, wouldn’t it? Or is it the self, the ego? But the ego ought to die first. You don’t want to cart that off through the Elyssian Fields, do you? Maybe you do. Is that another one of those little things sent us by that preadolescent divinity, God the Brat? Father, Son, Holy Ghost and Sacred Brat, the nimbus crooked and grimy. The Holy Quarternity. Christ! He shudders, terrified the brainfever has returned. Has the thought of money’s autogenesis cracked his egg? Is money the root? Has Jack fallen down and broken his crown? Like Papa? And will Julie come tumbling after? Like Jill, whoever she is? The idea alone of incipient madness is awesomely, infinitely, eternally terrifying to him – and may itself precipitate the madness that was a moment earlier merely incipient, might it not? Breathe in deeply. Hold it deep. Breathe out long. Ah! Alone. All one? Like dear Papa. There are spots of time that have a fracturing anti-virtue, aren’t there? Just as others – the ones only poets experience, no doubt – have a fructifying virtue. Or does he call it a vivifying virtue? (Indeed Mr. Wordsworth calls it both, each in a different draft, and he will go on to decide it is rerally a renovating virtue. He should have stayed with the original thought, or so we think). A fracturating virtu?  Whoo! One minute you’re fine. The next you aren’t even certain what fine means; or, worse still, who you are and what that means. But who are you? For that matter, his spinning mind thinks, who am I? I am who? No, no, down boy! Steady as she goes. Heave-ho, me hearties. Drop anchor. Lower the mizzen, lads! Land ho! Oh. Ah. He rises from the sickbed like a stalk of grain crushed by the deluge and now drying in the sun, wherever the sun is, if the sun is ever anywhere in England. He stamps his big steaks of feet and shakes himself the way a wet dog does. God, it only lasts for a minute, but that minute lasts forever. Is this how poor Papa feels, or wonders if he feels, feeling wonder, or how? He, the Duke of Kent, needs to move around, get back down into the flesh, in the mud of life. Move, move, move! And his big, compliant, sometimes testy, but always friendly body wraps itself around him like a heavy old greatcoat, and he tastes the sweet nectar of simply being once again, being here and now. Thank you, Great Spirit. Now I understand why money is kept from me. Thinking money will make you happy is like drinking poison in order to kill your enemies. It won’t work the way you thought. It works the other way, the unthought or thoughtless way. No way. Just don’t do it. Just because a man is born in a stable doesn’t make him a horse. 

                 So, what has been sent to try us today, O Sacred Brat? I’ll wager it’s good one, a real mind-wringer. And it is. Three French officers in Bourbon uniforms are seen celebrating in a tavern; and the story is on everyone’s lips. Ogre dead; world can breathe again. Although this is not the the real story. A Colonel de Bourg, fresh from Paris, had landed at Dover and run straight to the Ship Inn, where he related his momentous news, which was then relayed to London via the Duke of York’s rapid communications system. That thieving rat! It spread like wildfire – the news, not the rat — and sent all government-issued stocks rocketing up in value (see above for dangers in this). Augie had borrowed ten thousand pounds from the Regent to invest, and by the end of trading that ten thousand was now worth fifteen thousand. By the next morning it was worth twenty thousand; and by the following afternoon it was worth…five thousand.

                When the news from France received no corroboration, traders grew uneasy, and people started selling – but not the Duke of Sussex. By the time Augie unloaded his bonds, the price had fallen back to its old value, the value they’d had five hours before Augie was able to buy at twice the price. Stock Exchange authorities were now very suspicious, and they’re generaly quite suspicious, because money is suspicious of itself and thus breeds suspicion in those close to it, just like malevolence and catarrh or a chill. All contagions spread – it’s just their nature. Soon, it was discovered that three men had purchased over a million pounds in government securities the previous week, and then tripled their money by selling late on Monday afternoon – twenty hours before Augie became a buyer. You do not need to be Nathan Rothschild or Lady Elgin to smell this enormous putrefying rat.

                   Before long, three men, including Lord Cochrane, were arrested for perpetrating a hoax and a fraud. Some reports said it it was a fraud and a hoax. One decides it was just a crime they’d perpetrated. Such details can be of great use to a defense counsel, so don’t dismiss them out of hand as trifles. The men had posed as Bourbon officers and were responsible for spreading the manure of misinformation all over town. Their guilt was hard to establish, however, because they did have a defense counsel each, and a brace of barristers from the Inns of Court, men whose time literally is money. Although this time it wasn’t worth the money, because the men were each sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of one thousand pounds, as well as a day in the public pillory – a punishment people tend to forget we still have.

               The Regent does not forget, though, telling Augie he’ll be pilloried if he fails to come up with the five thousand pounds he now still owes him, after handing over the five he managed to salvage by selling for ten shillings a pound, half of what he’d paid. We can add Augie’s financial expertise to that engraving on the eyelash, and there will still be room there for another get-rich-quick wheeze. 

               Edward must now explain patiently that he can’t lend Augie a penny, since he doesn’t have one himself. His bank balance has been inscribed with red ink for so long that he finds black ink showy; and the enormous sum emblazoned at the end is in money that only sells and cannot buy. His riches are poverties – which may be why it is poverty that enriches him. Figuratively. ‘I find this trade in stocks rather dubious,’ he says, smoothing down the wisps of licquorice-like thatch glued to his scalp. ‘I mean, it presupposes a company will grow infinitely, doesn’t it? But that’s impossible in a finite world…’

              ‘How does it presuppose infinite growth?’ asks Augie disconsolately.

              ‘Well, the stocks have to keep growing in value for people to want them, don’t they? If people no longer want them, the price falls and the company’s in trouble – when all that may have happened is profits evened out, do you see?’

            ‘No, I don’t see…’

            ‘It strikes me as a good system for building a business, but it’s flawed when that business ceases to grow – and all businesses surely must cease to grow eventually, no?’

                ‘Neither of us knows anything about business or money,’ says Augie irritably, ‘so why pretend we do?’

              ‘Ah. Well, I’m learning quite a lot these days…’

              ‘Not enough to get out of debt…’

              ‘No. Not that much – but welcome to the club…’

              They say love grows old and waxes cold; but are they right? He finds himself worrying about this frequently, as a disconcertingly gentle winter drains into a soggy spring, with grubby clouds piled high on the horizon, and dun-coloured leaves shrouding the crushed green grass. Finally, he feels recovered enough to hobble about the house, and even entertain some guests. It is Weatherall who says, ‘Forgive me, Edward, but is something wrong here?’

              Wrong? Here?’

               ‘Yes. It seems somehow gloomy, shadowed…’

               He’s right about this. There’s something strained between him and Julie. The shadow of death has fallen over their lives, and it lengthens, it solidifies. Jack fell down, broke crown… He feels it creep up his spine and grip his heart with a dead hand. And Julie came tumbling after…It makes every conversation not ring true somehow; they sound forced, hollow, insincere. They speak their lines like bad actors; there’s no conviction in the words; the intonation’s all wrong. Is the love still there? He believes so; but it’s like the blinding blaze in a potter’s kiln when it’s closed and sealed over with clay. There’s heat but no light. He doesn’t know how to bring this up with Julie, though. Vinegar and brown paper? She seems too on edge these days, too irritable for any heart to heart talk. He hopes this will pass; he hopes it will all pass. But the umbra is obdurate, persistent. There’s another difficulty too. He’s been getting anguished letters from Princess Charlotte, which are smuggled out of Windsor Castle by a friend, Mercer Elphinstone. In these letters Charlotte complains bitterly that the Regent has hoodwinked her into a marriage agreement with William, Prince of Orange, a man she finds ‘so ugly I have to turn my face away from him or I shall commit vomitus’. Edward sympathizes with her since the Orange Prince has teeth as horizontal as Colonel Dodd’s and is an inveterate pessimist. He thinks: Didn’t Wales himself once express scorn for the Orange one? Why the sudden alliance? Yet for him to meddle in the Regent’s affairs again would be a monstrous mistake. He tells her this in an apologetic letter, begging Charlotte’s pardon for his shameful cowardice. Now he’s just been told that her horror at the prospect of this forced marriage has driven her to seek sanctuary in the one place her father will never venture. She has fled to her mother’s new house at Connaught Place. Montague House has been sold to pay off Princess Caroline’s impressive debts. As you might expect, all hell has broken loose at Carlton House – he shudders at the very thought of it — and the Regent has now sent his Prime Minister, his Lord Chancellor, his Lord Eldon, and even his Bishop of Salisbury all over to dissuade Charlotte from pursuing this brazenly rash course. Wales is not going himself, naturally he’s not – he’d rather slit his wezand with a knife than give his abandoned wife the satisfaction of seeing him grovel. However, these great men he sends are all kept waiting in their carriages outside the house, their visits declined. Then the Duke of York is sent; and he’s admitted; but he’s kept waiting downstairs for four hours; as Caroline and her errant daughter roll about up in their drawing room, squealing and giggling with delight at the ruckus they’re creating. Very annoyed, York eventually slouches back to Horseguards. Augie, Duke of Sussex, is sent next – he’s in no position to refuse the Regent anything now – and he’s allowed upstairs to see the miscreants, since they both like him and see no threat. Edward now listens to Augie’s account of this meeting:

            ‘I said, Charley,’ says Augie, ‘I have all the sympathy on earth for you, lovey, but you’ve got to obey your father’s will and leave here immediately. You don’t have a choice…’

              She refuses at first, of course, refuses adamantly. There’s yet another difficulty too. Just as Edward had said she might in jest, Charlotte has now actually fallen in love with a dashing young man, Captain Hesse, and is now conducting an illicit affair with him – a handsome but highly unsuitable man. This very dangerous liaison is facilitated to a considerable extent by Charlotte’s new governess, Cornelia Wright, who quickly grew fond of her spirited young charge, and pitied the isolation in which she was kept. So, out of this pity, Charlotte was often allowed to remain alone in a room with Hesse – although Miss Wright, when challenged, lies about the ‘alone’ part, swearing that she too is always present.

               ‘Charley, I told her,’ Augie continues, ‘do you honestly think the Regent doesn’t know about you and Hesse. Everyone knows about it, lovey. I could tell she was shocked to hear this. He’s very well aware of it, I tell her; but he’s now willing to overlook it — if you leave here with me now. What does she do? You know Charley. She starts to make demands and impose conditions…’

             Augie then ferries these demands over to Carlton House, where Wales is in such a tempestuous rage that he’s ready to order troops to storm Connaught Place and carry his daughter off – or he is until warned of the scandal this would most certainly create. And that in turn would almost certainly create a new nadir for his own lack of popularity. This last prospect does make Wales think twice about the assault on Caroline’s house, however – and that makes him even angrier. The poker comes out; furniture suffers; Augie hastens back to Connaught Place. As dawn approaches, a weary Charlotte begins to see the futility of her position and, eventually, she agrees to leave for Carlton House – but only so long as she’s able to ride there in a royal carriage. Mother and daughter scream with laughter — but she’s not joking. This final demand takes some time to arrange, but by mid-morning she leaves to face her father’s wrath. Edward must get the rest of this story from her.

             The Regent had greeted her calmly, even warmly, but he had with him Lord Eldon, a pedantic old lawyer, who’s widely known as ‘Old Bags’ – evidently because his father had been a coal merchant in Lancashire. A witness, ideally a lawyer, is what Wales now invariably arranges to be present when he’s about to mete out a punishment, seal a contract, or take some sort of drastic or reckless action. He has a horror of the law courts and wants to make sure he doesn’t end up in one. He thinks there are people out to get him; and he’s right – there are many of them too.

              “What would you do with her if she was your daughter?” he’d asked Old Bags.

               The lawyer replies in his thick, droning northern brogue: “I’d lock ‘er oop an’ throw away t’keys, is what I’d do, it is…” He looks as if he’d enjoy doing it too.

                  Charlotte isn’t going to take this quietly. She says, ‘Papa, it’s profoundly insulting for me to be compared with a coal carrier’s daughter…’

               ‘Given your recent behaviour,’ says the Regent sternly, ‘you’re lucky not to be compared with a bawd’s pox-riddled jade…’ Instead of taking Old Bags’ advice, however, he tells her she’ll be banished to a lodge in Windsor Forest: …where you’ll receive only authorized visitors, and communicate with no one by letter until the letter has been read and approved by creatures of my own choosing…’ 

                 As usual, though, Charlotte finds a way around these prohibitions, which is how Edward first learns that he too is on that lengthy list of forbidden visitors. Unfair; cruel. He forgets what he’d told Charlotte about life’s unfairness.