It was not the car that pulled up
at breakfast time, it was not Lord Henry Wilton who descended the steps
of the carriage and walked to the front door of The Bridge House. It was
The Dowager Countess Tadwell. She nodded to her maid as an instruction
to knock on the Bedson's front door.
"Your Ladyship," Emma curtseyed,
surprised to see who was standing at her door.
"Is your husband at home Mrs
"He is My Lady. Do you wish to
speak with him ?"
"Indeed I do, if that would be
possible please Mrs Bedson."
"Dawson," she said to her maid.
"Fetch the basket from the carriage."
"Yes, My Lady."
Joseph was as surprised as his
wife was to see who his early caller was. "My Lady."
"Mr Bedson, my apologies for troubling your family so
early but I wished to speak to you before you left for work and your
wife left for school."
The children were ushered away leaving Joseph, Emma
and The Dowager Countess Lady Wilton of Tadwell alone together.
"I understand that one of my horses found its way
into your garden. I am told this was not the first time it happened.
Mr Bedson, Mrs Bedson I am very sorry for the trouble the animal may
have caused. I have spoken to the stable staff and can assure you this
will not happen again. Your daughter so kindly returned the horse and I
would like to thank her personally."
"It was not a trouble My Lady," Emma said.
"Perhaps I can see her in a moment but first Mr
Bedson, I am aware that a vacancy has arisen at Wilton Mine for a
manager to oversee the transport of the coal. I have told my son
that if you wish to fill that position it should be yours."
Joseph was aware of the need for a manager, Cecil
worked as a junior clerk at the mine and had brought the news home, but
had never considered it would be a role he could fill. He could, of
course, undertake the duties but moving to management was not something
he had considered.
"Thank you My Lady. What does His Lordship have to
"My son agrees with his mother of course."
"So should I instruct my son to tell the mine manager
you will take up the duties ?"
"Yes, My Lady. Thank You."
"Now Mr Bedson, Mrs Bedson, let me come to the second reason for
my calling. Lord Henry tells me he has invited your daughter to go
riding with him today. A little presumptive on his part, I hope you will
excuse his youthful exuberance, I am here formally asking permission on his
"Which daughter has he invited My Lady ?"
"Lily, of course."
"But Lily can not ride My Lady."
"I think," Mr Bedson, that you will find she can."
Joseph knew, of course, that his daughter could ride
a horse but did not care to admit it either to himself or to the Dowager
"Does your daughter have your permission to ride
today with my grandson, Mr Bedson ?
"But we are in mourning."
"I doubt Her Majesty would have wished two young
people not to have a ride out because of her indisposition."
"Will there be a chaperone ?"
"Mr Bedson they are children. Lord Henry is thirteen,
how old is Lily ?"
"Just passed her eleventh birthday My Lady."
"I think they will be alright on their own don't you
Without waiting for a reply the maid was called to
join them, "Sullivan !"
A timid girl of no more than sixteen years knocked
then entered the room.
"Time to ask Lily to join us Mr Bedson, can you call
here please ? Sullivan go and fetch the basket."
Joseph fixed his eyes on his daughter as she joined
the group, his will attempting to control anything she would say.
Lily probably would not oblige him.
"Lily, your father has given his permission for you
to take up my grandson's invitation to ride with him later today."
"I know that you have more than once had to return
one of my wandering horses to the stable."
"It was not any trouble," Lily interrupted and
To oblige her father Lily added the words, "My Lady,"
to her original sentence.
"I have brought you a gift, Lilly, to say thank you.
My little dog, Lucy Locket, has given birth to puppies. I have to
find homes for them and thought you may like to have one live with you."
Sullivan, the maid, raised the cloth cover from the
wicker basket and lifted out a small black puppy. Lily's eyes were wild
with excitement while her smile stretched wide across her face. She
avoided her father's glance just in case he did not approve,
"I thought you may like to call her Victoria in
memory of Her Majesty."
Joseph managed to catch Lily's glance and gave her
"Oh thank you Your Ladyship, you are so kind. I
promise I will care for her and lover her to bits. Thank you,
"I am sure you will my dear."
"Thank you My Lady, thank you so very, very much."
Joseph's family was large and filled The Bridge
House, now they had to find room for a dog. The Dowager Countess lived
in a vast and grand home with an army of servants to look after her and
her widowed son and grandson. She had just the one son, his wife had
died in childbirth so Lord Henry was the only grandson. With Henry
away at school for most of the year there was just the two of them at
home. Two people attended to by more servants than she had ever taken
time to count.
There were no servants in The Bridge House but they
lived well. There were two incomes and now with Joseph's elevation to
the middle class there could be a few more luxuries to enjoy but there
would not be any servants. The Wiltons was one of the wealthiest
aristocratic families in Britain. As well as the land surrounding
Tadwell Hall, some of which was farmed and much let to tenants, there
was Wilton Mine which was one of the most productive coal seams. Much of
the original wealth came from plantations in the Caribbean. When slavery
was abolished sixty-eight years previously the family retained its lands
and profited. More recently the Wiltons had acquired banking shares both
in London and New York.
The Dowager Countess lacked for nothing, nothing
money could buy but for every day she longed until her heart ached for
something she would never be able to have. She had just the one son and
had wanted so much to have a daughter. When Lord Henry's mother became
pregnant it had to be a boy to maintain the line of succession but a
girl, a granddaughter, next time would have been so lovely. When her
daughter-in-law died in childbirth it would not happen. The Dowager
Countess had watched the Bedson family from a distance, envious beyond
measure of Joseph and Emma, they had four daughters, Olive, Lily, Doris
and Gladys. Lily was the one she liked, if there had been a
granddaughter it would have been nice had the child been like Lily
"She should not be mixing above her station."
"They are only children Joseph."
"I was at work when I was Lord Henry's age, I was
cleaning engines. Cecil started work when he was not much older and the
other boys will soon follow. Lord Henry is the son of an earl and will
take the title himself one day. Lily is the daughter of an engine
"A manager now," Emma dared to contradict her
husband. "We have become middle class. We own The Bridge House, we are
"Lord Henry is aristocracy, he will be attending Her
Majesty's funeral while we grieve here in the village."
Lord Henry did not attend the funeral although The
Earl and the Dowager Countess took their seats in Westminster Abbey.
Lily had a good time riding with Henry and looked
forward to more times with her new friend when he was not away at
school. Her Ladyship decided Lily needed to ride properly before
half-term so instructed her chief groom to make sure it was done. She
sent to London for the correct dress a lady should wear in the saddle.
Joseph did not approve.
Puppy Victoria was a delight, even Joseph was fond of
her. He did not think that anyone noticed but all knew he slipped her
the odd morsel from his dinner plate.
Joseph missed his time on the footplate of a steam
engine but found the challenge of his role as head of transportation for
Wilton Mine very fulfilling. Six months later when the mine owner in
person walked into his office Joseph was to understand just how much his
efforts were appreciated.
"My Lord." Joseph stood up behind his desk.
"Hughes, the mine manager needs an assistant, a
deputy, I want you to take it on."
"That is a yes ?"
"Yes My Lord, of course."
"I do not know what the pay is but I am sure it will
"Of course My Lord."
"One other thing. My mother has taken a bit of a
shine to your daughter Lillian."
"It's Lily My Lord, not Lillian."
"What ever. She would like Lily to spend time with
her as a companion, would that be in order ?"
"Of course My Lord, if that is what Her Ladyship
But it was not alright with Joseph, not alright at
"Does your daughter work ?"
"No My Lord, she helps run the house."
"Do any of your children have employment Bedson ?"
"My son, Cecil, is a clerk here in the officers of
Wilton Mine. Olive helps her mother run the school."
"Yes, ofcourse, Mrs Bedson is the headmistress isn't
she ? Well if you could see your way to allowing Lily to spend
some time with Mother it would be appreciated."
Where was this going to end up ? Friendship
with Lord Henry, riding the horses at Tadwell Hall, a puppy as a gift,
riding clothes from London and now a companion to the Dowager Countess.
This was not Lily's role in life but Joseph was almost powerless to stop
"Oh Lily you have no idea how much I have longed for
the holidays and to see you again."
"I have missed you too Henry but now it is Easter you are
"I hate school, it is quite beastly. The masters are
so stupid and cover their ignorance up by being cruel, the higher up
social ladder you are the harder they beat you."
"Oh Henry do they beat you ?"
"Of course they do."
"That is terrible."
"I know but I can take it. I am fourteen now, that's
practically a man. Four more years, three at Oxford. 1912 when I am
twenty-four years old and you are twenty-one do you know what is going
to happen ?"
"I have no idea Henry."
"I am going to marry you. I will make you Lady Lily
Wilton then when I inherit and become the Earl you will be my Countess."
"Henry you should not make jokes like that."
"Lily Bedson, the future Countess Wilton of Tadwell I
am not joking."
Lily thought he was indeed joking but perhaps he was not.
As a companion to the Dowager Countess Lily was not a
servant. She had her own servant while in Tadwell Hall. The
Dowager's assistant maid, Sullivan, was assigned to care for Lily's
every wish. Lily was not paid for her time but Her Ladyship was
generous in every other way. She taught Lily how to sew. She brought in
a teacher and Lily began to play the piano. Lady Wilton took absolute
delight in her adopted granddaughter, one day she would become her
proper granddaughter when grandson Lord Henry took her hand in marriage.
She knew nothing of Henry's words to Lily on the subject but Her
Ladyship had every intention of living long enough to attend their
wedding and to enjoy her great-grandchildren. The Earl of Tadwell knew
nothing of his son's adolescent affections for Lily and not of the scheme
within his mother's mind, Lily was a nice enough child and if it kept
his mother happy then that was fine by him.
When Henry returned to school he wrote every week to
his new and special friend Lily. He always sent the letters to her by
way of Tadwell Hall knowing the butler would discretely give his letters
to her keeping both families in ignorance. In his letters he did not say
much about the day to life at Rugby School which were either far too
uninteresting or the kind of thing not to be shared with a delicate
I am going to save with care all the buttons
as they come off my clothes so when we meet at Christmas you can sew
them back for me.
Dearest Lily, I am not a poet but I have
decided to perfect the art so I can write something beautiful for
My Dearest Special Friend Lily, do please
write and tell me how Puppydog Victoria is. I think of her
often and envy her being with you every day.
My Dear Friend Henry, Victoria is very well and
growing by the day. I have taught her to fetch a ball when I throw
it for her. She can now sit up and beg for tit-bits of food. She
is a delight, even my father is fond of her. I am so grateful to your
grandmother for giving her to me.
As Christmas approached Henry wrote to his
Dearest Grandmamma, I need your help.
I have seen a beautiful gold locket on a chain
which I would so much like to buy as a Christmas present for Lily.
It is in a jeweller's shop in Rugby and priced at seventeen
guineas which is a very fair price. I have that much remaining in my
allowance for the term so the cash is not a problem. What does worry
me is the way my gift may embarrass Lily.
I do not know if Lily intends to give me a
gift this Christmas, perhaps she does or perhaps she does not. If
she does then certainly I doubt she will have seventeen gunnies to
Dearest Grandmamma would you help Lily select
a suitable gift to give to me ? Could you then possibly,
please, please, find you way to help her accept some money from you to pay
for it ?
Lady Wilton's heart fluttered as she read the letter
her grandson had so carefully composed. Lily and Henry's childhood
friendship must have been developing, could it be that her much hoped
for plan may in time come about without the need for intervention ?
On Christmas Eve the two exchanged their gifts, Lady
Wilton had prepared Lily who gave Henry a diamond tie pin and was
speechless when Henry gave her the locket. Eventually she managed to
say, "Oh Henry that is so beautiful."
"Not as beautiful as my Lily. Thank you for this
tie pin, do you know what I would really like for Christmas ?"
"What is that ?"
"To kiss you."
"Why Henry I am only eleven years old !"
"Twelve in a few weeks time."
Lily smiled. "You may kiss me but only on the cheek."
Joseph and Emma had not any real idea of the affection
Lily was held in by the Wiltons and certainly had no understanding of
the friendship between her and Lord Henry. They were grateful for the
prosperity Joseph's senior position at the mine had brought to The
Bridge House. With the family growing older there would soon be a need
to add an additional room or two, a builder would need to be engaged.
On a cold February morning breakfast time was again
delayed when the carriage drew up outside The Bridge House and Her
Ladyship asked to speak with Joseph and Emma.
"My son and I will, of course, be attending the
coronation of King Edward VII, Lord Henry has been invited and I would
like your daughter Lily to join our party. His Majesty's invitation will
extend to four."
Neither Joseph nor Emma could believe what they were
hearing. The coronation was to take place on 9th August, six months
away. Lily being invited ? An honour but not an event people from
their class should be attending. Of course they would celebrate but to
actually be there ? Lily's parents could not deny her the chance to be a
part of history and they were so proud but Joseph had his concerns.
"It is not right Emma," he said when The Dowager
Countess had left. "Lily is moving way out of her class."
"You began life as an engine cleaner," his wife
smiled, "now you are Deputy Mine Manager. We are middle class."
"That may be but Lily is not a member of the
aristocracy, she never will be, now to be associated with royalty !"
"She will only be sitting at the back of Westminster
Abbey with Lord Henry, you heard what Her Ladyship said."
"That's another thing, her friendship with Lord
"Oh Joseph it is harmless."
Only Lily and Henry knew the depth of their
friendship and the young lord's declaration that one day he would marry
Lily Bedson. Even The Dowager Countess Lady Wilton of Tadwell did not
pretend to know this even if it was her intention to engineer such a union.
As the coronation approached there was great
excitement throughout the country. Every city, every town and every
village was planning a party. Madeley where The Bedson family lived was
no exception. The Bridge House was the nerve centre for the children of
the village while Tadwell Hall was the operations room for the entire
area. The day after the coronation the Earl was hosting a huge party in
the grounds of his home with every family from miles around invited. Wilton Mine
had its own brass band which would be performing to entertain guests.
Emma had a group of children in training for a country dancing display.
Lily would take families for rides in a pony and trap. She had been busy
making bunting to hang round the sides of the trap and special coats in
the form of the union jack for the horses to wear. She and The Dowager
Countess had been busy with their needles and cotton.
Lily's mind was only partly on Madeley's plans, most
of it was in Westminster Abbey. Tzar Nicholas II from Russia would be
there. the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and his family were coming.
President Roosavelt and America's First Lady would be in attendance.
Prime Minister Arthur Balfour would be the one representative of the
government. Twelve year old Lily Bedson from the Staffordshire village
of Madeley was to be a guest.
"When the Dowager Countess tires of our daughter we
will be left to pick up the pieces, you wait and see."
"That isn't going to happen Joseph."
"She is getting on in years, she can not live for
ever then what happens ? To you think the Earl will pamper a commoner ?"
A common village girl ?
Common village people the Bedsons ay be but they were the envy of
Madeley. Lily walked
tall and enjoyed the status although she would never have admitted it to
"Mr Bedson, Mrs Bedson." Another early morning visit
to the Bridge House from Her Ladyship."
"Yes, My Lady."
"I think perhaps Lily should come to stay at The
for the week before the coronation. We will be travelling to London two
days before the event and will be staying with The Duke and Duchess of
Bedford at their Town House in Tavistock Square. Lily will have
her own maid while she is with us and in London, Sullivan will attend to
"Yes, My Lady."
"Lily to have her own maid !" Joseph said to
Emma the moment the carriage left with Her Ladyship onboard. "Have you
ever heard anything quite so ridiculous ? A twelve year old girl from a
working family with her own maid."
"I was thinking," Emma changed the subject ever so
slightly, "that now you are the deputy mine manager we may have some
staff at The Bridge House. Perhaps a maid of all work."
"We have daughters to run the house."
"A family of our standing in the village should have
at least a maid of all work, it is expected of us."
Joseph did not agree.
"Now that Lily has a maid at The Hall it would not be
right if there was not staff in her home."
"I have given my opinion on a child having a maid of
her own. A twelve year old working girl with a maid, what ever next ?"
You own this property Joseph, The Bridge House, we
are not tenants. We are middle class."
"We only own it because I inherited it."
"Joseph in all the happy years we have been together
you have been a kind and loving husband, I could not have wanted better
in a man, I hope that I have been the loyal wife you needed. I have
never said this Joseph but you married above your station and look how
happy we have been. If Lily moves up into society at any level
then we should be pleased for her. She is not going to marry an duke or
an earl but if she can find a wealthy husband when the time comes then
we should be happy for her. The Bridge House needs a parlour maid,
a cook and a housekeeper, I am asking you my dearest husband to agree to
my finding the right people.
"Three !" Joseph said with a note of
incredulity in his voice. "A moment ago you were asking for a maid of
all work, nw you want three ! Are you sure you do not want a
butler and two footmen as well ?"
"A butler and footmen will not be necessary,"
"Are we going to have servants ?" Gladys, the
youngest Bedson child asked excitedly.
"Yes," Joseph said.
"How exciting. Can I have a maid the same as Lily ?"
"I am not supposed to know know this," Henry said.
"and Lily I am not sure you are old enough for me to tell you."
"Lord Henry Wilton, I am twelve years old. What is it
you think you can not tell me ?"
"Oooohhh, Lord Henry. You have not called me that for
a long time."
"Stop messing about and tell me your secret."
"It is not my secret, it is my grandmother's secret."
"So what is it ?"
"When she was younger my dear old grandmother and the
Prince of Wales were lovers."
"No. You should not say thins like that."
Henry shrugged his shoulders then said. "It is true.
I do not think I want to picture the events in my mind but it is true. She
was his mistress."
At twelve and a half years of age there was no
childhood naivety in Lily's character, she knew what a mistress was and
although she was denying what Henry was saying she knew very well that
it was probably true.
"The coronation in the Abbey will go on for hours,"
Henry smiled, "and I am told the seats are hard on the bottom. It is my
plan to pass the time by observing Grandmamma and the King, I am going
to watch and see how many times their eyes meet."
"You are a very naughty man," Lily giggled. "If
you do not behave yourself this instant I will tell The Archbishop of
Canterbury everything you have said."
"My father calls him a pontificating vicar. Who is to
say that dearest Grandmamma was not one of his mistresses as well ?
The church people are the worst."
"I would not let my father hear you say that. He is a
very religious man."
"I am not. Fortunately I am the oldest son. In
families like mine the oldest inherits, the second son goes into the
army and the third poor wretched fellow has to go into the church. There is only me so I have
been spared that misfortune."
"What about the girls in families like yours ?"
"What about them ?"
"What do the girls do ?"
"They become mistresses of the Prince of Wales."
Lily giggled. "I am glad I was not born into the
"But you will be marrying into it."
The Earl and Lord Henry would wear their formal robes
for the service at Westminster Abbey, Lady Wilton commissioned a London
fashion house to design her outfit and also to prepare something fitting for
Henry was right about the ceremony in the Abbey and
was certainly right about the hardness of the seats. No matter the
duration of His Majesty's big day Lily was happy to sit and soak up the
atmosphere. She pretended she was a great lady from one of England's
oldest aristocratic families. Her father, Joseph, was a Duke and mother
Emma his Duchess. Lily did, however, allow herself a momentary glance in
the direction of The Dowager Countess to see if there was eye contact
between her and the newly crowned monarch.
Bedford House was very grand, a Duke being higher up
the aristocratic ladder then an Earl. Maid Sullivan was very attentive
and treated Lily with the respect normally accorded to someone from a
much higher station while at the same time offering friendship. Lily was
introduced to the Duchess as My companion and surrogate granddaughter.
Lily did not know what surrogate means.
Leaving the Abbey the chauffeur drove them all back
to Tadwell. The invitation of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford extended o
staying overnight after the coronation but all four had to be home for the village's
celebration the next day. It was dark when the car eventually pulled up at Tadwell
Lily was beginning to feel that Tadwell Hall was a home
for her, The Bridge House was still her real home but Lily was able to
adapt to the atmosphere and situation which either of the two demanded.
She became an expert at adapting to which ever she was living in. Monday
morning, all day Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday afternoon and Friday
morning Lily spent with The Dowager Countess. She was looking forward to
many times that summer with her friend Henry. It was at the Madely party
that Lord Henry broke the news.
"My father has a plan," he began. "I am to spend my
school holidays with the family's interests here and abroad, he
considers it to be a part of my education. I am to spend the rest of
this holiday rotting away in a dusty old bank. I am so sorry Lily."
"Does that mean we will not be able to see each other
"I am afraid so Lily My Dear, I can not argue with or
disobey my father. I think I will be able to get home one week-end
before the new term starts."
The Fifth Earl of Tadwell had his son and heir's
future mapped out for several years to come. The Christmas holiday
period for 1902 would also be spent at the bank in London. Every
holiday, Easter, Summer and Christmas, in 1903 would see Lord Henry in
New York. 1904, the year when Henry would be seventeen years old, would
be spent on the family estates in the Caribbean. The Earl had 1905 in
his mind but was not ready yet to share that part of his thinking with his
It was not the Earl's intention to prevent his son
from seeing his friend Lily, he did not know of the depth that
friendship had achieved, but to prepare his son to become the Sixth Earl
of Tadwell. A role he would need to take up sooner than anyone had so
"I did not think the Earl looked well," Joseph said
to Emma at the end of a very busy day as Madeley celebrated the
coronation of King Edward VII.
"He will have been tired after all the festivities."
"It is more than that," Joseph observed.
One week before Christmas The Earl visited Joseph in
his office at the mine.
"Bedson, I have acquired a large manufacturing plant
in Birmingham, Tinnings Limited."
Joseph had heard of Tinnings, they supplied the mine
with many of its needs.
"I need to appoint a new managing director to run the
company. I have two options Bedson."
"You do My Lord ?"
"You can either take the position yourself which
would mean moving to Birmingham, or I could appoint the mine manager
then make you the new general manager of Wilton Mine. The choice
Joseph knew the Earl had been having talks in
Birmingham but did not know what they had been about. It came as a total
surprise to him that he was part of hat was in the Earl's mind. There were
aspects of Birmingham which could be an advantage to the Bedson Family
and to be a managing director was tempting but Joseph could never leave
his beloved Bridge House. The Wilton Mine would have a new general
The Wilton Mine would have a new general manager and
The Bridge House would have its housekeeper, maid and cook. No matter
how much Joseph's fortune advanced he would never, ever employ a
gardener. Land around the family home had its lawn and flowers but most
of which Joseph turned over to growing vegetables. Cook never had
to source fruit and vegetables from anywhere but Joseph's garden. He
had hens who generously kept the kitchen supplied with eggs.
Now and then a horse from Tadwell Hall would find its
way into the garden. If Lily was at home she would ride it back, if is she
was already at the Hall the animal would be tied up to await her return.
Every week while he was at school and every week
while he was away on his father's programme of education within the
Wilton Empire, Henry would write to Lily. With each letter she looked
more fondly towards their next meeting.
The days went by and turned quickly into weeks. The
weeks turned into months and would soon turn into years. For everyone
life settled into a routine. Joseph was a highly effective general
manager for Wilton Mine who was respected by its owner and workforce
alike. Emma continued as the village schoolmistress and enjoyed having
three servants to support her running The Bridge House. All three did
not live in but had their own homes in the area, The Bridge House was
getting too small for the family as everyone grew up. Joseph decided
extending the property and so losing some of his precious garden was not
worth the cost, eventually all would fly the nest leaving just Emma and
himself at home. Lily did not sleep at Tadwell Hall, returning home to
The Bridge House on the days she spent as companion to the Dowager
Countess. Lily Loved her family but would have liked to live the
life of a grand lady, she wondered from time to time if Lord Henry would
indeed take her as his wife or if it was just a friendship game.
"I am worried," Joseph said when he returned from the
office one evening. "His Lordship came into the office today and I
thought he was quite unwell."
"You said that before, just after the coronation,"
Emma replied. "Is he still poorly ?"
"His face was hollow and I did not like the colour of
"Oh dear, I hope he gets better soon."
"Consumption," Joseph said. "I have seen it
before. His Lordship is showing all the classic signs of consumption. Where is Lily ?"
"She is in the garden feeding the chickens."
"I am going to speak with her."
"Father," Lily said when she saw him approaching. "I
have been wondering if we should keep bees in the garden. They would
pollinate everything and we could have our own honey to eat."
"Please," Gladys added, "I love honey."
"Gladys would help me look after them," Lily assured
"I would, I would." Gladys jumped up and down
The age difference between Lily and Gladys was nine
years yet of all her brothers and sisters it was Gladys Lily felt the
"Go away and play Gladys, I want to speak with your
Gladys skipped off leaving Lily to feed the chickens.
She threw her arms out and made a buzzing sound. "I am a bee, a busy,
"Perhaps having some bees would be a good idea,"
Joseph began, "Lily when you have been up at The Hall have you overheard
any of the servants saying anything about His Lordship being unwell ?"
"No, Father. Nothing. Is he unwell then ?"
"Her Ladyship has said nothing ?"
"No." Lily shook her head.
"Please do not pretend otherwise, I know you receive
letters every week from Lord Henry, has he said anything ?"
Lily blushed. How did he know about the letters ? "No
Father, he has said nothing."
"Lily, you are not to say anything of this
conversation. Not to your Mother, your brothers and sisters, not to
anyone at The Hall and most definitely not to Lord Henry. I need you to
listen and tell me immediately if anyone makes any comment about His
"Is the Earl sick ?"
"I think so Lily, yes. You must give me your solemn
promise not to speak of this but I need you to listen. The fortunes of
The Bridge House are dependant on my job as manager of Wilton Mine, it
would be difficult for us all if that were to change."
"I promise father."
The change her father spoke of would be the death of
the Earl. If that happened, when it happened, Henry would become the
Sixth Earl of Tadwell. Surely nothing would change, her father's job
would be secure.
Time moved on and Earl Tadwell was still head of the
family, Lily heard nobody say anything about his being ill. She forgot
the conversation she had with her father.
Lily missed spending time with Lord Henry Wilton, in
four years she had seen him only five times. The letters came every week
and re replied at length to them all.
January 5th 1906
My Dearest Lily - I miss you so terribly. never
is there a day when I do not think of you. I imagine you are here
with me by my side.
The Wilton estate here on the most beautiful
island of Barbados is large. I am staying in the estate's house
which is called Sam Lord's Castle. It is not really a castle. Let me
explain. It is not a castle like those in England, it is a large
house made of wood. It was once owned by a pirate. Can you imagine
that, Lily ? Pirate Samuel Hall-Lord. He was a cruel and evil man.
Some of the estate workers here are descended from the slaves Samuel
Hall-Lord once owned.
The King sent a ship full of troops to arrest the
pirate, the First Earl of Tadwell was in command. The King gave him
the estate, the house and all the slaves as a reward for capturing
This is a beautiful place Lily and I promise I
will bring you here one day after we are married and you become Lady
Lily Wilton. Just five years to go now before I can ask your father
for your hand.
The negro people here, Lily, are special. They
are so kind, loyal and wonderfully friendly. You should see how hard
they work. I will bring some of them back to England with me. We
will have some black men in The Hall as servants. How grand will
that be ?
Lily had never seen a black man.
Lily had not seen Henry for a long time. He said he
would be home for the summer.
It was a hot summer that year. Joseph's garden
flourished. Puppydog Victoria, who was not a puppy any more, found
it a little too hot for her liking. Lily was proud to show off a
beautiful white dress she had made herself and wore a hat to shade her from
the heat. Lady Wilton had given the hat to her as a gift. All was content and
happy in The Bridge House family. Things were not so well at Tadwell
"The Earl has asked me to go to The Hall this
evening," Joseph explained. "He says there is something of importance he
wishes to discuss with me."
"Perhaps he has another promotion for you."
"I doubt that. I have not seen him for six months, it
was a footman who brought the message from His Lordship. The message
said a car would be sent for me but I told the footman I would walk."
Emma did not think her husband should have done that
but did not say so. Now that they were in the social position they were
was it right for the mine manager to walk ? Perhaps they should have their
own car. With the family growing up one of the boys could surely learn
to drive. Only Lily from the Bedson Family had been inside a car.
Joseph was surprised to be met not only by The Earl
of Tadwell but also by Lord Henry and The Dowager Countess. It was known
that Jospeh did not drink alcohol so the butler had been advised to
serve tea. The Earl did not look well, it had been so long since Joseph
had seen him he had to think hard to recall how he had previously
appeared but was certain his employer's condition had deteriorated.
After the formalities of welcoming Joseph and after
tea had been served The Earl began. "Joseph," he said. "I have never
called you that before have I ? Forgive me, I should have
addressed you by your Christian name a long time ago, it has been wrong
to have continued calling you Bedson. You have been a good friend over
the years and I respect that. May I call you Joseph ?"
"Of course, My Lord."
"And Joseph, my name is Richard. Please can you find
it in your heart to call me by that name from now on ?"
"If that is your wish -," Joseph hesitated and
stopped himself from adding, "My Lord."
"My son Henry is Henry, of course."
The young Lord smiled.
"As for my mother, even I am not sure what her name
"My Lady will do fine," The Dowager Countess
interrupted her son."
"With that out of the way Joseph let me continue. A
blind man on a dark night could not fail to notice that I am not a well
"I am sorry to hear that."
"How much longer I have in this world only The
Almighty knows but as there is no such being my span of life remains a
Joseph, a firm believer in God, did not question Lord
Richard's profession towards agnosticism but said, "Do you have
"Indeed I do but these days the medical profession
prefers to call it tuberculosis. If I can keep myself free of chest
infections the rate of decline may be slowed but a harsh winter in
England and it will be my end."
"My son is to move to our estates in the Caribbean,"
The Dowager Countess interrupted. "He sails for Bridgetown next week."
"I plan to see out my days there," Earl Richard
continued, "which may see me live for a few more years yet. I was born
in 1850, I would like to reach my sixtieth birthday."
"My sixtieth birthday was twenty-two years ago," The
Dowager Countess explained, "and while a lady should never confess her
age I have no plans for retirement. Mr Bedson I will not be taking up
residence on the island of Barbados no matter how beautiful my grandson
says it is. Do you know, Mr Bedson, he wants to bring some black
servants here to Tadwell Hall ?"
"Mother please !"
Lord Henry smiled and caught Joseph's eye. He thought
he could detect the faintest hint of a smile on Mr Bedson's face.
"A monarch," the Earl continued, "may appoint a
regent but it is not something in the gift of an Earl. Somebody needs to
take my place here on the estate and so Henry has generously agreed not
to go to Oxford. I will never be able to thank him enough for doing
"I did not want to go, you know that Father. I have
spent too much time away from home over the past few years, I want to
settle and to start living my life. I have done with education."
"That may be so but I would have liked you to go to
Oxford and to have completed your education. I have been preparing you
for a long time to take over at Tadwell but I would have liked it if I
could have remained here for three more years. That, Joseph, is where
you come into things."
Henry made to speak again but his father raised a
hand to silence him. No raised hand would silence The Dowager Countess.
"Mr Bedson," she began, "I will support my grandson
in all matters relating to his place in society but the worlds of
industry, commerce and finance are not worlds I chose to inhabit. Lord
Henry needs someone he can turn to at times when he needs advice."
"That is where I need you Joseph." Richard
retook charge of the conversation. "There is The Wilton Mine, Tinnings
in Birmingham, our Caribbean estates, banking interests in London and
New York, Home Farm here and our tenant farmers. Each, of course, has
its own management system and someone in overall charge but my son will
have ultimate responsibility for everything. It is a lot to ask of
someone so young, I would like it if he could come to you for
advice and support."
"Mr Bedson," Henry forced his way into the
conversation, "please will you agree to be the one I can turn to for
"Of course, if that is what your father wishes."
"Mr Bedson, please let me call you Mr Bedson, I know
my father wishes to call you Joseph but it would be disrespectful if I
did the same. But please, please, please could you call me Henry ?"
Joseph found it hard to take in everything that had
been said. It was all revolving round in his mind. In Earl Richard's
mind there was a feeling of calm, knowing his son had a trusted friend
by his side. The Dowager Countess's mind was planning the way her
unofficially adopted grand daughter would become her official
granddaughter-in-law. She was about to say something that would turn the
revolving mind inside Joseph's head into a spinning tornado.
"I have been invited," The Dowager Countess began,
"to attend a charity dinner at Buckingham Palace on the twelfth of
November. It is being hosted by her Majesty Queen Alexandra but I am
given to understand the King will be in attendance. I would like Lily to
accompany me. Would that meet with your agreement Mr Bedson ?"
"You old fox, or should that be vixen ?" Henry said under his breath. "...given
to understand the King will be in attendance ! Is he still your
lover then ?"
Joseph's eyes widened but before he could say
anything The Dowager continued. "The King's sister was Princess Alice,
she died in 1878. Five years later an orphanage was opened near to
Birmingham and it took her name. This is a charity dinner to raise money
for a new centre at the orphanage to train inmates in the trade of
"Since when have you been interested in carpentry or
orphans ?" Henry said silently to himself. "You just want to see the
King again don't you ? You cunning old lady !"
"Lily will not be a debutant so I thought it would be
good for her to be presented to the King and Queen at this dinner. I am
sure she will enjoy the evening. We will stay with my good friend The
Duchess of Bedford in her London home, Lily's maid Sullivan will
attend her, of course."
"While the King attends to you dearest Grandmamma,"
"Where is this orphanage ?" It was all Joseph
could think to say.
"At a place somewhere near Birmingham, Sutton
Coldfield I think, but we will not be going there. Goodness me no, just
to the dinner at Buckingham Palace."
"So what did The Earl want ?" Emma asked when Joseph
eventually returned home.
"He wanted a lot," Joseph replied, "but it was
nothing to with that Her Ladyship has in mind for Lily !"
Joseph explained to his wife, carefully relating all
that had happened during the evening.
"Why could Lily not be a debutante ?"
"That is too fanciful for words my dear wife."
"Why ? When I was a girl I dreamed it may
happen to me."
"Instead you married an engine fireman."
"I did but now that engine fireman is a successful
man of business with the employment of so many in his hands."
"Lily may be a favourite of The Dowager Countess but
she is not from aristocracy so the very idea is preposterous !"
"Joseph...... To be a debutant the girl has to be of
good social and moral character, Lily is that. Presentation has to be
made by someone who has themselves been a debutant, I presume Her
Ladyship was in her youth. "
"Lily may be a companion of Her Ladyship but she is
"Debutants are not entirely from aristocratic
backgrounds Joseph, some come from families which have at their head
professionals like doctors or lawyers and there are those who are
leaders in business. From what you have just said Lily has such a person
as her father."
"But Her Ladyship said Lily would not be a debutant.
She said that."
"One word from you and I am sure that would change."
"Lily will be seventeen in January. Her season could
be in the summer of 1908, if it is to happen we would need to be
"Planning a season ? You mean planning an
auction to find our daughter a husband ?"
"My dearest husband, do you not think that Lily
already has her suitor ?"
"I can not believe my old grandmother," Henry
said. "One hundred and ten years old and she is still flirting with her former
"What does flirting mean ?"
"My dearest Lily, you have lead such a sheltered
"What's a sheltered life ?" Lily smiled.
Lily was so happy to have her special friend back in
her life and looked forward to spending time with him again after so
long apart. She looked forward once more to riding with her friend again.
"Oh Lily, I do love you."
I all the years of their friendship, many times
during which Henry had talked about making Lily his wife, he had never
used that word before. Lily felt herself blushing. "Do you mean that
"Of course I do Lily. I have loved you since the very
first time we met when we were children. I may not have the title but I
am now in effect The Earl of Tadwell and I want you to be my Countess."
"Are you proposing to me Lord Henry ?"
"I am Lily Bedson, will you please become Lady Lily
Lily had no hesitation when it came to her answer.
"We need to keep this a secret," Henry said. "I
respect your father so much and now he is my official mentor, I must
formally ask him for your hand which I will do on your eighteenth
birthday. Until then our engagement must be a secret."
While Lily's engagement remained a secret Cecil
Bedson's wedding was a major cause for celebration at The Bridge House.
This was soon followed by Olive's engagement to the son of a local
farmer. Cecil and his new bride moved away from Madeley when Cecil took
up the position of assistant works manager at Tinnings in Birmingham.
Joseph's influence within the Wilton business world had secured the well
deserved promotion for his son, a promotion Lord Henry sanctioned.
Without this sanction it could not have happened. Lord Henry had
abilities far beyond his years and while he respected his father's wish
for Joseph to be a mentor and indeed wanted him there for any times he
needed to call upon him nothing had thus far been necessary. Joseph
would be Henry's father-in-law, he respected him and wanted to get
closer to him but Joseph was not an easy man to befriend.
Nothing more was said at The Bridge House about Lily
being a debutant and at The Hall The Dowager Countess knew if her plan
were able to be put into place it would not be necessary. Little did she
know of the secret engagement.
There was a new air of happiness about Lily which the
family and the Dowager Countess alike put down to her forthcoming visit
to Buckingham Palace.
"When I grow up," Glad said, "I want to be a grand
lady like Lily."
"Your sister is not a grand lady Gladys," Emma said.
"She is just the same as you are."
"So does that mean I will be a grand lady as well ?
Perhaps I could marry the King's grandson."
Emma did not answer her youngest daughter's silliness.
"I am going to buy a car," Henry said. "I
have decided, I am going to buy a car."
"But you have a car and a chauffeur," Lily smiled.
"I mean a car I can drive myself, one you and I can
go riding in together."
"Can I learn to drive Henry ?"
"One day, My Dear Lily, the suffragettes may campaign
for women to be allowed to drive but for now it is a thing for
"And you, My Dear Henry, are a gentleman of course."
Henry did not respond to his fiancÚ's taunt."
"I am going to talk with Her Ladyship," Joseph said,
"Lord Henry and Lily should have a chaperone. They are seeing a lot of
one another now."
"They have been friends since they were children,"
"But they are not children any longer. Lily
will be seventeen in the new year and His Lordship is already nineteen."
Emma thought that perhaps her husband was right.
"I do not like addressing you as Sullivan," Lily said
to her maid. "You have become a friend and I so much appreciate all you
do for me."
"It is my job Miss."
"Well I think of you as a sister. I have lots of
sisters but you are a special sister. I think, if you will allow me, I
would like to call you Sis."
"If that is your wish Miss."
"It is Sis, and it is also my wish that you start
calling me Lily."
The Buckingham Palace charity diner was firmly in
everyone's diary. Lily was excited, she had seen the Queen at the
coronation in Westminster Abbey, of course, but this time she was going
to meet her personally and possibly His Majesty as well. What girl
would not be excited ?
Sis was excited for Lily and, although she would
never have admitted it, was jealous. Glad was jealous as well but had it
in her child's mind that one day she would marry the King's grandson.
Joseph and Emma were pleased for their daughter but
Joseph continued to feel that Lily was moving in circles too far above
her station in life. There had not been any more talk of debutants
although secretly Joseph had to admit to himself he would be proud to be
the father of a Deb.
The Dowager Countess was busy planning. She was
organising her gown and that Lily would wear. They would again be
staying with her old friend the Duchess of Bedford in Tavistock Square.
She would never allow her emotions to show, that simply was not
something someone of her breeding would do, but she did love her adopted
granddaughter. A time would come when she would need to take her
grandson to one side and make sure he took Lily Bedson to be his wife.
Lord Henry Wilton ached for the day when his secret
engagement need be a secret no longer. He would not wait until Lily was
twenty-one years old. She would be eighteen in just over one year, in
January 1908. It would then be right for him to ask Joseph Bedson for
his daughter's hand. Lord Henry had been brought up not to show emotion,
it just was not the British way, but it was hard. He ached so much with
love for his secret fiancÚ.
Far away in Sam Lord's Castle on the Wilton Caribbean
estate the Earl had no idea or care about what was happening in England.
The sea journey had been taxing but the warm climate and clear air made
Richard Tadwell feel better than he had been in many years. He knew he
had raised his only son well and the family line would be safe in his
hands as soon as he took a wife. Two, perhaps three, years in retirement
then the Earl would be ready to rejoin his Countess.
Lord Henry had his new car and learned to drive it.
He was a good driver. proudly he pulled up outside The Bridge
House. "Is this not a magnificent piece of science and engineering Mr
"If you like modern things like that I suppose it
"Please Mr Bedson, may I have our permission to take
Lily for a drive ?"
Joseph Bedson hesitated.
"Perhaps you would like to come, ask Mrs Bedson to
join us. There are four seats so let us all go for a drive. Bring
Puppydog Victoria along as well."
"I think the dog would be better staying at home,"
Joseph said. "Gladys will look after him."
Within one hundred yards Lily loved this form of
transport. Within half a mile Emma too favoured the new horseless
carriage. After two miles even Joseph Bedson was a little less
"It is called an internal combustion engine," Henry
said then proceeded to explain the workings of the car's propulsion
"What did you say it was called ?"
"The internal combustion engine Mr Bedson."
"Are you sure it is not the infernal
combustion engine ?" Joseph Bedson attempted to make a joke. Lily had
never in all her life heard her father make a joke.
Joseph was seated in the front of he car alongside
Henry with Emma and Lily in the rear seats. Lily leaned forward, placed
a hand on Henry's shoulder then asked, "How fast are we going ?"
"About twenty miles an hour."
"How fast does a train travel Father ?"
"Faster than twenty miles an hour but a train runs on
rails which control its direction."
"Oh Henry could you drive us to London for the dinner
at The Palace ?"
Henry laughed. "Grandmamma would never agree to that.
She has only just started to accept the railway. You will be taking the
train to London with a horse and carriage to take you to and from the
stations both here and in London."
"A wise lady, your grandmother," Joseph commented.
"I have to say," Emma said, "I find this all
very exciting. I would be happy to travel in a motor car any time
I need to."
"But you never travel anywhere Mother Dear," Lily
"Another wise lady," Joseph added.
"Times are changing," Henry said. "I predict a day
will come when every family in the land will own a motor car."
"Not in my lifetime," Joseph said.
"Would you care to wager on that Mr Bedson ?"
"If it were not for the fact that I am not a
betting man, that Young Lord Henry Wilton would be an easy way to make
"Two men, Mr Henry Royce and Mr Charles Rolls have
started a motor company. Perhaps we should found a new Wilton enterprise
Mr Bedson, The Tadwell Motor Vehicle Company Limited."
"Are you formally asking my advice in accord with
your father's wishes ?"
Henry wondered if this relaxed conversation had not
actually given birth so something which would be worth perusing. "It is
something we could perhaps talk about Mr Bedson."
Lily had never known her father to be so relaxed and
talkative. Was it something about the motor car that was causing this
strange effect ?
"There are two brothers in America who have made a
flying machine ?"
"I trust you are not proposing The Tadwell Flying
Machine Company Limited. That is an invention that will never
succeed, not in my life time nor the lifetime of my great-grand children
Henry thought Joseph was wrong but dismissed flying
machines as his mind turned round the idea of Tadwell Motor Vehicles.
That idea has potential and, yes, he would discuss it with his father's
appointed mentor. he also had another suggestion.
"I think, Mr Bedson, that every business head in the
Wilton group of companies should be given, as part of their job, a
Emma silently thrilled at the young Lord's
"Speaking as Wilton Mine's manager I have no wish to
learn to drive."
"No, no Mr Bedson you would have your own driver, a
chauffeur. Indeed the chauffeur we have at Tadwell Hall never has
anything to do so let him become your driver."
Emma wanted to shout out "Yes" but knew her husband would
not approve of such an outburst. Joseph did not comment on
his employer's suggestion.
"Can I please take you all back to The Hall ?" Henry asked. "Come
and have tea with me. Cook is a wizard with cakes and I never have
anyone to share them with. Her Victoria Sponge, names after Her Late
Majesty, is a delight."
"My wife makes a delicious Victoria Cake," Joseph said.
"I have an idea," Lily said. "We could have a cake sale in the
village in aid of the orphanage. Mother you would make cakes wouldn't
you ? Henry, Cook would help I am sure. Father could we have the sale
at The Bridge House."
"I think, perhaps Lily, we could."
They were met at the front door of Tadwell Hall by the butler, "We
will go through to the sitting room," Henry said. "You can serve us with
tea and Cook's famous Victoria Sponge. Ask my grandmother to come and
"A letter has come for you My Lord, it is from Barbados."
"Father ?" Henry said. "That is not his handwriting."
"I think you will find, My Lord, it is from the island's Governor."
"What does he want ?"
When they were all in the sitting room and waiting for Henry's
butler, Hughes, to bring the tea and cake Henry opened his letter. He
read it in silence. Everyone knew that it was not good news.
"It's Father," Henry said. "He is dead."
Instinctively out of respect Joseph Bedson stood up, his wife and
Lily copied his example.
"It has taken two weeks for the letter to get here. His funeral has
taken place, he has been buried in the Parish Church of Saint Philip on
the island. The letter is from The Governor General, he says I should go
A smiling Hughes came in with a tray, he was followed by a footman
carrying the cake. They saw everyone standing up and looking solemn and
their faces changed.
"It's Father, Hughes. He is dead. I am now the Earl, I am too young
to be an Earl. I have to go to Barbados. Mr Bedson will you come with me
? Hughes is my grandmother at home."
"My deepest condolences My Lord." Hughes looked towards the footman
indicating he should leave. "I am afraid Her Ladyship is out at the
moment. I do not know where she has gone, her carriage left about an
"My Lord," Joseph said, "I am so deeply sorry to hear such sad news."
Henry held out two hands towards Lily who stepped forward to hold
them. Their eyes me and silently said so much to one another. Eventually
Henry let go and returned his attention to Joseph. "Please come with me
Mr Bedson, I really do not want to go on my own."
"I will, of course My Lord, but if you are to be away would it not be
better for me to remain here in England and take care of your interests
"Yes, Mr Bedson you are right but I need someone with me."
"Would Her Ladyship be going ?"
"Oh I have to tell her the news. Oh no ! Yes, she will want to go I
am sure but I need someone I can trust to be my side. Hughes would you
come with me ?"
"Me My Lord ?"
"Please, if you would."
"Of course My Lord."
"Hughes, would you be so kind as to speak to Mr Chamberlain's office,
he is Colonial Secretary, and ask for any help you need then can you
arrange passage. Grandmother will need to take her maid, I will take my
valet and you had better take a footman to take care of your needs. We
need to take berths on the next available ship."
"Of course My Lord but I do not need to take a footman, I can look
after my own requirements."
Lily's heart was bleeding for Henry who was so terribly distressed.
The new Earl of Tadwell was not maintaining a traditional still upper
lip. His butler politely excused himself, saying he needed to start
making arrangements. He had no wish to allow his presence to add to his
"I knew my father was going to die," Henry tried to explain. "His
illness would never have got better but I did not expect the end to come
quite so soon. I am sorry, of course I am, but that is not why I am
distressed. Forgive me, you should not have to see me like this. I am
Lily stepped forward and again took Henry's hands. Their eyes met and
he tried to smile.
"It is just that I am not ready yet to become the Earl of Tadwell. I
am too young."
"You are a fine man," Joseph said. "I know you will make a great
"Now I have to tell Grandmamma. I will do it, of
course I will, but I am not looking forward to having to do it. If she
sees me in this state she will be angry."
"Allow me to make a suggestion," Joseph said. "Tell Her Ladyship in
the morning after you have had a good night's sleep. Take some time to
compose yourself and settle your mind."
Lily squeezed Henry's hand and was about to speak but her father
spoke first. It was as if there had been some meeting of minds as Joseph
Bedson shared the words that were in her mind.
"Henry, explain to your butler that you will dining out this evening
then come to The Bridge House and have dinner with my family. Spend the
evening with us."
"What are we planning for dinner ?" Joseph said to his wife.
"Cook has prepared a shepherd's pie with vegetables from the garden."
Lily had wanted to invite Henry to The Bridge House and was amazed
when her father extended the invitation without the need for prompting.
He had been a different man, firstly in the car as they drove about then
in the way he discretely yet firmly supported Lord Henry, now he was
offering a hnd of friendship. When the time came for Henry to seek his
permission for Lily to to become his bride surely her father would give
It was not hard for Henry to share the news with his grandmother.
After a warm evening with the Bedson Family and a sound night's sleep
the words were not difficult to form.
"My Lord," The Dowager Countess gave a curtsey. "You have my deepest
sympathy for your loss. As the new Earl of Tadwell you can rely on my
loyalty and complete support."
Henry had inherited an earldom, not the throne of England. he found
his grandmother's action a little strange.
Two days later the party left for The Caribbean. There was Lord Henry
and his valet, The Dowager Countess and her maid together with Hughes
the butler. All would be away for six weeks, returning in time for Lily
and the Dowager Countess to be able to attend the charity dinner at
Buckingham palace. There was not a lot for the party to on the Barbados
estate beyond showing respect for the late Earl and meeting those who
wished to offer their condolences. A memorial service was held in the
Cathedral Church of Saint Michael and All Angels. Every minute he was
away Lord Henry Wilton, the Seventh Earl of Tadwell missed his beloved
Lily. Every minute she longed for his return.
her intended cake sale into a weekly event. With the cook at Tadwell
Hall having only the servants to cater for she produced an abundance of
confectionary for sale every Friday. The Bedson cook rose to the
challenge and did all she could to match the output. Every Friday the
village families delighted in Lily's sale. Joseph took on the role of
treasurer for Lily's orphanage fund which took in more money as week
"I think," he said after counting the coins one Friday evening, "that
when he returns you and Earl Henry should make a visit to Princess
"Yes. I think it would be good. Lord Henry can drive you there.
Mother and I will come along as well, of course."
"How much money have you raised ?" Henry asked on his return.
"Fourteen pounds, ten shillings and eleven pence."
"That is a fortune." Henry was impressed and much surprised. "I will
"Oh Henry, how generous. Those poor orphans. I think about them a
lot. I wonder how terrible it must be to be an orphan."
"I am an orphan," Henry replied.
"Oh dearest Henry, I did not mean it in that way. Those poor
children at The Princess Alice Orphanage, they have nothing and they
have nobody. You must be one of the richest men in England."
"And I have you," Henry said.
"When can we go to the orphanage ? Can it be soon ? There is
something strange about Father, he has changed. It was his idea to visit
the orphanage so let's make the visit before he changes his mind."
"Your father does not appear to me to be the kind of person who
changes his mind. We can go on Saturday. I will get Cook to give us a
picnic hamper then we can have a special day out."
"Oh Henry Wilton I do love you."
Joseph and Emma readily agreed with Henry's plan. The Dowager
Countess was not so impressed and was vocally far from enthusiastic.
"It is all very well supporting the orphanage and Lily is to be
congratulated for her weekly cake sales but the orphans themselves are
not part of our lives. What purpose can there be in actually going to
see them ?"
"They are human beings Grandmamma, just the same as you and I."
"Now you are being silly Henry. Haw can you possibly say a waif and
stray is on the same level as a peer of he realm ?"
"This is the twentieth century Grandmamma."
"The Rich man at his castle, the poor
man at his gate. God made them high and lowly and ordered their
estate." Do you remember those words or did you not sing them as a
child in your school ? I am sure Mrs Bedson has the
children sing them in her village school."
"They are words in a child's hymn. They are not the word of God."
"You, Henry, are the Seventh Earl of Tadwell and I am only the
Dowager Countess but I do not approve of what you intend to do."
"My mind is set." Henry uncharacteristically stood up to his
grandmother. Lily and I will be visiting the orphanage on Saturday."
"You are the Earl, I am merely the Dowager Countess."
"Yes, Your Ladyship that is correct !"
Henry could not believe he had managed to say those words. He made his
exit from the room before anything further could be said.
Saturday morning Henry, Lily, Emma and Joseph set off for the Princess
Alice Orphanage in Sutton Coldfield near to Birmingham. Joseph entered
the day in his new light-hearted and jovial mood. What had happened to
him ? This was so
different to his usual countenance. Lily wondered if Henry should
take the opportunity to announce their secret engagement by seeking her
father's approval but she did not wish to risk any change in her
father's attitude towards her fiancÚ.
"The Countess Lady Wilton of Tadwell," Lily said silently over and
over in her mind. "I am The Countess Lady Wilton of Tadwell." Was Lily
too simple a name for a grand lady ? Perhaps she should call herself
Lillian but would her parents approve ? Probably not. She had been
christened Lily. Why had her parents given her the abbreviated name ?
Could a grand lady be called simply Lily ?
Lily had just that single name, no middle name. Was Henry just Henry
or did he have other names ? What could they be ? Charles ? Edward ?
His father had been Richard ? Henry Charles Edward Richard Wilton, The
Seventh Earl of Tadwell. All names of kings.
At the orphanage they were met by Mr Litener, Head Warden of Princess
Alice Orphanage. He made a respectful bow to Henry and called him My
Lord throughout all their conversations. Joseph was Sir and
Emma Madam. Lilly he addresses as Miss Lily. Lily smiled
and pretended he was addressing her as My Lady.
The orphanage was not the sad place Lily had expected it to be but it
was nothing like her home at The Bridge House. How fortunate she, her
brothers and sisters were.
The orphanage had its own farm for the boys and a large sewing room
for the girls. There was a choir for both the boys and the girls. It
was in the sewing room that Lily met a young assistant house mother,
Miss Dorothy Albon. They were not formally introduced but struck up a
conversation while Mr Litener was showing Hernry, her mother and father
some of the orphan's work. Lily allowed Dorothy to call her My Lady
twice before correcting her.
Something told Lily that she and Dorothy would become friends.
The four were taken into Warden Linton's sitting room where two of
the orphan girls served them with tea.
"We try to train some of our female residents," he said, "to work as
maids in smaller houses. They would not be suited to become members of
staff on grand estates like Tadwell Hall but in the smaller houses they
do relatively well."
"What about the boys ?" Joseph asked.
"Farming is their main route to work. It is not easy to place orphans
into situations where living space is provided with an
occupation. Farming does meet that need. Our boys could never be
footmen. That is why we want to start this new workshop."
"But labourers do not receive accommodation with their employment,"
"We are hoping some parish churches may open hostels."
"I am sure we could employ a number," Joseph said. "Could we not
Henry ? There are two vacant cottages on the estate."
"Of course, Mr Bedson."
Warden Linton wondered how an employee of the Earl could address him
by his Christian name yet in reply the Earl gave his employee the
courtesy of calling him Mister.
There then followed a short concert with the boys and girls
presenting the group with a number of songs. One in particular appealed
to Lily. Before the children began to sing again she interrupted the
"Excuse me, Mr Linton, can you tell me what is the name of that song
Before Warden Linton could reply Henry gave the answer. "Santa Lucia,
it is an Italian folk song from Naples."
"It is so beautiful. Please, Mr Linton, could the children sing it
Linton looked to the Earl who nodded.
On their return to Madeley Henry sent for his butler. "We do not
employ a boot boy do we ?"
"No My Lord, with just yourself and Her ladyship there is not the
work to keep a boot boy occupied. Your valet and Her Ladyship's maid
take care of everything."
"Do the servants have shoes that need to be cleaned ?"
"They look after their own needs on an individual basis My Lord."
"I want you to contact Warden Linton at Princess Alice orphanage and
employ one of their boys to work here as a boot boy."
"If that is your wish My Lord."
"You should not have done that," The Dowager Countess did not
approve. "Employing a orphan to work in the house. Thank goodness you
grew out of your idea to have a black servant. But now this !"
"Queen Victoria had a black servant."
"He was an Indian not a descendent of a slave !"
"My mind is made up Grandmamma. I intend asking Mr Bedson to look at
all of the Wilton affairs and see if we can employ any more orphans."
"They can always sweep the chimneys I suppose," she replied under her
"What was that ?"
"Nothing My Lord."
"So you are the young lady who makes the cakes."
"Not me, Your Majesty. It is Cook and the cook at Tadwell Hall who
bake the cakes. I just sell them."
"Could you bake a cake yourself Miss Bedson ?"
"I have thought of trying Your Majesty."
"I urge you to try Miss Bedson. Would you then please bake a cake for
"If that is your wish your Majesty."
"Thank you, Miss Bedson. You are very kind."
Lily did not have the slightest idea how to bake a cake.
"How does one actually start to bake a cake ?" The Duchess of
Bedford said the next day. "I am sure I have never cooked anything in my
entire life. Where does one find the things needed to make such a thing
as a cake ?"
"That, My Dear, is what servants are for," The Dowager Countess
"But the King's word is law so if he instructs Lily to make a cake
then she has to do it," The Duchess commented.
"Perhaps I could try something simple," Lily said. "Maybe a fruit
The Duke looked up from his newspaper. "I have heard," he said, "that
His Majesty is partial to a slice of bread pudding."
"I am sure I have never heard of such a thing as bread pudding."
"Neither have I and I am absolutely certain I would never, ever want
to eat such a dreadful thing."
Lily did not try to make bread pudding. Neither the cook at The
Bridge House nor Tadwell Hall admitted to having a recipe for such a
delight. Instead Lily produced a delicious fruit cake.
"The King will delight with that," Cook said.
His Majesty was staying at Windsor Castle. Lord Henry sent the cake
to him, entrusting it to the charge of a footman. The chauffeur drove
the footman and cake to the castle.
Lily's Friday cake sales became a firm diary entry for every family
in Madeley. The Duchess of Bedford sent a car every week to collect
delicacies for her week-end house guests. As other aristocratic families
and members of the gentry came to learn of the sales so they started to
send servants to collect supplies. Every week Josph Bedson sent the
money to Warden Linton at Princess Alice Orphanage. Ebery week Dorothy
Albon wrote to thank Lilly.
As Christmas approached Henry had an idea. One evening he drove to
The Bridge House to share it with his mentor.
"I would like to have a Christmas concert at The Hall," he explained.
"We can use the ballroom, knock some dust off it, it hasn't been used
for too many years. We can have several performances if enough people
want to come."
Joseph nodded as he listened.
"The band from the mine can plan and the orphan's choir can sing."
"Please can they sing that song ? What was it called ?"
"Santa Lucia, Lily."
"Yes, that's it."
"We can have two concerts every year," Henry continued. "One at
Christmas and one in the summer."
"An excellent idea," Joseph smiled.
The Dowager Countess did not smile.
"You want to bring coal miners and orphans into Tadwell Hall ? What
ever next ? Is it not enough that you brought an orphan into the
servants hall as a boot boy ? I understand Bedson has engaged three
more to work on the farm."
"My Dearest Grandmamma, if you are not comfortable with the
arrangement you can always take up residence in the Dower House."
"You foolish Earl !" She replied with just a faint hint of a smile.
"If you ever get around to proposing marriage to Miss Bedson The Dower
House will become her home for the period of your engagement. Then when
she does becomes The Countess of Tadwell I will retire to The Dower
Henry patiently counted the days to January 1908, January17th 1980
when Lily would be eighteen years old and their engagement could become
official. The Dowager Countess had made her wishes clear to her
grandson and while he never responded she knew that in time Lily Bedson
would become the Countess of Tadwell and her official
Joseph's fondness for Lord Henry was clear for everyone to see,
particularly clear for Lily to see. She was certain that when Henry
asked for her hand her father would give their union his blessing.
Lily's weekly cake sales continued. Every now and then a request
would come from Buckingham Palace and a footman would be despatched with
a fruit cake for His Majesty. It was a long drive from Madeley to London
but the chauffeur took great pride in every journey. "The King is
getting far too round in the stomach," The Dowager Countess commented.
Neither the cook at The Bridge House nor Tadwell Hall and certainly
not Lily attempted to make bread pudding.
"Grandmother, I want you to know just how much I love you and how
much I respect you. You are not an easy person but you are the head of
our family and so I am here speaking with you about what, I hope, will
be the most important event in my life."
"Actually, Henry, you are the head of our family. There are only two
of us in the Wilton Family and it is you who is The Earl."
"Yes Grandmother." Henry tolerated his only relative's interruption
to his most carefully prepared speech. He was deliberately addressing
her as Grandmother and not Grandmamma. She was hoping with everything
in her mind and body that Lord Henry Wilton The Seventh Earl of Tadwell
was about to bring her life-long dream and desire into the realms of
reality. He was.
"It is usual," Henry continued, "for families in our position to
marry in order to strengthen the dynasty. It is not the usual way to
take a wife out of love."
"Your grandfather loved me." Henry was interrupted again but the
words were supportive so he took no objection to them. "I loved your
grandfather and I know for certain just how much your father loved your
"Thank you," Henry said. "Grandmother, there is someone I love,
someone I love very deeply and I want to be my wife. She is not of noble
birth but I do love her so deeply. I want to ask Mr Bedson if I may
take his daughter, Lily's, hand in marriage."
Henry watched in amazement as a tear formed in his grandmother's eye
and spilled on to her cheek. She regained her composure and began to
speak. "You have made an old lady very happy My Lord. I was born as the
third daughter of The Marquis of Tavistock, later The Duke of Bedford.
The then Duke was my grandfather. I was not of any great significance
in the social order of our family. I was born in 1831, King William was
on the throne so I even predate the reign of Her Majesty Queen
It was clear to Henry that his grandmother was about to share her
life story. He silently hoped there would be no mention of her affair
with The Prince of Wales.
"You are right to talk about how families like ours organise their
marriages, love is not always a part and indeed it seldom is. I was the
granddaughter of a duke but as the third daughter of the marquis I was
married off to a mere earl."
"Did I love my husband when we were first married ? No, I did not.
Did I love him throughout our years together ? I loved him with all my
heart. Before you even think about it Henry, my friendship with The
Prince of Wales was when I was younger than you are now !"
Henry had dreaded that subject being mentioned but was glad it had
been and relieved the liaison predated his grandmother's entry into the
"Just as you have inherited the title at a young age so The Fifth
Earl of Tadwell did the same. When your father was born the line was
secure. With a son in place to become the sixth earl I looked forward to
a daughter. My darling husband and I were never blessed with any more
The Dowager Countess swallowed hard as she concealed her emotions
before continuing her story. Lily was surprised by a change in her
father's being, Henry wondered if there some kind of contagion ? This
was not the style of his grandmother's usual countenance.
"Your father was a good man but we were never close. It is not done
in families of quality for a son to be close to his mother. A daughter,
yes but I was never blessed with a daughter."
"When your father met your mother, the daughter of a mere baronet, he
loved her in those first seconds. I loved her. Two weeks after they
were married my husband died and your father became the head of our
family. It was so wonderful when your mother was with child. You had to
be a boy so the line would go on but there could then be a girl. I never
had a daughter but soon I would have a granddaughter."
"Your mother was a wonderful and beautiful woman Henry. She was taken
from this world far too young. There never is a day when I do not look
at you and see her."
The Dowager Countess took a lace handkerchief and dapped away a tear.
She held up a hand. "Let me finish Henry, please let me finish."
"You are not the only person to love Lily Bedson. People, I am sure,
think that I am fond of her, that I patronise the child of a common
family. No Henry, I love her. Joseph and Emma Bedson are blessed with a
large family and I envy them. I envy them Lily. To me she is the
daughter, the granddaughter, I never had. If you were offered to take
in marriage the daughter of a marquis, a duke, a royal duke or the king
himself I would want you to turn her down in order to take the hand of
Mr Joseph Bedson's Lily."
Henry made to speak but was again silenced.
"Now go and see Joseph Bedson, go and see him now. Ask him, plead
with him, beg him for his daughter's hand in marriage. Make Lily Bedson
Henry kissed her on the cheek.
"Father, Henry is here."
The Bridge House was accustomed to The Earl of Tadwell being a
regular visitor but generally it was known in advance that he would be
coming. The times he and Lily spent alone were usually taken when she
was at the Hall. Even though the older members of the family had moved
out The Bridge House was still a bustling home.
"Mr Bedson, may I speak with you ?"
"Alone if I may and when we have spoken could I also speak with you
and Mrs Bedson ?"
A glance from Joseph dismissed his wife, Lily and young Glad from the
room. "Glad take Puppy Victoria for a walk."
His Lordship looked serious and apprehensive although not burdened
"Mr Bedson, Sir," Henry began. He had been rehearsing the words but
now everything was confused. "Your daughter, Sir, Lily, Sir, she will be
eighteen years old in January, Sir. We have been friends, Sir, since we
were children, Sir. I love your daughter, Sir. I want to ask your
permission, Sir, to ask Lily to be my wife, Sir. I want to marry her,
Joseph Bedson smiled.
"I would like to propose to her Sir on her birthday, Sir. Do I have
your permission, Sir ?"
"Lord Henry Wilton indeed you do."
"Can I speak with Mrs Bedson now please Sir. Lily must not know Sir,
I want to propose to her on her birthday, Sir."
"I'll send Lily off on an errand then invite my wife to join us.
Perhaps it may be easier if you let me tell her the news." Joseph smiled
then added the word, "sir."
"How would you like to be the mother of a countess ?" Joseph asked,
trying to show a serious face.
"It all depends who the Earl is," Emma replied. "If it is Lord Henry
The Seventh Earl of Tadwell then, yes, I would rather like that."
Henry was relieved.
"This will be my first Christmas as Earl of Tadwell," Henry began, "I
am going to start a tradition which I want all generations that come
after me to observe."
"Yes, Grandmother. Let me explain and then you can help me."
To the rest of the world The Dowager Countess of Tadwell was every
bit a aloof and austere as she had ever been yet to Henry, since
learning of his intentions towards Lily Bedson she had softened her
stance. Respecting his wish not to propose to Lily until her eighteenth
birthday in the New Year she was careful not to change anything during
the times when she and Lily were together. Without this shift in
attitude Henry would not have contemplated sharing his thinking with his
"Every Christmas Eve I will visit Princess Alice Orphanage to take
gifts for the children."
"This year I will ask Lily, Mr and Mrs Bedson to come with me."
"I am sure you would not want to come as well Grandmother so I will
respect your wishes."
"That boot boy, the child you brought here from the orphanage, I
spoke to him the other day."
Henry was surprised.
"He was a pleasant enough child. I think I may let him shine my
Henry was very surprised.
"If all the waifs are like him then I think I will come with you on
Henry was so surprised he was certain this was a dream.
"So that is your tradition then ? A pleasant enough idea."
"Oh no Grandmother. Well it is part of it but just a small part."
"Please do not tell me you intend to invite all the waifs here to
spend Christmas Day with us."
"No Grandmother. Christmas Day this year will be just the two of us.
Next year we will have the new Countess but that is not my tradition,
the plan for my tradition I mean."
"You are not making a lot of sense Henry, spit it out."
"The day after Christmas Day, the twenty-sixth of December, the staff
have their Christmas lunch in the servants hall. I am going to move
that to our dining room."
"I am happy to support that."
"Cook always prepares lunch, she will do it again this year but in
the summer Lily and I will be married so for Christmas 1908 we will
cook, Lily and I."
"Are you sure about that Henry ?"
"Yes Grandmother, I am."
"Then I will support you."
"The staff always serve themselves at Christmas, just as they do for
every meal in the servants hall. At Christmas from now on the family
will wait on table and serve them."
"In that area of your tradition, Henry, I
most certainly do not support you."
the morning of Christmas Eve Henry and The Dowager Countess drove to The
Bridge House. Her Ladyship had not relented about serving the meal but
it was a great concession on her part to consent to travel in a motor
car. Before they left for Princess Alice Orphanage Henry and the
Dowager Countess gave gifts to each member of the Bedson Family. The
Dowager Countess presented Joseph and Emma with a painting.
previous Earl commissioned this work," The Dowager Countess began. "It
was painted in 1779 by William Ashford. Although he is regarded as an
Irishman he was born and brought up in Birmingham. The bridge in the
painting is not the bridge of your Bridge House but a bridge somewhere
on our estate. Do not ask me where, I have no idea. I would like you to
"Thank you My Lady," Joseph and Ema said together.
Henry had selected with much care the gift for Glad, Lily's youngest
and favourite sister. he gave her a bound volume of The Girls Own Paper.
"That should keep you busy reading until next Christmas."
"There is some sound advice in there among the silly stories," Her
Ladyship added, "so read it with care."
Articles in The Girls Own Paper Album explained in great detail how
young ladies should dress. Yes, there were stories but there was also
advice on suitable hobbies and a special feature on the legend of Santa
Puppydog Victoria, although it had been a while since she was a puppy,
received a gift. Cook at The Hall had baked a pie containing all of
Victoria's favourite food.
wage the King's pet dog will not receive a Christmas gift as good as
that," Lily smiled.
Life was perfect. It was perfect for Lily at The Bridge House and it
was perfect for Henry at Tadwell Hall. Next Christmas the two families
would be one. Lily and Henry exchanged gifts but it was the smiles they
exchanged that were the most precious.
Even The Dowager Countess had to admit there was something very
special about their Christmas Eve visit to the Princess Alice
Orphanage. Warden Linton had prepared a concert where the orphans sang
carols. To finish the singing they delighted Lily with Santa Lucia.
Henry had an idea. He would start to work on that idea as soon as
Christmas was over but for a few more weeks that idea would have to
remain a secret.
Christmas cake was served. "I am afraid it is not quite up to your
baking standards Miss Bedson."
"It is delightful," Lily said. "Quite delicious."
Dorothy Albon was there and pleased to see Lily again. "I do
appreciate the letters you send every week."
"We appreciate your support and the money you send every week."
Dorothy paused then said, "Lily I would like you to meet two people, can
you come with me for a few minutes ?"
Dorothy beckoned to two small children who were standing shyly at the
side of the room. A boy and a girl, perhaps six or seven years old. They
were holding hands and did not respond to Dorothy's finger calling them
"They arrived yesterday," Dorothy explained, "and have yet to learn
they must obey instructions."
"Let's walk over to them," Lily said, "come on. Who are they ?"
"Allow me to introduce you to the McDonald Twins, Violet and Ronald."
"Hello," Lily smiled.
The children tried to smile in response.
"Say hello to the lady," Dorothy ordered.
"Hello My Lady," the little boy said. His sister made to curtsey.
McDonald Twins mother died last week so they have come to live here."
"What about their father ?"
" He's in prison."
Their father may be in prison but Lily thought her friend was being
unkind and harsh to say so. Those poor, poor children. She knelt down
so she was the same height as they were. "Violet, Ronald how old are you
"Seven," Ronald said. "And my sister is seven, we are twins."
What kind of Christmas would these two waifs have ?
"Have you had any cake to eat ?" Lily asked.
"We do not like cake," Violet said.
"Our mother used to make bread pudding," Ronald added. "We like bread
"I happen to know someone else who likes bread pudding."
"Do you My Lady ?"
"Yes, I do, and my name is Lily."
Throughout Christmas Day Lily found herself thinking about Violet and
Henry spent the day silently counting down the days to Lily's
birthday. Just three more weeks to go.
Lily delighted in being a part of the servant lunch in the grand
surroundings of Tadwell Hall's dining room. The staff at The Bridge
House were not resident so spent Christmas in their own homes.
Glad was delighted with the book and simply could not put it down.
Puppydog Victoria enjoyed her present. She hoped Cook would soon bake
for her another pie.
The Dowager Countess sent for the boot boy and gave him a shilling to
The weather over Christmas was not at all close to the sentiments
expressed in the carols. It was not cold, it did not snow, the sun did
not shine and clouds covered the sky. They covered the sky both in the
daytime and at night so no stars shone. It rained all day on New Years
Eve and on January the first. Friday January 3rd would be the first cake
sale of the New Year so Lily was busy preparing for the event.
"Just seventeen days to go," Henry said to himself. "Fifteen if you
do not count today, New Years Day, and you do not count Lily's actual
When Joseph sent the money from that first 1908 cake sale to Princess
Alice Orphanage Lily asked that a letter be included from herself to
was pleased to meet on Christmas Eve two new residents of Princess Alice
orphanage, Violet and Ronald McDionald.
I feel so sad for these two little people and wanted to ask you how
My own life is so good yet theirs is so sad. I cannot stop thinking
The reply came.
Dear Miss Bedson
The children you asked after are well.
Your support for Princes Alice Orphanage is very much appreciated as
is you interest in these two inmates.
Warden Princess Alice Orphanage
Violet, that was a lovely name. There were not any violets growing in
the garden at The Bridge House, Lily would make sure her father planted
some in the spring.
Friday 17th January was a bright sunny day, although still many weeks
away there was a hit of spring in the air. Lily was excited about her
birthday but Friday was a cake sale day which was always the busiest day
of the week. There were orders from the Duchess of Bedford and King
Edward as well as many grand families in the counties of Staffordshire,
Warwickshire and as far away as Northamptonshire.
After breakfast Joseph and Emma gave their daughter her birthday
gift, a solid gold watch. There were so many presents to be unwrapped
and cards to open. Dorothy had sent a card, inside the envelope was
another card, a handmade card from Ronald and his sister Violet. Dorothy
must have organised that, perhaps she was not so fierce as Lily thought.
"Father why is there a copy of The Times on the table ? You do not
usually have The Times here at home."
"There is an article in it about the Wilton banking interests in
America. I want to read it later," Joseph lied.
"That does not sound very interesting," Lily smiled.
There was a knock at the front door. Lily's maid from The Hall had
come to wish her friend a happy birthday. "I will be in charge of the
cake sale today," Sullivan said, "You may help if you wish but only
help, you are not take charge."
mocked a curtsey. "Thank you My Lady."
There was another knock at the front door of The Bridge House. This
time it was Henry."
"Mr Bedson, Mrs Bedson may I take Lily away for a short time to give
her my birthday present ?"
"Of course you may My Lord."
Lily noticed her father's smile. What was he up to ?
"Where are we going Henry ?"
"For a walk."
"A walk ? Where to ?"
"To the bridge in that painting Grandmother gave to your parents for
"How far away is that ? I've never been here."
"Two or so miles."
"Two or so miles ! Henry what are you up to ?"
"Be patient my Dearest Lily. Be patient."
Beneath the bridge was a polished oak chest. Henry handed Lily the
key. "Open it, your gift is inside."
Lily was excited.
"A newspaper !" She exclaimed. "You have given me a newspaper ? Why
did we have to come here ? Father had a newspaper at home. What is
Among the announcements on the front page of The Times for Friday
17th January 1908 one read:
Mr and Mrs Joseph of The Bridge House in the County of Staffordshire
are pleased to announce the betrothal of their daughter Lily to Lord
Henry Wilton The Seventh Earl of Tadwell.
Lily let out a scream of joy and happiness.
"Lily Bedson will you do me the greatest honour of becoming my wife."
A tear rolled down Lily's cheek.
"Our secret engagement is a secret no more and to let the whole world
know I want you accept this and wear my ring."
Another tear rolled down Lily's cheek.
Waiting for their return to The Bridge House were The Dowager
Countess and a liveried footman who had travelled all the way from
Windsor with a special message.
Henry and Lily allow me to
offer my warmest congratulations.
There was a post script.
Lily when are you going to
add bread pudding to your cake sales ?
The Dowager Countess handed Lily a key. "This, My Dear, is the key to
The Dower House. I think it appropriate that you reside there for the
period of your engagement. You will never have to use it, of course.
Your butler will open the door for you.
"I don't have a butler," Lily said.
"You do now My Dear. You also have a cook, a parlour maid,
housekeeper and of course you will keep Sullivan as your personal lady's
"Five servants to look after one person," Joseph said to himself. He
had adjusted his stance on Lily moving up society's ladder but five
servants to look after one person, that was excessive.
"I have another birthday gift for my future Countess. Mr Bedson would
you help me ?"
They left momentarily then returned with a phonograph. Henry had
already wound up the clockwork motor. Turning the lever the machine
began to spin and the sound of Princess Alice Orphanage Choir singing
Santa Lucia filled the room.
"Oh Henry, my favourite song. How beautiful."
"There is more," The Dowager Countess said. "Tell them Henry."
Henry smiled. "I think perhaps your father should tell you. He and I
have planned this together."
"It was your idea Henry so please let me defer to you."
"Some families," Henry began, "send their sons on a grand tour of
Europe. They visit Venice, Rome, Naples and sometimes to Athens. We
Wiltons have never done that. For Easter and to celebrate our pending
union I am taking you to Venice where that song will be sung to you as
you ride in a gondola."
"Oh Henry !"
"Your mother and father will be joining
"And I will be there as chaperone."
"Grandmother, I do not think that Mr and Mrs Bedson need a
chaperone." Henry's joke was appreciate by all save for The Dowager
Countess of Tadwell.
Although All Saints Church in Madeley would have been Joseph's choice
for the wedding it was much too small. Stoke Minster also could not hold
all who would want to attend so plans were made to hold the wedding in
Saint Philips Cathederal in Birmingham.
"This will be the society wedding of the year," The Dowager Countess
That year would not be 1908, nor would it be 1909. The wedding of
Lord Henry Wilton and Lily Bedson was set for Saturday 18th June 1910.
The Earl and his new Countess would then spend a month at Sam Lord's
Castle on the family estate in Barbados.
A long engagement was not what either Lily or Henry wanted but as The
Dowager Countess insisted, there was so much to do.
Lily was excited but very concerned that she now had no choice but to
make some bread pudding for the king. This became a more important and
urgent priority for her than any planning for her society wedding. The
newly appointed cook at The Dower House made a suggestion.
"I have a friend, Emily, who may be able to help," she said. "I know
she makes bread pudding for her husband."
"Oh do ask her please."
The Dower House had a telephone, it was installed at the same time as
one was provided at Tadwell Hall. It had never been used and Her
Ladyship did not approve of the instrument. Lily decided it was time to
try it out. With her butler at hand and ready to offer assistance Lily
"Operator, could you please connect me to Sutton Coldfield
Two-Nine-One ? I wish to speak to Warden Linton."
Within seconds Lily could hear Warden Linton's voice. She explained
about the King's request for bread pudding and asked that Dorothy Albon
bring the McDonald Twins to The Dower House to assist with the baking.
"I will send a car to collect them," she said. "It will be with you
at nine o'clock next Thursday so the bread pudding can be baked for the
next day's sale with some being sent to His Majesty."
As Lily ended the conversation she realised the way she had spoken,
giving an order and not making a request, must have sounded just like
The Dowager Countess.
The catering team assembled in the kitchen of Tadwell Hall, Tadwell
was chosen as it was the largest kitchen but the cooks from The Bridge
House and The Dower House were both present. Cook's friend, Emily, was
in charge. Dorothy was present with Ronald and Violet.
"I think we had best make a lot," Lily said. "When everyone learns
where the bread pudding will be going they will all want some."
"When it is cooked will you sprinkle sugar on the top ?" Ronald
"Certainly My Dear."
"Mummy always sprinkled sugar on the top of bread pudding when she
cooked it." Violet said.
Lily took Dorothy to the far corner of the kitchen out of the hearing
of the children. "Why is their father in prison ?" She asked.
"He has been in and out of prison for most of his life, one petty
crime after another. He is currently serving ten years with hard labour
for theft. The twins hardly know him and will have forgotten all about
his existence by the time he is finally set free."
"They are safe now and are being well looked after."
"I am sure they are but it is still terrible isn't it ?"
Henry arrived with a camera. "Let me take some photographs of your
Henry still had dreams of starting a motor car business but wondered
if a bakery may be a Wilton enterprise worthy of consideration.
Violet's eyes met Henry's and she smiled. He walked to speak with
"You came to the orphanage," Violet said.
"Yes, I remember you Violet."
"And you are My Lord."
"I am just Henry. I am an orphan as well." He kissed Violet on top
of her head.
"Will she never stop amazing me ?"
"Pardon," My Lord.
"No, not you Violet, my Grandmother. I will have to go and speak with
her. You go back to your cooking."
"Grandmother, I had no idea you knew your way down here to the
servants area of The Hall."
"I followed my nose. It smells good."
"Bread pudding ?"
"Henry, Dear, do not be such a snob. If bread pudding is good enough
for His Majesty then it is good enough for the likes of us."
January moved into February and February into March. Everyone was
then a quarter of the way through the year. Three months closer to a
society wedding but also just a few weeks before the holiday to Venice.
Lily would take Sullivan, her maid with her. Henry would take his
valet and The Dowager Countess would take her maid to Venice. Joseph and
Emma did not need anyone to look after them. Joseph had never become
accustomed to having servants in The Bridge House and regarded the high
level of staffing Lily now had around her at The Dower House as a vast
and unnecessary extravagance. Emma suggested it provided employment for
three people and that, in itself, was a good thing. Lily had her own
ideas about living alone in a large house with servants, when she
returned from Italy she wanted to discuss with The Dowager Countess the
appointment of one, perhaps, two more members of her household staff.
Lily stood in Saint Mark's Square and marvelled at all she could see.
Henry had prepared carefully for the visit.
"It is The Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint Mark," Henry explained. "It
is the cathedral for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice."
"It must be very old," Emma said.
"It dates back to 1092 when it was the chapel of The Doge. Today it
is connected to The Doge's Palace."
"And it is named after Saint Mark, one of the apostles ?" Joseph
said. Joseph was a member of The Church of England and did not approve
of the Roman Catholic church yet had to agree the cathedral was
magnificent in every way.
"Who was The Doge ?" Lily asked.
"Some people would tell you The Doge was a duke," Henry explained,
"but he was not an aristocrat and the title was not heretitory."
"Not so important as an English Earl," Lily smiled.
"No foreigner is as important as an Englishman," The Dowager Countess
"Ludovico Manin was the last Doge of Venice," Henry continued to show
off his knowledge. "He was forced to abdicate by Napoleon in 1797."
"That dreadful man has a lot to answer for," The Dowager Countess
"Those paintings are quite beautiful," Joseph observed.
"You wait until we get inside. There are more than one hundred square
yards of mosaic frescos."
"That is amazing, quite amazing."
"The architect," Henry was coming to the end of the history of the
cathedral he had learned, " was Domenico I Contarini."
After marvelling at the interior of Saint Mark's Henry was ready to
expand his knowledge of the history of Venice.
"The city dates back to four hundred years before Christ," Henry
explained. "People came here from prosperous cities within the Roman
Empire to form The City on the Water. This is a lagoon, tomorrow we will
explore some of the islands. This evening we will ride along The Grand
Canal on a gondola."
"You are very knowledgeable," Joseph said.
"I have been swatting it all up."
"It is unfortunate that you did not swat so hard in your studies when
you were at school."
"You didn't actually go to school, Grandmother, is that right ?"
"Daughters of dukes are tutored at home," The Dowager Countess
"As we ride down The Grand Canal we will pass under four bridges, I
will point of Rialto Bridge and The Bridge of Sighs. The Bridge of Sighs
was built to connect the prison with the interrogation room at The
Doge's Palace so those who crossed it sighed in anticipation of their
"The boats are called gondolas, is that right Henry ?" Lily said.
"And the person who rows a gondola is a gondolier ?"
"Didn't Gilbert and Sullivan write an opera about gondoliers ?"
"Indeed they did."
"I do not think," The Dowager Countess said, "that the songs of
William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan could be called opera !"
Five gondolas took the party on its ride along The Grand Canal of
Venice. Lily and Henry rode in one with Her Ladyship acting as
chaperone. Joseph and Emma Bedson were seated in the second with the
three servants occupying another. Two more gondolas were filled with
musicians and singers.
There was a beautiful melody of Italian songs which started and
finished with Santa Lucia.
Lily returned home to Madeley so full of joy and happiness. Henry was
a special person. It was going to be wonderful when she became The
Countess of Tadwell but that was still a long way away. Lily had plans
for the many months before her wedding.
"You can have as many servants as you need My Dear," The Dowager
Countess smiled. "One can never have too many servants."
"Not for me but for the guests I would like to have at The Dower
House this summer."
"Guests, what guests My Dear ?"
Lily was in training to become as formidable as her soon to be
Grandmother-in-law so was not daunted by the task now facing her as she
explained the need for more domestic staff.
"I have spoken with Warden Linton, there are one hundred and twenty
children at Princess Alice Orphanage. For two weeks in July and four in
August I intend to invite twenty children a week from the orphanage to
come to The Dower House for a holiday. I want them to live as if they
were the sons and daughters of nobility."
Lily waited for the explosive reaction from The Dowager Countess. It
did not come. Instead she said, "You will certainly need a scullery
maid, perhaps two. Cook will never be able to feed so many hungry little
mouths without help. You will need two more parlour maids and a
housekeeper. Definitely a housekeeper."
"Could the children have maids and valets ?" Lily dared to ask.
"That could be classed as going a little too far," The Dowager
Countess smiled. "Perhaps the orphans could share. One servant between
"What are you thanking me for ? It is you who is preparing to open
her home. Tell me what are you proposing to do with the children all
day, every day ?"
"We could make use of two childrens' nannies," Lily explained.
"Then I thought about hiring some entertainers, Punch and Judy, perhaps
some jugglers. I am sure the people of Madeley would take the children
fishing at the river, we could have a paper chase, the children could
"They could paint landscapes like the one by William Ashford," The
Dowager said, "the picture I gave to your parents."
"And Henry could bring his camera to take photographs."
"He could even take them for rides in that infernal motor car of
"So you approve of my idea My Lady ?"
"Lily Bedson, I hope you will find it in your heart to start calling
me Grandmother. Of course I approve of your idea."
"Thank you - Grandmother."
"Lily, a person of my generation and position is expected to be a
daunting and fierce person. I cannot say that I regard Edwardian England
to be of the same standing as Victorian England but beneath what you see
in me there does beat a heart."
"What worries me," Lily explained, "is where to find all the extra
staff. Could you help me ?"
"Of course you can borrow staff from The Hall and I am sure my
cousin, The Duke of Bedford, can lend us some of his servants for the
Lily's summer of holidays at The Dower House was a tremendous success
and was repeated again in 1909. Henry's newly formed tradition for
Christmas was repeated in its second year. Venice had been lovely and so
was the visit at Easter to Rome. New Year Day 1910 was very special for
both Henry and for Lily, it marked the start of the year when they would
finally be married.
There was no Easter holiday planned for that year, after the wedding.
In June The Earl and Countess of Tadwell would holiday for a month at
Sam Lord's Castle on the Wilton's Barbados estate.
On Friday 6th May 1910 King Edward VII died at Buckingham Palace.
Unlike when Queen Victoria died the news of the nation's loss spread
through the land far more quickly. In the same way as he had done before
Joseph Bedson called all members of his family together at The Bridge
House in order to share the news. Lily left The Dower House to be there.
It was, however, The Dowager Countess who summonsed Lily and Henry to
discuss the implications of the King's passing.
"My Dear, Dear Children," she began. "I do not know how to find the
correct words to speak to you now. The Empire is in mourning. The
coronation of King George will not be for a year at least. I am so
terribly sorry for you both but there simply can not be a society
wedding on the scale yours will be during the period of mourning.
Everything we have planned is going to have to be postponed until after
Lily's heart sank and Joseph found himself lost for words. Would King
Edward have wanted his passing to spoil their planned wedding ? Probably
not. Should the wedding be postponed ? Probably it should be. Could
everything be rearranged for new date ? It would have to be.
So for another year life continued very much as it was. The cake
sales went ahead every Friday. Henry's Christmas tradition marked the
end of the year. Lily's orphan summer holiday season at The Dower House
was again a success.
The coronation of King George was to be
held on Thursday 22nd June 1911. A new date for the wedding was set for
Saturday 19th August.
It was the
second Coronation Lily and Henry attended at Westminster Abbey, they
hoped they would not be attending another coronation for some time to
come. Lily could not truly say she knew King Edward but she had been in
contact with him through her support for Princess Alice Orphanage. He
was, of course, her King of the
Bread Pudding. The new King had not requested any cakes of any kind
from the weekly sales.
As she sat in Westminster Abbey Lily looked at King George and
thought he lacked the smile of his father. He was so sombre and did not
appear to be enjoying his coronation at all.
Again everyone in the Wilton party stayed at Tavistock House in
London, the town home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford. A grand ball
was organised for the night of the coronation. Before midnight Henry
excused himself and went to bed. The party continued until half past two
in the morning. In the servants hall it ended at six.
At ten the next morning Henry's valet went to his master's room to
take in a pot of tea and prepare him for breakfast. He found Lord Henry
unwell. His neck was swollen, his face was red and hot, his arms were
covered by a red rash which pimpled and was rough to touch.
"My Lord, My Lord, are you alright My Lord ?"
"My throat hurts."
The valet ran to fetch the butler who called for The Duke. The Duke
had been awake for but a few minutes but hastily dressed and attended
upon his guest.
"Send for the doctor immediately."
"The butler called Harley Street then returned to Henry's room. "It
looks like scarlatina Your Grace."
"It is and the doctor will confirm it, I am sure of that. How many
people have been in this room ?"
"Just the valet, myself and yourself Your Grace."
"Nobody else ?"
"No, your grace."
"You are certain."
"Of course, Your Grace."
"Nobody else may enter. Tell the countess and tell Miss Lily that
Lord Henry is unwell but do not mention scarlet fever."
The doctor confirmed that Lord Henry Wilton, the Seventh Earl of
Tadwell, was indeed suffering from scarlet fever. He also confirmed that
nobody else was to enter the room.
"You should prepare for the worst," the doctor said. He is young and
strong, sometimes people do recover but inevitably damage will have been
done to his heart and to his kidneys. His survival depends on the fever
breaking he must drink lots of fluids and he must be kept cool."
"I will nurse him," Lily insisted.
"You cannot My Dear, you may catch the illness yourself."
"This is your house Your Grace and I do not
wish to disobey you," Lily said, "but my Henry is not going to die, he
will recover and I will nurse him to that recovery."
would never attempt to argue with his cousin and it looked as if Lily
Bedson had been cast from the same metal. If Henry did survive then
that metal would pass, no doubt., to the eighth, ninth, tenth and more
Earls of Tadwell. If he did
not survive then that was the end of The Wilton Line, there would be
no Eighth Earl of Tadwell.
The doctor returned every few hours. Henry's condition did not
"Is he making urine ?" The doctor addressed his question to the
"What colour is it ?"
Lily gave the answer. "Dark yellow."
"We have to get his temperature down."
"There is an ice pit at Woburn Abbey, I will send a car."
"Will the ice not melt ?" Lily asked.
"They can journey overnight and wrap the ice in newspaper."
The doctor not think the ice could arrive in time. "Lord Henry's life
is moving slowly towards its close," he said to The Duke.
The ice came. Henry's fever did not lift.
"There was a knock at the door. "Who is it ?"
"Sis you must not come in, you could catch the fever."
The door opened and Sullivan did indeed come inside the room. "I know
I am just your maid but you have always treated me as a friend, you call
me Sis so I am not going to let you do this alone. I am here to help and
to give you some time to rest."
In Madeley Joseph and Emma Bedson sat silently in church praying for
the life of Henry Wilton. At The Bridge House Glad played with Puppy
Victoria. "He is not going to die Victoria, I know that."
"He is not going to die Sis, I will not let him. Do you hear what I
am saying Henry Wilton ? Fight this fever and get well."
The fever continued.
Lily lost all record of time and could not say what day it was. She
had no idea how long her Henry had been ill.
"It is a miracle he is still here," the doctor said to The Duke, "but
we must not get our hopes up, the fever still has not broken."
To Lily the doctor said, "He is still drinking ?"
"Yes. We have to put it into his mouth using a spoon but he is
managing to swallow."
"And he continues to make urine ?"
"Yes. Not a lot but, yes."
"Still dark yellow ?"
"Still dark yellow."
The Dowager Countess felt very alone. Henry was going to die, it was
just a matter of time. She had not seen Lily since Henry became ill.
Her cousin tried to offer what comfort he could but he was only a
cousin. Her husband and her only son were dead, soon her grandson would
"Is there any chance Doctor ? It has been a full day since you said
his life was moving to its close."
"He is defying all medical normality for the condition but I honestly
do not think so. It is just a matter of time. I am sorry"
"Lily, Lily, Lily !" Sullivan was shaking her as hard as she could.
"Wake up Lily."
"What is the matter ? What time is it ?"
"Half past three in the morning. Quick Lily place your hand on Lord
Henry's forehead. His fever has broken."
Lily placed her hand on Henry's face. He opened his eyes.
"Lily is that you ?"
"Get someone to wake The Duke, get him to send for the doctor."
"It is you isn't it Lily ? I love you my Lily."
"And I love you my darling, my darling wonderful Henry."
"It is a miracle," the doctor said. "A medical miracle."
In church Joseph offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the miracle.
"See Puppy Victoria," Glad said. "I told you he was not going to
The Dowager Countess, who was not known for having any religious
beliefs, also offered a prayer of thanks for the life of her grandson.
Henry remained at Tavistock House for three weeks until he was strong
enough to return to Madeley and Tadwell Hall. For a second time the
wedding had to be postponed. Lily did not care, she had Henry.
"Third time lucky," Henry smiled. "Saturday 17th August 1912. Nothing
and nobody is going to stop our getting married on that day."
"Nothing and nobody," Lily smiled in return.
"Glad is going to be my bridesmaid but I have decided I want two
more. I want Sis Sullivan and Violet McDonald to be my bridesmaids. I
want Bobby McDonald to be my pageboy."
"And I have decided," Henry added," that my personal valet Peter will
be by my side as my best man."
"Oh Henry that is so lovely."
"Lily I feel a walk would do me good, will you come with me ?"
"Where are we going ?"
"Just for a stroll although I would like to show you somewhere. It is
not far, less than half a mile away."
"What are you talking about Henry?"
"Come with me and I will show you,"
A short walk and they were at their destination.
"Lily this is Berkeley Square. Just look at these grand houses around
the park. Which one do you like ? Which one should be ours ?"
Lily was confused.
"The Duke and Duchess have Woburn Abbey and they also have their town
house where we have been staying. I may not be a duke but I am an earl,
I think it right and proper that I should have a town house."
"Here ?" Lily said. "What did you say this park was called ?"
"Berkeley Square. Tadwell Hall in the county and Berkeley Square,
London will be our town address. The Earl and Countess of Tadwell
residing in Madeley in the county of Staffordshire when in the country
and Berekely Square when in town."
"Do you mean that ? It sounds very grand."
"Not so grand as you will be when we are married."
Henry feigned a bow. "Lady Lily Wilton The Countess of Tadwell."
Stand here with my my Darling Lily, my bride to be. Isn't Berkeley
Square a special place ? Isn't it perfect for our towwn home ?
"Henry Wilton, I love you so very much."
"It is kind of you," Joseph said. "We had a lovely holiday in Italy
but my wife and I would have to decline a visit to America. Mrs Bedson
would not manage such a long sea journey. You and Lily go by all means,
I am sure Her Ladyship will be happy to be your chaperone."
"America !" The Dowager Countess exclaimed. "Boston ! I will most
certainly join you and Lily, I have one or two things to say to America
about tea and Boston harbour."
"The orphan holidays will happen as normal this year," Lily
explained, "and on Saturday 17th August every child from Princess Alice
Orphanage will be a guest at the wedding."
The group for America would comprise Lily and Sullivan, Henry and
Valet Peter, The Dowager Countess and her new maid Alma. The Dowager did
not consider Alma to be a suitable name for a lady's maid but her
surname of Richardson was acceptable.
Even for an English Earl it was not without some difficulty booking
accommodation for the voyage to New York. Eventually Henry managed to
book a suite with three cabins in first class. Lily insisted the
servants be accommodated not with other domestic staff but in something
better. Henry did secure two second class cabins, one for Peter and one
with Alma and Sis sharing.
"When we get to New York we will stay for three days with the
chairman of the bank then take the train to Boston."
"I fully intend to instruct Richardson to pack tea for us all to
drink while we are in Boston. Please do not think I am going to allow
any of us to drink American tea, certainly not in Boston of all places."
"Grandmother all tea comes from India."
"India is British, not American."
Neither Lily nor Henry could follow her logic.
"Will we be seeing President Taft while we are in America ?"
"I very much doubt it Grandmother."
"Pity. I do approve of the tie he wore to the coronation of King
George and would like to give him the name of your tailor, Henry."
The group travelled to Southampton in two cars. Henry drove Lily and
The Dowager Countess to the dock. Peter, Sullivan and Richardson were
driven by the chauffeur in the family car.
"I cannot say that I like the name of the ship," Her Ladyship said.
"It sounds like the name of a mountain in Greece."
Again Henry did not follow his Grandmother's logic. "You wait until
you see the ship," he said.
Her Ladyship did not reply.
Everyone set sail from Southampton on Wednesday 10th April. When RMS
Carpathia docked at Cunard's berth a week later the Dowager Countess,
Lily and Sullivan were onboard. Alma, Richard and Henry were not.
The Wilton Line had come to an end. Lily
would never be The Countess of Tadwell. She left The Dower House and
returned to live with the family at The Bridge House. Sullivan went to
work as an assistant house mother at Princess Alice Orphanage. On
Thursday 16th May 1912 The Dowager Countess of Tadwell died in her
sleep. The Wilton Line had come to its end. The title of The Earl of
Tadwell ceased to exist. The lands, properties and all of the Wilton
business interests were inherited by the family's only relative, The
Duke of Bedford.
Bedson decided it was time for him to retire. Lily did not know what she
would do with the rest of her life. She stood one night outside The
Bridge House and looked up into the sky. One star was The Dowager
Countess Lady Wilton of Tadwell. Another was her maid Alma Richardson
and another Valet Peter. The brightest star by far in the heavens was
Henry. Lily said her last goodbye and never mentioned his name again.
Never mentioned his name but never forgot the love of her life. She
would never love again.