Good day, everyone. Lady Eleanor Pringle from the London Penny Post coming to you today with a very interesting and captivating interview. I had been in town recently gathering information for an upcoming article regarding the pomp and ceremony of parliament when I ran into a special someone at Ede and Ravenscroft. It was none other than Dane Redford Lambourne, Earl of Huntsbridge. He had been visiting the shop to have his family’s ceremonial robes cleaned, having been just recently given the title of Earl due to the untimely passing of his brother, when we got to chatting about everything noble and peer-like.
E: What a pleasure it is to run into you, Lord Huntsbridge, I thank you for allowing me to speak to you so candidly about all of this.
H: The pleasure is mine, Lady Eleanor. It is lovely to meet you.
E: First, I wish to offer my sincerest condolences on the loss of your brother, the third Earl of Hunstbridge. I’m sure his passing was quite a shock.
H: It was. My family and I had just discussed the fact that he was always the one who was healthy while the rest of us battled colds and fevers throughout childhood. That a fever should bring him low, well, yes… quite the shock.
E: And your having to carry the new title was probably a shock as well.
H: Yes, and equally daunting, It was never a task I’d aspired to, and never thought on much, being the second son. I had thought Thomas would have carried the title until my father passed and then his titles would go to his son. It was unfortunate that he never had that chance to see either come to fruition.
E: It is quite the pity. But now that the title falls to you, how are you getting on?
H: It has its advantages and disadvantages. Aside from the change in status, I have my brother’s tasks to take over, mainly handling my family’s many estates. I am lucky in that I have a dedicated staff, and my younger brothers are also helping with some of the work until I get the routine down, but it is a lot of responsibility. And of course, I am not used to the new moniker and the gesturing that comes with it, so it has been awkward to say the very least.
E: Oh, I don’t know, I would think having people show respect in bows and nods would be rather flattering.
H: I am so used to gesturing to others that I never once thought about people doing it to me. It was very bizarre initially.
E: And I see you are visiting Ede and Ravenscroft. What is the occasion?
H: Once I moved into Lambourne House, I had the staff clean some things out and I came across the family robes and coronets. Several of each, as it were. Many of them are my fathers and grandfathers before him, so they had seen better days. Eventually they will be mine as my father, Lord Coventry, has taken a step back from his duties in Lords due to his health and I felt I should have them cleaned and repaired where needed as they had been stuffed in storage for so many years.
E: The robe, though strongly scented of mothballs, is rather lovely. Can you tell me about it?
H: Indeed. It is a parliamentary robe that was made for my grandfather, who was the first Marquess Coventry. I am told Master Arlo put it together for him in the late 1700s. The body is made of scarlet wool and it’s trimmed in the white ermine fur with the requisite three and a half bars of gold brocade suited to his title. On the ceremonial robe, which is rarely worn, it has three and a half rows of the ermine tail, you can see the black bits here, and there are also gold clasps, inlaid with mother of pearl, that were a gift from a French diplomat.
E: I believe your family has origins in France, am I correct?
H: Oh yes, though it was years back before my grandfather. Our family name is French.
E: And the coronet you have with you?
H: It is so heavy. I cannot imagine how men wear these awful contraptions.
*Lord Huntsbridge handed it to me and it was, indeed, very heavy. Perhaps a half stone or more.
E: Oh my! Ones neck much pain them for days after having to don it. As someone who does not own and will never have occasion to wear a coronet, when do you wear such a thing? And the robes?
H: It is another thing I shall never understand. Look at the fine detail of the coronet. The artistry of the design. All the small details. And it must have cost a small fortune to produce. These are real pearls. All this cost and work put into something worn maybe once in one’s lifetime, and then its stuffed in a box and forgotten.
E: That’s tragic. You would think something so lovely would be displayed.
H: You know, you are right. I should devise a way to display these items. Perhaps set up a small type of cabinet in the foyer at Lambourne House. Otherwise, it is quite the shame, and a huge waste of money to let them mold in a box somewhere.
E; That’s a wonderful idea,Lord Huntsbridge. And perhaps like the country homes, you could open your foyer to visitors to view them.
H: Another fabulous idea. Though I am sure my family would disparage having strangers wandering in and out of the house in town while they are trying to get on with their day. I could do with having them set up at Leighsham Park though. That is my mother’s estate in Grantham. There’s a lovely corner to the entrance that would lend itself to being a sort of display area.
E: I am glad to have given you ideas to work with. They are truly too lovely to hide away. But getting back to my question, when do you wear such things?
H: I do beg pardon, I did not mean to let my thoughts wander. The robes are worn more often than the coronets, to be sure. The robe here is for Parliament. They are worn during the opening ceremonies each term. I also have this ceremonial robe, which is more richly crafted with the velvet and ermine trimmings. The coronets are only worn at royal coronations, when a sovereign is crowned. It’s all very lovely but personally, I think it’s a waste of money. I mean, it’s a beautiful piece to have on hand, and the closest I shall ever come to feeling like I have a crown on my head, but to wear it? I don’t see the point. It’s heavy and uncomfortable, and when we do put it on, it’s rather pompous, don’t you think?
E: I think it’s all rather regal actually. So very noble.
H: I suppose if you do not have one or have no chance to get one, it’s a different story. Very much the grass being greener, as it were.
E: I would say so, yes. So you say this was all in storage. Do they have special boxes?
H: The robes, yes. They are boxed in tissue and kept on a shelf in our safe out of the damp to avoid mildew. The coronets, well… this one, the oldest article in our family, once came in a box, but that box is now long gone. I am sure it dissolved over time. The rest were all just shelved in the safe with the robes. No special boxes. Someone had stuffed them each with tissue to keep their shape, but they are all so old. That is why I’ve brought them in, to be cleaned.
E: And perhaps you shall be wearing them yourself soon enough.
H: As I mentioned, my father has not been in the public eye of late because of his health, so I suppose it’s fair to say I am just preparing for the inevitable.
E: I know you say they are only worn for coronation ceremonies, but have you ever tried them on in private?
H: A gentleman never tells…
And with a wink, Lord Hunstbridge excused himself to deal with the clerk who was taking in his items to be cleaned and refurbished.
What a charming young man, and so handsome! I could easily see him wearing those robes. And a coronet on that brow of his would only make him seem more noble than he already is. He was very kind in speaking to me and offered that I stop by for tea so that I may meet the rest of the household. Such a generous offer from the new Earl. Hold onto your bonnets, ladies. This one is a real charmer.
Earl of my Heart
Dane Redford Lambourne, now Earl of Huntsbridge, never thought to live a responsible, noble existence. Spending his nights as a privileged gentleman, carousing and enjoying the company of friends was the only life he ever aspired to until the sudden death of his brother thrust him into a world he never wanted and was not prepared to face.
Lady Nichola Crawford could care less if the fabric of her new evening dress matched her shoes or if any of the men at the upcoming ball even looked in her direction. She would sooner stay in the country and scour her father’s library than place herself on the marriage block to be picked at and prodded by the scant handful of ill-deserving men in London.
But a chance meeting at a local confectioner shop is all it takes to set off sparks between the man who vowed no woman would ever get under his skin and the woman who would do anything to deny the love she felt for the Earl of her heart.
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Meet Victoria Oliveri
History has always fascinated me. From an early age, I recall asking my grandparents and great-grandparents about their pasts, what it was like in other countries, and found myself enthralled with the old customs they adhered to.
As I grew older, I became a genealogist for my family and traveled abroad to see where my roots started. Pouring over old pictures and documents was like a treasure hunt, keeping my attention down to the finest detail. How events came to pass based on the actions of a few excited me to uncover, and what I found always opened paths to new information.
I also became involved in reenactment groups and found that immersing myself in living history was both intriguing and intrinsic to my love of telling stories of the past. Details are fleshed out for my readers because I know how things feel, how they smell, and how they taste. As if I had been there, through some amazing portal, and have come back to share what I have learned.
My love of world travel also helps round out my stories in ways I cannot imagine. I have had in-depth conversations with conservators about ramparts at an abandoned Irish castle I found, and have felt the stone beneath my fingertips. I have walked down the streets of Mayfair, imagining my characters strolling there beside me, and I have sat in King Henry’s kitchen at Hampton Court joyfully smelling the meat cooking on the hearth. With each separate occasion, I learn more about history. Being hands-on has made me see beyond what any book could tell me, and all of those moments to come will only help me to write stories that will intrigue and entice you.