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Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré
14 February 1816

Pen

My darling,

Paris is supposed to be a city for lovers, but it seems we’ve had precious little time for romance or even conversation of late. Not that I’m much of a hand at conventional romance at the best of times or that you’d welcome it, I think. Or perhaps I simply tell myself that to excuse my own inadequacies. But it seems that we’ve had even less time for each other than usual in recent weeks. We’re together in crowds, we see each other across a ballroom or crystal-laden table, we sit side by side in an opera box or at a military review. Yet another reason for my frustration with the banging my against the wall that seems to be more and more a part of my diplomatic work. I don’t seem to be accomplishing anything, and it takes me away from you and Colin.

When we were first married, I told myself that you were probably relieved not to have to put up with seeing more of me. Of late I’ve been telling myself there will be a time, in some vague, undefined future, when we’ll have more time for each other. But as we lurch from crisis to crisis of varying sorts, I begin to realize that this is our life, and we should make the most of what we have. So though you may not have the most romantic of husbands, I hope you realize you have a husband who can’t imagine life without you.

Happy Valentine’s Day, wife.

Yours more than my own,
Charles


The Albany
30 January 1816

Pen

My dear Charles,

All in all not a bad 12 days of Christmas. Having Simon there helped immeasurably. Though I missed having you there. You know how to handle Father, and though he wouldn’t admit it, I think Father misses you. Rather as he might miss someone who could give him a good game of chess. I’ll never be that. I have no desire to even learn the game he plays. Still we had some good talks about the estate, and the children are a delight. For them the holiday is unfettered magic, and they have a way of defusing the situation for the adults. I wish we could have seen young Colin enjoying the season.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear you are even considering standing for the House you are missed. And much as I mean that personally, your voice on matters of the day is sorely needed as well.

As always,
David


Paris
19 January 1816

Pen

My dear David,

I trust the New Year finds you well and that your holiday visit to Carfax Court wasn’t too much of a burden. I’m glad Simon went with you. And the children must have allowed for diversion and created welcome distraction. Colin was of an age to really enjoy Christmas this year. Well, he enjoyed it last year, but he wasn’t old enough to anticipate the holiday, and he was more intrigued by the paper and ribbon than any of his presents. This year it was hard not to feel his infectious glee as he watched the paper-wrapped parcels beneath the tree (Mel put up a tree ‘Berlin style’ for the holiday). A stuffed cat and a wooden castle seem to have been the two most popular gifts so far. We had young Livia Davenport here as well. Their delight was enough to make me forget I always claim to detest the holiday. Yes, I even played and sang holiday songs.

Paris is still buzzing over the Lavalette Affair. Glad as I am to have one less former Bonapartist facing execution, it only throws into relief how very grim the situation in Paris has grown. Without Talleyrand, prospects for France seem even bleaker. And it goes without saying that diplomatic discussions are less entertaining.

I confess that the thought of Parliament and being able to speak one’s mind has all the appeal of spring after a long, bitter winter. Even if it does mean living in Britain. Or perhaps because of it. I miss all of you. The months you were in Brussels and Paris made me realize just how much. I can’t do anything without consulting with Mel – Britain as a war bride would present its own challenges, and she’s built a life here. And I’ve promised Stuart I’ll stay on for a bit. But– we should talk further.

As always,
Charles


Paris
2 January 1816

Pen

Doro darling,

Happy New Year! I hope you’ve been enjoying the holidays. We do miss you – well, all the time, but especially this time of year, because I have such happy memories of spending it with you. We have what Colin call’s a ‘Tante Doro tree’ in the salon. It was such fun to decorate. We were careful not to put anything breakable on the lower branches, though I must say Colin and Livia and Robbie Ashton and the Chase children have all been remarkably good about not grabbing the ornaments. Or pulling the tree itself, which was my big fear.

I confess – and I wouldn’t confess it to many – that I still have a hard time falling asleep on Christmas Eve. Charles finds it amusing, I think, but he’s very tolerant of my eccentricity. I was awake even before Colin came bouncing into our room. I suppose it proves the strength of early childhood memories, even if I plenty of less than magical Christmases later on. Whereas I don’t think Charles’s Christmases were particularly magical growing up. Or even particularly happy. Which gives me a distinct pang when I watch how much fun Colin has with the holiday.

Cordelia gave a New Year’s Eve party. We stayed the night so Colin could play with Livia before and sleep in the nursery. Monsieur Talleyrand stopped in. He says he’s sleeping far better now he no longer has the burden of France on his shoulders, and he had quite a lively discussion with Charles in which he–Talleyrand–pointed out the errors in Britain’s stance at the negotiating table, but I’m sure it will come as no surprise to say he misses you. He even admitted as much to me, which I took as a rare sign of trust. He looks in good health, however, and his wits are as keen as ever. There is no need for you to be alarmed.

I must go, there’s a bit of sun and we’re taking Colin to the Bois de Boulogne. i’m giving a 12th Night Party in a few days and making use of your spiced wine recipe. You and Karl will be missed.

All my love,
Mélanie


Paris
25 December 1815

Pen

Gelly darling,

Happy Christmas. Don’t accuse me of sentimentality, if there’s ever a time one can indulge in sentimentality surely it’s during the holidays. Even in our family. And surely as a new mother I can be permitted a little extra sentimentality. I confess I’m feeling particularly nostalgic for Higgins’s spiced wine and the way we would always wake up at the crack of dawn, even in our teens.

Not but what we didn’t have a lovely Christmas in Paris. Mélanie put up a tree in the “Berlin Christmas” style Dorothée introduced us to in Vienna last year. So pretty with gold and silver garlands and the smell took me right back to Christmases at Dunmykel with fresh cut greenery. Colin was entranced. Claudia was oblivious. She slept in my arms most of the evening. But it did make me think Geoff and I should consider one in the future, when we have a proper home. What an odd thought. I’m barely accustomed to having a baby, let alone a home. And yes, I do realize I’ve got that a bit backwards.

Harry and Cordelia and little Livia spent most of the day in the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré with us. Harry seemed to particularly be relishing a family Christmas. When I said something about it being the first Christmas we had Claudia, he said quite calmly that it was his first Christmas with Livia. He and Cordelia were holding hands at dinner under the table. Talking of people who don’t normally indulge in sentimentality.

Charles seemed happy, though I know the strain of the negotiations, and his disagreements with many of Britain’s official positions, has been weighing on him. He slid Colin and Livia down the stair rail and kept the cups of spiced wine and glasses of champagne filled and once I saw him blow Mélanie a kiss across the salon. He gave Mélanie a beautiful pearl and garnet necklace that he commissioned for her. And she gave him A first edition of Beaumarchais’s Figaro plays. I got Geoff a new lens for his microscope and he gave me a very petty pair of amber earrings and a new set of pencil for graphing. Highly satisfactory.

We had roast beef and plum putting. A very English meal to go with the Continental tree.And then Charles and Mélanie played the piano and we sang and had a lively game of charades [very cleverly enacted, which isn’t surprising given the number of spies in the party].

I hope your Christmas was as merry as our and that next year we’re all together.

Love,
Allie


Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré
6 December 1815

Pen

Darling Simon,

How I wish you were still in Paris! Yes, I know David is a Member of Parliament and you have a theatre company to help run. But I could so very much use a dose of your humor and irony just now. For all the romance of the words “Christmas in Paris” (the name of one of Paul St. Gilles paintings), Paris doesn’t feel very holidayish at present. There’s far too much tension in the air. Though at least the Lavalette affair provides what one might call a bright spot in the gloom.

On a more domestic note, I haven’t the least idea what to get Charles for Christmas. What does one give a man who doesn’t need anything – at least not anything of a material sort? I am obviously a much shallower person than my husband. He can give me jewelry and I confess I am always delighted with it. With the jewelry and with the fact that he chose it. Our anniversary is tomorrow. I got him a print of a painting of St. Gilles’s he admired – the one of Lisbon Harbor. But now I seem to be fresh out of inspiration.

Colin, on the other hand, daily offers me an ever-changing list of things he would like. This is the first Christmas he’s grasped the idea of presents in advance, and he’s making up for not having understood properly the past two years.

Love,
Melly


Brussels
17 July 1815

Pen

Dearest Cordy,

Fred continues to improve, thank God. He is eager to be in Paris, and even William, always thoughtful and prudent to a fault, agrees we may be able to make the journey in a week or so. If Brussels seemed the center of the world little more than a month ago, now Paris has certainly supplanted it, and I confess as my anxiety about Fred is allayed I long to be there.

Do write and tell me all the news. Is the duke still making a cake of himself over Lady Frances Webster? I hear Lady Shelley is positively throwing herself at him as well. And to think she wasn’t even on the Continent until after Waterloo. That makes it worse somehow. Has the Duchess of Richmond figured out that Sarah is head over heels for General Maitland? I’ve long predicted they’ll have to elope. The duchess won’t settle for anything less than a title for any of her daughters. I hear Harryo and Granville are on their way to Paris along with half the world. Which I suppose means I shall have Harryo frowning at me when we arrive.

And how do you go on? Does Harry continue to do well? Are you–comfortable sharing a home with him again. I said it to you in Brussels, Cordy, but I think you are wonderfully brave to attempt such a reconciliation. God knows William and I have attempted to patch things up often enough and– well, I don’t think the cracks ever quite go away. At least not for us. Forgiving is one thing, forgetting the past is another. But when I remember how Harry looked at you the last day I saw you together– Let’s just say it gives me hope.

Do remember me fondly to Mélanie Fraser. I hear the success of embassy parties is quite owed to her, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s rare to find such goodness combined with such talent and good sense.

Love,
Caro

Dear Violet,Thank you for your thoughtful letter. It was very thoughtful of you–oh, poison, I sound like my grandmother. Of course you should come to Paris. We would all love to see you. By which I particularly mean I’m quite sure Johnny would love to see you. As would Robbie. He asks about “Vi Vi” all the time.You asked how Johnny was. If I said he was doing well, I think it would be cause for concern, because I don’t see how anyone could be said to be doing well in the circumstances. But I’m quite sure he’d be the better for seeing you.You will find Paris an odd place. All the pageantry of a restored monarchy with anger simmering beneath the surface. The anger of defeated Bonapartists. The anger of Royalists toward the Bonapartists. The anger of Parisans who don’t like their city occuppied whomever they supported.Harry chafes at being confined to desk. Enough for me to conclude that he is very nearly recovered from his wounds. I seem to daily meet someone shocked to find us still living under the same roof a month after Waterloo. I look forward to continuing to shock them.Mélanie Fraser in helping Lady Castlereagh organize embassy entertainments. Charles Fraser is doing admirably answering to both Wellington and Castlereagh, not to mention Sir Charles Stuart.Give my love to Jane and assure her we would all love to see her as well.Love,
CordyDearest Gelly,Fouché, who voted for Louis XVI’s execution, is running France, along with Prince Talleyrand, who managed to avoid voting for the execution by being out of the country but was certainly a revolutionary. And Wilhelmine of Sagan is entangled with Lord Stewart. I’m not sure which is more surprising. If any woman could have her pick of gentlemen, one would think Wilhelmine could. Not that she’s always chosen wisely obviously, as she herself would admit. She’s been divorced twice – though her first husband was more her mother’s choice than her own. But Alfred von Windisgrâtz was quite dashing and surprisingly kind – I still remember how he spoke to me the night Charles was arrested in Vienna. And Fred Lamb is so good-natured and has such a keen understanding.Stewart – well, he pinched Dorothée at the Metternichs’ masquerade. That was only one of the times he nearly caused an international incident. Usually because of unwelcome attentions to women or drinking or both. I don’t know what Willie sees in him, but they were so cosy at the opera last night.I feel like a girl again, not understanding the adults.More soon.Love,
GellyHow odd to be pretending to be a stranger in Paris. And yet in some ways Paris feels like a stranger. I don’t know why the foreign soldiers should bother me so much more than they did in Brussels, but they do. It’s not
as though I’ve actually spent that much time here. But somehow it’s taken on a sort of romantic patina, a rose-colored version of “home.” Charles and I rode in the Bois de Boulogne yesterday. One can scarcely see the trees for the soldiers tents. I exaggerate, of course. But not that much.Along with the soldiers, émigrés are pouring in, mostly from England. They see me as one of them. I’ve actually had people apologize to me for saying anything against the Ultra Royalists. It’s difficult to navigate what the former Mélanie de Saint-Vallier should say, save that I find revenge useless and corrosive. I did have a quite agreeable conversation at the British embassy last night with Gabrielle Caruthers, who left Paris with her uncle and aunt when she was five and is now married to a British soldier, Lord Caruthers (his father is the diplomat, Earl Dewhurst). Oddly we seem to share the same nostalgia for Paris. But mostly we talked about our children. Her little boy is just a bit older than Colin.It’s good to see Doro and Willie again. And beyond strange, in this mad world we live in, that Talleyrand and Fouché are running France.Keep safe.
M.My Dear Mrs. Fraser ,Thank you for your kind letter. We are well. Oh, poison that sounds absurd. What I mean is we are as well as possible in the circumstance. To own the truth I still feel numb, and it is difficult at times to separate the tragedy of Tony’s death from the wash of tragedy all round us. It makes his loss both easier and harder to bear, I think. For it is a loss. I hope you believe that, whatever else you know about us. Tony was a lot of things to me. But whatever went wrong between us, whatever I did, I will never forget the man I married.I think Jamie understands his father is gone. Elinor doesn’t of course. I fear she’ll have no memory of Tony. Perhaps that will make it easier, but it seems rather dreadful for a child not to remember her father. Annabel and the chi.den have returned to England. I’ve thought of returning myself, but I know it means a great deal to Violet to be close to Johnny. And then there is Captain Flemming. You will understand what his presence means to me.I hope you are settling in comfortably in Paris. Violet and I are considering bringing the children there for a time.Your friendship and understanding means a great deal to me. There are few people to whom I can speak so frankly.Yours with gratitude and thanks,
Jane ChaseBel darling,David will have told you that we are well and sent you the sad list of those of your friends who are injured or did not survive. What he will not have told you is that I don’t know how I’d have got through the past ten days without him and Simon. A number of wounded men they brought back from the rood to Quatre Bras and Waterloo owe their lives to them.Our house is still filled with wounded, though thankfully all our remaining patients are on the mend. And today I had the much happier experience of hosting a wedding. The groom was one of the wounded men we nursed, a Belgian lieutenant, Henri Rivaux. And the bride is Rachel St. Garvelle, who he met in Brussels. They’re very much in love, and it was heartening to see them pledge themselves to each other, especially when he came so close to losing his life.Sir Charles Stuart attended as did Georgiana and Sarah Lennox. Charles gave Rachel away. Little Livia Davenport was a bridesmaid and in the end Colin and Robbie Ashton were as well, because they couldn’t understand why only girls should be included (I must say they had an excellent point). I played the piano, and our cook managed an excellent wedding breakfast. And I think our recovering wounded found it excellent medicine to be wedding guests rather than patients. Cordelia told me it was all excellent practice for when I marry off a daughter. Which does seem rather getting ahead of things.More soon.Love to Oliver and children,
MélanieGelly darling,Charles is well. He just brought Edgar back from the battlefield. Edgar was wounded, but Geoff says he should make a full recovery. Geoff is unhurt as well.Was it only five days ago I last wrote to you? You’ll have heard by the time this reaches you that the battle is won. And yet it almost seems irrelevant. Does that sound horrid? Well, you know I never worry much about how I sound. What I mean is that the outcome of the battle faded beside the fate of those caught up in it. But then I’ve always been one to think more about people than countries. A family trait, I think.Oh, Gelly, I’m babbling, but if you’d seen the things we’ve seen–The hall downstairs is full of wounded men. Edgar is in Charles and Mélanie’s bedchamber, Colonel Davenport in his wife’s. Odd that when I last wrote to you i scarcely knew Colonel Davenport and Lady Cordelia and now they seem like family. Colonel Davenport’s wounds are worse Edgar’s, though I think Cordelia will keep him alive on sheer willpower. Of course, Geoff warns me not to believe in fairy tale endings. I told him I’m not in the least the fairy tale sort, as he should well know. But one does want rather desperately to cling to some sort of happy ending in the midst of such carnage.I must go, i need to change Angus’s dressing and help Rachel with Colonel Rivaux. More soon.Love,
AllieDearest Gelly,A ball last night at thee British embassy. The usual rumors swirling. I own my nerves jump and my stomach turns queasy, but I tell myself firmly that it’s all due to the baby. I’m far too sensible to turn into a blubbering idiot over my husband’s safety.And then, just when I was trying to soothe my own nerves by calming Georgy Lennox and Mélanie was trying to calm us both, Caro Lamb came into the ballroom with Cordelia Davenport of all people. I was amazed at how many details of the scandal I remembered when Georgy and I caught Mélanie up on the details. In general I pride myself on being above such things. But I’ve always liked Coredlia Davnport. I console myself with the fact that that’s why I remember her history so well.I went to speak with her later in the evening, and she was so kind. She congratulated me on my marriage, and when I mentioned the baby she said she’d been shocked by how much she enjoyed motherhood. I asked after her little girl–Livia–and her face lit up. But she seemed distracted. She was looking for Julia, who I couldn’t see anywhere in the ballroom. A bit later I saw Cordelia talking to Mélanie, and then she–Cordelia–disappeared from the ballroom. And later still I caught a glimpse of Harry Davenport, who I’d swear hasn’t been anywhere near Brussels. Charles was gone a good portion of the evening as well, which I suspect is connected.More when I know more.
AllieBel darling,A musicale at Lady Charlotte Greville’s last night. I conversed with Lady Charlotte and the Duchess of Richmond and several of the other British matrons. Much more challenging than mild, sisterly flirtations with the aides-de-camp. I actually felt I was beginning to fit in. I returned home and went to the dressing table and began to take off my earrings, only to see that I had oatmeal and applesauce smeared on black opera net of my sleeve.Charles claims he didn’t notice it. Which he probably didn’t–Charles was busy discussing the possible location of a French attack and probably wouldn’t have noticed if I’d been stark naked. But Lady Charlotte and the duchess and the others–I love being a mother.And not the sort who pays a morning visit to the nursery and then doesn’t see her children again until she looks in in the evening and blows kissed instead of hugging them for fear they’d crush her gown. I love being with Colin. But I confess I still care about how I look. Almost more so. As if my appearance is a way to hold on to the person I used to be. Because much as I love being a mother it isn’t the sum total of who I am. So I choose my gowns and curl my hair and apply my eyeblacking. But I suppose the oatmeal and applesauce proves that if being a mother isn’t the sum total of who I am, it has changed me. Which, I realize, noting the grease mark Colin left on my collar, isn’t a bad thing at all.Love to Oliver and the children.And to you.
MélanieDifficult to say when the storm will break. It may be some time yet. But when it does happen, events will unfold quickly. I haven’t dwelled on the part I expect to play myself, but if you receive this, the battle is over, and I did not survive. If the day went to the French, I hope you’ve withdrawn to Ostend. Wellington is likely to have to fall back and let Napoleon take Brussels in the event of defeat. Don’t hesitate to return to England should it seem prudent. You can be invaluable gathering intelligence there.Should the day have gone to the British– I hope you know no one could have done more than you have these past months. Defeat is wrenching but as one who’s faced it before, in various forms, I know that it is not as final as it at first can seem. There are many ways you could go on fighting for the things you believe in. I make no doubt you will do so in your own way.For myself– I don’t think I can find the words. I’ve never properly told you what you mean to me, and perhaps it’s as well. It’s been a privilege having you as a comrade.Take care of yourself and your son, querida. And your husband.
R.Dearest Simon,Back from a military review at Vilvorde. (I did mention, did I not, that you would hate it here?). Colin sat in my lap or Charles’s the entire time. We received much comment on how well-behaved he was. The truth is he was entranced. I tell myself it’s the color and the spectacle. He can’t possibly understand what it means to be a soldier. And yet– I feel a chill when Fitzroy or Gordon or another of our soldier friends swings him the air. I look at those boys in uniform–and so many of them are boys–and see my son. I hope as he grows up, he’ll understand– But there’ll be time for that.The review was of the Brunswick troops, with the Duke of Brunswick at their head. They all wear black – a tribute of the duke’s, apparently, after his wife died six years ago. They are to change their uniform when they feel they have avenged themselves on the French for an insult offered to the body of the duke’s father. I had this intelligence from Sir Augustus Frazer who added that he couldn’t say if it was chivalry or barbarity.Wellington was there in his field marshal’s uniform, accompanied by his staff and the Duke of Richmond and one of the Lennox girls (I think it was Georgy but I couldn’t quite see through the throng). And Lord Uxbridge. I can’t see Wellington and Uxbridge together without wondering what they think of each other. For all Wellington’s very real disdain for the personal, he can’t be entirely indifferent to the fact that Uxbridge ran off with his brother’s wife. And then I find my self thinking of Lady Charlotte Wellesley. Lady Uxbridge now. She gave up her position in society for Uxbridge. Not a bad trade in my view. But she also gave up her children. A reflection which made me tighten my arms round Colin. I can’t imagine– Or I can, but as a nightmare.I most go. A reception tonight at Lady Charlotte Greville’s. The social whirl in Brussels only grows more frenetic.Love to David.Love,
MellyDearest Gelly,I spoke with Julia Ashton at the opera last night. Julia Brooke that was. Cordelia Davenport’s sister. I said that to her – “you’re Cordelia Davenport’s sister” – and she smiled wryly and said she feared that was how all too many people thought of her. The odd thing is, I was saying how I’d always liked Lady Cordelia. She’s so refreshingly direct and free of pretension. But I had the sense Lady Julia isn’t quite comfortable talking about her sister. She said was very kind of my mother to receive Cordelia. I said Mama was very fond of Cordelia and that scandal only endeared people to her. If it did anything else she (Mama) would be a shocking hypocrite. Which made poor Lady Julia look dreadfully confused. Lady Cordelia wouldn’t have looked confused. I suppose that’s why I like her.Johnny Ashton is one of the Hyde Park soldiers (so called by the Peninsular veterans) who’ve been sent over to join Wellington’s forces. Julia confessed that while she knew of course she’d married a soldier, she somehow thought that being in the Horse Guards he’d never face actual combat. Suddenly war seems very real. She looked quite stricken as she said it, though I must say for a wife worried about her husband going into danger, she didn’t appear to be paying a great deal of attention to him the rest of the evening. A bit odd, because the on dit has always been that theirs in one of society’s great love matches. But perhaps I’m just being spiteful on Cordelia’s account.The Chases are here as well of course. George and his wife and Jane and Anthony with Violet with them. I couldn’t help wondering if Julia has seen Violet, but even I couldn’t ask.Listen to me. A whole letter filled with gossip. It must be the confined society in Brussels that’s doing it to me. That and the fear of contemplating the future.Love,
AllieBel darling,Colin and I encountered Lord Uxbridge when we were walking in the park this morning with Allie and Georgiana Lennox. Lord Uxbridge was very kind to Colin, shaking his hand and asking him how old he was in a very grown up. Colin replied, “I’ll be two next month.” And I realized I’ve scarcely given a thought to the fact that his second birthday is only a month and a day away. We’ve been so preoccupied with the press of events I hadn’t been thinking of this upcoming milestone in my son’s life. I looked down at Colin, shaking hands with the cavalry commander so solemnly, and it seemed as though time has rushed by and only yesterday he was a newborn in my arms.I think parenthood must always be a juggling act, whether it’s political congresses and cities on the verge of war or Parliament and the London Season. I don’t know how you do it with two children. Much of the time I’ll think I’m managing to keep all the ball in the air, whether it was nursing him behind a column during a ball or carrying him about with me while I tended the wounded or getting up early after one of those endless entertainments in Vienna to take him on an outing. Then something like today makes me worry I’ll let him down somehow.Oh, listen to me, I don’t mean to sound blue-deviled. Colin’s happy, which is the miraculous, important thing. But I knew as a mother you’d understand.Affectionately,
MélanieMy dear David,This isn’t my war. You know the qualms I was having in the Peninsula, but at least there we could argue we were helping the Spanish regain their country. However little support we may have given our allies since. Now– but we’ve talked enough about other options for dealing with Bonaparte. You articulated them to great effect in the House. (And I don’t envy you braving your father’s response).But this is the course our country has chosen. It’s the battle my brother will be fighting. And so many of my friends. Fitzroy. Gordon. Canning. Slender Billy, God help him. I might not have become friends with any of them had we remained in Britain, but in the Peninsula we were comrades and then something more. They’ll be fighting what’s probably the most important battle of their lives, the decisive battle in this war we’ve all been caught up in for so long. And I can’t help but feel I need to be there. To see if through to the end. To play whatever part I can.Mel doesn’t say anything, but I know she’s worried. Being an agent doesn’t combine well with being a husband and a father. That’s never felt more true than now.There are few people I can say this to – well, none really. But you understand the pull of duty all too well. Whatever role I play, I’ll be at much less risk than my soldier friends. But this seems a good time to remind you of your promise to do everything you can for my wife and son should anything befall me.As ever,
CharlesDarling Simon,You’d hate it here. You can smell war in the air. Though a casual observer would be pardoned for thinking otherwise. We show off our new bonnets at military reviews and dance and sip champagne afterward. Soldiers escort us on picnics and dance the night away. Well, the officers do. Brussels isn’t such a social whirl for the enlisted men. But that social whirl is what I live in. Yet even in the midst of it, one can feel the pressure, like the heaviness in the air that warns of a thunderstorm. In fact it seems to intensify the frenetic nature of the endless round of entertainments as though everyone is determined to extract the last amount of pleasure possible before the storm breaks.Charles and I don’t talk about, but I know he isn’t going to be able to stay safely in Brussels when the fighting starts. And of course I can’t ask him to. Wouldn’t want to. But I’m worried. I can’t say that to many people. In fact, I’m not sure I could say it to anyone else.Thank you for listening.All my love,
MellyDearest Gelly,A party last night at Lady Charlotte Greville’s. I danced with three of Wellington’s aides-de-camp. I must say, I never danced so much until Vienna and now Brussels. Wellington appears to choose his aides-de-camp as much for their dancing as for their fighting skills. No, I shouldn’t be so flippant, but in truth the duke does like to be surrounded by accomplished young men from good families. Lord Fitzroy Somerset, his military secretary, is very kind. And good natured. Charles says almost nothing disupts his equilibrium. He married Harriet Wellesley-Pole last August – Wellington’s niece. She’s going to have a baby in less than a month and seems not in the least nervous. Which does make me feel I should be a poor creature to complain about my own condition. We’ve had some very agreeable conversations, but then I find babies a much more interesting topic than I used to.Alexander Gordon has a wicked sense of humor. Colonel Canning still seems like a wide-eyed idealist after years in the Peninsula. Poor Lord March, Georgy Lennox’s eldest brother, has been seconded to the Prince of Orange and looks as though his nerves are perpetually frayed from the effort to keep the prince from blundering. It’s ridiculous to think of a boy that age with such an important command. And he is a boy. He was one of Wellington’s aides-de-camp in the Peninsula, and he seems younger than the lot of them. I should imagine seeing the prince in that role gives Wellington fits for all he’s a believer in the aristocracy and monarchy. Which does rather make one wonder.I’m well. The morning sickness does seem to be lessening as Mélanie and Mama said it would.Love,
AllieMy dear David,Wellington’s arrival seems to have calmed Brussels. The same cannot be said for Wellington himself. He’s far from sanguine about the state of the army. He complains the staff here in Brussels is filled with those here due to connections rather than experience or talent. And he keeps getting more such sent over from the Horse Guards. Stuart at least is relieved to have Wellington in command and Slender Billy less of a loose cannon.I daresay by the time you receive this you’ll have heard that Grouchy defeated d’Angoulême. Hardly surprising, but it makes war on our side even more certain. Wellington laughed at the news and got back to work organizing his staff. He’s far too astute a politician to let it be seen he has any qualms. After all a large part of his job at present is to keep the city calm. But I think he’s far from taking victory over Bonaparte for granted.Mel and I drove out along the Allée Verte yesterday with Colin. The weather was fine enough that we sat in the beer garden and had a glass of wine while Colin tossed bread to the ducks in the canal. Blue sky, blue water, children laughing. Blessed escape from what lies in store.As ever,
CharlesCaro darling,You always did have an unerring instinct for excitement. London is dreadfully flat. Everyone who isn’t in Brussels or planning to go to Brussels is talking about what’s happening in Brussels. Even I haven’t done anything to cause particular talk for weeks. I’m in danger of quite losing my reputation.Julia’s going to Brussels with Johnny. They’re taking a house. Apparently they decided weeks ago, but she only told me last night, and even then I don’t know that she’d have mentioned it if we hadn’t almost literally bumped into each other in the ladies’ retiring room at Emily Cowper’s. You’d think by now I’d be used to Julia no longer confiding in me, but somehow it still takes me by surprise. Oh, confound it, it was like a punch to the stomach, but don’t you dare breathe a word of that to anyone else, Caro.Speaking of blows to the gut, when I went in to kiss Livia goodnight just now she asked me if her papa was going to fight in the war. I said yes, and I was sure he’d be very brave. Which I imagine is the truth. And leaves so much unsaid. I don’t suppose you’ve happened to see Harry?Love,
CordyMy dear Mélanie,Thank you for your letter. You knew just what I would want to hear. Considering Aline’s been married some months, the news should not have come as a surprise to me, but I confess it did. For a long time I wasn’t sure she’d marry, and then I wasn’t sure she’d wish to have children. In fact, I made sure she knew how to avoid pregnancy when I was in Vienna for the wedding. I’m sure that won’t shock you. I may have treated motherhood rather too lightly myself for many years, but I now have enough understanding and respect for it to believe no woman should enter into it if she doesn’t wish to.From Aline’s letter and yours, it sounds as though she very much does wish to. I confess I’m far more delighted than I should be considering my professed detestation of dandling grandchildren on my knee (I actually quite enjoy my grandchildren themselves but don’t let it get about). I’m glad Allie will have you with her. I’ve seen you with Colin enough to know you’re a natural at parenting. Nurturing comes effortlessly to you or at least you make it seem so. I’m sure Aline will have questions, and you’re far better suited to answer them than I am. But if you think my advice would help, do encourage her to write to me. I haven’t told her this, because I suspect she’d tell me not to fuss, but I’d like to be there for the birth.Look after yourself, my dear. I make no doubt you’re looking after everyone else.Love,
FrancesDear Aunt Frances,Being a mother myself, I suspect you’re wondering how Aline is doing. And knowing Aline, I suspect she’s barely written to tell you she’s expecting a baby. She looks splendid–pregnancy agrees with her. And though–being a member of this family–she doesn’t talk about it much, one tell she’s happy. So is Geoffrey. I catch him looking at Colin with a combination of wonder and trepidation. I remember quite vividly myself looking at young children, realizing I’d soon have one of my own. There’s nothing quite like it. Not until one actually holds one’s child in one’s arms.Listen to me. Dripping with sentiment. But perhaps you’ll forgive me as we’re talking about your grandchild.Caroline Lamb sends her regards. Colin and I met her in the park this morning. She’s very kind to Colin–and to me. She never raises her brows at Charles Fraser’s foreign-born bride and she’s refreshingly direct.Charles is well–as well as he can be, given the prospect of war.Give Chloe a hug.Love,
MélanieGelly darling,Brussels doesn’t feel like a city on the brink of war. We’ve already been to three receptions, two balls, the theater, the opera, a military review, and two picnics. And that’s with refusing some invitations. Geoffrey looks at the soldiers – many of whom haven’t seen battle – and mutters about heedless young men who don’t know what lies in store. Yet I think see the excitement in the brightness of his eyes, the quickness of his step. Like me when Charles gives me a code to work on. There’s nothing like knowing one is needed, the focus of knowing one’s work could be a matter of life and death.I’ve always known Geoff was a military doctor of course, but until now I hadn’t fully considered what it meant. He keeps telling me he’s well away from the fighting, but I’ve heard stories from Peninsular veterans about him patching up wounds in the midst of a square. And Charles is just as much in the thick of things judging by other stories I’ve heard. I think Mélanie worries about what he’ll do when the fighting starts. She’s as charming as ever, presiding over embassy parties as Stuart’s hostess, But there’s something more – brittle is the best word I can come up with – about her somehow. As if for all her enviable self-possession she could shatter in pieces. She picks at her food, and I’d swear her face is thinner.But then to complicated matters, I seem to be feeling everything more intensely than usual. I’m going to have a baby. In November. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? I wasn’t even sure I wanted children until Geoff and I became betrothed, but then I decided I did. Well, I could have taken precautions otherwise. Mama explained it to me, and Geoff and I had a frank talk. He said it was up to me, and he seemed a bit nervous when I told him I did – want children that is – but if you’d seen the look in his eyes when I told him I thought I was pregnant– So much uncertainty, but at least this is one thing to be happy about.Love,
AllieYour intelligence is invaluable as always, querida. It will mean a great deal to have you in Brussels for the next few weeks. I’m aware that it can’t but be difficult for you – the Congress of Vienna was an odd sort of break. Sides were blurred, alliances shifted. In many ways you and Charles were able to work together. Now we’re preparing for a battle in which many of your friends will be on the opposite side. In which your husband will be on the opposite side. Yes, I know Charles isn’t a soldier, but I think we both know he won’t be able to stay away. For what it’s worth you have my thanks and gratitude.I hope to be able to meet with you in person before too much longer. I plan to take up residence in Brussels in my own person. My contacts among the British army from my days in the Peninsula should prove useful.I hate to talk in clichés, but so much is at stake. This may be our last chance to preserve some of the reforms of the past twenty years. The next few weeks may be the most important and most difficult we’ve ever spent. I hope it’s some comfort to know that at least you won’t be alone.Take care of yourself.
R.The Allies are anything but ready for war. The Prince of Orange says he takes his position seriously and then in the next breath talks about what a capital time he’ll have with his friends on Wellington’s staff once they arrive. I’m very fond of Billy, but putting a boy of three-and-twenty in command of an army simply because his father happens to be a king– Billy still idolizes Wellington, but his father is far less sanguine about the duke taking command of the Dutch-Belgian forces. And even when Wellington, many of the best British troops are still in America and most likely won’t be able to return in time. They’re sending more troops over from England – including some “Hyde Park soldiers” from the Horse Guard who probably never thought to see combat – but it can’t but be a ragtag army.Notes attached on what I’ve been able to learn about troop disposition. Charles says the duke is bound to be damned crusty, and we’ll be lucky if we’re ready by the time Napoleon marches. That is, the British will be lucky.More soon.
M.Dearest Simon,We’re safely arrived in Brussels and settled in a house in the Rue Ducale. A hwole house. The first time in our marriage we’ve had a house to ourselves. I fear we’ll positively rattle round. Brussels is an odd mix of dire rumors – to hear some talk you’d think Napoleon Bonaparte was about to swoop in at any moment and personally put every British citizen in irons – and lavish entertainment. Not quite so lavish as Vienna – what could be? – but at nearly as frenetic a pace. There are balls nearly every night, military reviews, the theatre, and talk of picnics in the countryside with the spring weather.Slender Billy – that is the Prince Orange – takes his role as Commander of the Allied Army very seriously, though as Charles says what would happen if he had to command more than a military review is a frightening thought. We saw him last night at dinner given by the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, who reign over expatriate society. Billy was eager to drink brandy with Charles and reminisce about the Peninsula. He still idolizes Wellington, so hopefully there won’t be too much awkwardness when he hands over his command.The Duchess of Richmond appears to be a woman of strong opinions – and strong temper rumor has it – but she seems to have decided my foreign background makes me a sympathetic war bride rather than a foreign adventuress. Aline is friends were her daughters, particularly Lady Sarah and Lady Georgiana, who seem refreshingly free of pretension for the daughters of a duke.Colin likes the park.More soon. Love to David.Love,
MélanieDearest Gelly,Happy Christmas! I confess for all the excitement I felt distinctly sentimental for all of you yesterday. I know it’s almost a point of family pride never to give in to sentiment, but there you have it. I do hope the boxes we sent got there in time.I daresay I’d have been more prey to sentiment had we not been so very busy. Dorothée Talleyrand gave a party on Christmas Eve. She put up a pine tree in the hall hung with gold and silver garlands and gleaming with candles. A German custom I quite like – I think perhaps I shall adopt it when I have a home of my own. Which, I realize with faint surprise, will be next year. There are still times when I can scarcely believe I’m about to be married. And then at other times it’s hard to remember when Geoff and I weren’t betrothed. He gave me a splendid new portable writing set for Christmas – so I can work on equations wherever our travels – or the British army rather – take us. And a garnet bracelet. Which, I can admit to you, I haven’t taken off my wrist since. Speaking of the holidays and unexpected sentiment from those one wouldn’t expect to display it. And no, I don’t know whether I’m speaking more of Geoff or of myself.Schubert, who I’ve told you about, was at the party playing the piano – I’ve never heard xmaas songs sound quite so glorious – even Deck the Halls, which he’d never heard before. Later he played some of his own songs and Mélanie sang. I can’t wait for you to hear his music – it has the balance of the most effect equation, and yet it cuts straight through to ones heart.Charles and Mélanie seemed particularly – well – intimate at the party. They weren’t even together much of the night, but I caught them exchanging glances more than once. And then Christmas morning – I cant describe it precisely, but it was a though something had changed between them. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say shifted into a deeper key. Things have been changing between them for weeks, as I’ve written to you, but something more happened Christmas Eve, I’d swear it. They walked home alone from the French embassy after Geoff and I left. The curious part of me would give a great deal to know what they said to each other, though you’d think I’d know better than to pry. I cant abide people prying into my own feelings.Mélanie gave Charles a first edition of Beaumarchais’s Figaro plays and Charles gave Mélanie the most exquisite pavé diamond pendant to go with the earrings he gave her for her birthday. Colin is old eough now to understand Christmas – unlike last year when Mélanie says they propped his presents up round him, and she drew a quick sketch to commemorate the moment. Watching him tear into the paper and exclaim with glee made up for missing Chloe Christmas morning. Do you know, I never thought much about having children, but suddenly I’m very pleased I may have the chance to experience it.Thinking with excitement of seeing you all soon.Love,
AllieChristmas boxes posted to Lady Frances, Bel, David & Simon, Addison’s family (done today)Pick up gown for Doro’s Christmas Eve partyLetter to EithneFinish seating arrangement for Lady CastlereaghEdit dispatch for CharlesLook for stuffed bear for ColinSchedule bride clothes fitting for AlliePluck browsLook for shawls or scarves – or earrings? – for Doro and WillieLook for gift for C. at bookseller’s
– Think of options if can’t find right book – traveling writing desk? (why is it so hard to find gifts for him)Thank you note to Princess MetternichPractice new Schubert song for Doro’s partyLetter to Simon – comments on new playReturn Julie Zichy’s callMake sure Blanca scheduled appointment for new hair cropMy dear Aunt Frances,We look forward to seeing you in Vienna for Allie’s wedding. You will have heard by now, I imagine, or will soon hear, that Tatiana Kirsanova’s murder has not been resolved and that any resolution now appears unlikely. There is more I can tell you when you arrive in Vienna. I’m glad we’ll be able to talk.On a happier note, Allie is surprisingly caught up in wedding plans. She’s even let Mel take her shopping for bride clothes and according to Mel showed remarkable forbearance over fittings. Though Dorothée Talleyrand says she’s never seen a bride-to-be so calm in advance of the wedding. Allie retorted that why should a wedding make her nervous it’s being married that matters and she wouldn’t even care a great deal for that but Geoff wouldn’t settle for any other terms and it would be easier if there were children. Wilhelmine of Sagan, who was also present, choked on her tea and then told Allie she admired her spirit. Allie said she’d learned it all from her mother.All my love,
CharlesI only met Fitzwilliam Vaughn a handful of times, but I confess I’m shocked by your news. I thought after all these years I’d learned not to make assumptions about who might be capable of what. Though I remember his concern for his stepbrother, who never seemed to warrant it.I confess when I think of Tatiana Kirsanova, it’s difficult to reconcile myself to the thought of Vaughn free. I can only imagine what it must be like for Charles.You’ve done remarkably. I think I need hardly reiterate the disaster you and Charles averted by uncovering the plot and saving the tsarina. And whatever the legal outcome, the question of who killed Tatiana Kirsanova has been answered. Not that I don’t have the utmost faith in you, but you’ve exceeded even my expectations. My compliments and my gratitude, on a number of levels.I was glad to read what you’ve learned about your husband in the past weeks. I know this hasn’t been easy for either of you and that recent events will echo into the future. But that at least is some good you can carry with you.Take care of yourself, querida.
R.Gelly darling,It was Charles and Mélanie’s anniversary yesterday. Two years. They didn’t make a fuss about it. Well, obviously. One can’t imagine them doing anything of the sort. Though Charles gave her a quite lovely gold bracelet. Even more, if you could have seen the look they exchanged over the breakfast dishes– I’m not even sure I’d have understood that sort of look before Geoff and I– Well, before. I’m not precisely sure I understand it yet, thought it is beginning to make more sense. And no, I’m not trying to be one of those odious girls who says it will all make sense when you’re engaged. I daresay it’s made sense to you for years – you know I’ve always been behind hand with these things. To own the truth, I didn’t think they were worth fussing over. Remarkable how blind one can be.Mama writes that you’re all coming for the wedding. I didn’t want to tease you to, of course, but I am glad. Perhaps it’s silly to make such a fuss over a wedding, but it wouldn’t have been the same without all of you.Do let me know when Eithne Vaughn arrives in England and how she seems to go on.Love,
AllieDarling,For someone who claims not to be good at putting his feelings into words, you have a damnable knack for penning words that knock the breath from my lungs and bring tears to my eyes. You’ve given me far more than you can know. I’m not the same person I was two years ago. I’m not the same person I was before we came to Vienna. Some couples share waltzes or champagne on moonlit terraces. We share investigations. Which really, teach one much about a person than can be learned twirling round a dance floor or sipping champagne.Happy anniversary, dearest.
M.Sweetheart,Two years. They’ve gone so quickly, and yet I can scarcely remember not being married to you. These past weeks have been a sort of madness. Even before Tania’s death and everything followed. Since we came to Vienna we’ve lived in a sort of whirlwind in which there’s scarcely time for personal relationships. At least not those between husband and wife. I know I’ve never paid the attention to you I should, but I sometimes think it’s been worse in Vienna than it was in the Peninsula. Even when I was apart from you.At least until the investigation. For all my myriad regrets these past weeks, I’ll be forever grateful for the work we did together and the things we said to each other. I don’t think either of us will ever be the same, and I for one will always be grateful.Happy anniversary, wife.
C.My dear David,Eithne Vaughn will shortly be leaving Vienna for England, escorted by Tommy Belmont. Fitz has been sent on a mission to India. I can say little more to explain, save that my friendship with Fitz will never be the same. Indeed, to be blunt, our friendship is at an end. And I suspect the same may be true of his and Eithne’s marriage, though of course they will remain legally tied to each other.Eithne will be badly in need of friends. I’d greatly appreciate it if you and Simon could call on her and offer your support – without obviously doing so. Perhaps you could also mention to Bel that Eithne would be sure to appreciate some attention for herself and the children.Sometimes, when one’s world is falling apart about one’s ears, what one needs most is friendly faces and normal conversation. You should know. You and Simon provided as much for me when I sorely needed it.As ever,
CharlesFitzwilliam Vaughn killed Princess Tatiana. To protect his stepbrother Christopher (of whom I never thought much and now think distinctly less) who was Radley’s confederate in stealing the gold.Fitz was Charles’s friend. You know that. Charles admired him for his idealism (Charles, of course, is the greatest idealist I know, but he won’t admit it). The look on Charles’s face when he confronted Fitz– All I could do was hold his hand and later hold him. And all the time I thought of what it would mean if he learned the truth about me. Until Vienna I’d have said his friend’s betrayal would have hurt him more than his wife’s betrayal. More than my betrayal. But these last days I’ve discovered I mean more to him than I’d realized. More than I’d thought possible. Which is– Wonderful and terrifying. And far more than I deserve.I thought I was such a clear-eyed realist when I married him. I see now that I was painfully naïve.I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be wallowing. But it’s an odd realization that one’s best hope of a happy ending is that one’s husband will go on believing one’s lies for the rest of one’s life.M.The tsarina is safe. Otronsky moved the attack up to the Beethoven concert today. Gregory Lindorff warned Charles. Apparently Lindorff was involved in the plot as an agent provocateur, at Talleyrand’s behest, Charles’s thinks. We were able to stop the assassin. Assassins. Charles tackled one. I shot the other. In front of the tsar and tsarina and Adam Czartoryski and Willie and Doro and Count Nesselrode. And Otronsky. No one seemed too surprised by the fact I had a pistol in my reticule. I don’t know whether that’s good or bad. But then in fairness there was a great deal to distract everyone.More when I know more.M.Allie darling,I own I’m surprised. Well, more than surprised. I mean, you always swore you’d never marry. I suspected you might find a man who would change your mind, but I confess I never thought of Dr. Blackwell in that light. I mean he’s–oh, poison, there’s no sense denying it, he’s a lot older than we are.But now that you’ve told me–well, it seems so very right. And there’s no denying he’s an interesting man. An attractive man, he’s always had that unattainable quality that makes a man particularly intriguing. Oh, dear, is it all right to say that about your future husband? I assure you, it’s a compliment to you both.I can tell Aunt Frances is over the moon at the news. Not that she’d ever quite own to it–she always say all she cares about is that we’re happy. But she’s had an almost dreamy smile on her face since she read your letter. You’d almost swear she was turning into a romantic.I can’t believe so much has happened to you, and I’ve missed it all. Aunt Frances says we’ll come to Vienna for the wedding. We’ll have so much to catch up about!Love always,GellyDear Aunt Frances,By now Aline and Geoff must have written to you. I merely wanted to add my own outside observation that I have never seen either of them looking happier. I own I was surprised, which I put down to the press of recent events and my own lamentable inability at times to see what’s in front of me when it comes to the personal feelings of those to whom I am closest.Geoff spoke with me just after he proposed. He asked if he could have a word with me with a more serious expression than I’ve ever seen on his face. We went into an antechamber with me fearing he was ill or there was some terrible news from home. Then Geoff said he doubted Allie would thank him for asking anyone for her hand, but that he felt he he should speak with a family member, given the difference in their ages, and that he would understand if I had concerns. At that point I was rather reeling from surprise, but I said my only concern was why I’d been such a fool as not to have seen it sooner. Allie, meanwhile, had told Mel and when Geoff and I emerged from the antechamber she ran over to us with a shy smile on her face. She was a bit abashed, the way our family get when talking about anything approaching personal feelings, but her eyes were glowing. She always been a pretty girl, but she’s never looked lovelier. When we returned to our rooms–with me, I confess, still struggling with surprise–Mel admitted to me she’d suspected something of the sort between them, but she hadn’t been sure either of them would act on it. But then it’s the sort of thing Mel’s good at seeing.I can only add, as one still frequently bemused by the married state, that seeing Allie and Geoff together seems so very right.As ever,CharlesMy dear Geoffrey,I think perhaps I am less shocked than you. I own to having wondered, particularly last Christmas. The sympathy between you and Allie was obvious. To be frank, more than sympathy was obvious to one accustomed to noting such things. I wasn’t sure either your or Allie would feel able to act on those feelings. But when I saw my daughter off for Vienna I quite hoped one or both of you would.I can’t imagine a man I would be happier to see my daughter marry. Or a woman I would be happier to see partnered with one of my oldest friends. I have no very great opinion of the married state, as you know. But it does seem to work out quite well for some. Charles and Mélanie for one, despite my concerns at the beginning. I have every confidence you and Allie will make a success of it.You know how I deplore saying anything commonplace, but I trust you will believe I speak from my heart when I say I could not be happier.As always,FannyMy dear Fanny,I write to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.Looking at those words, I realize I ought perhaps to have led up to them more gracefully. Only I haven’t the least notion how I’d have done so. The truth is this comes as nearly as much of a surprise to me as it must to you. Not that it’s a surprise that I love Aline – I’ve been aware of that fact for some time, I confess. But marriage never seemed a possibility.I’ve never thought to marry – I’ve told you that often enough. But then I’d never encountered anyone quite like the woman Allie has grown to be. I know I’m too old for her. I know she deserves better. But she seems to want me. And I have the oddest conviction that I can make her happy. I do know that she means more to me than anything on this earth.Aline, I know, is writing to you as well. I leave it to her to explain to you what this means to her. It means the world to me.As always,GeoffreyDearest Gelly,Charles is safe. That is he’s out of prison. I don’t exactly understand what happened, except that I think Mélanie was splendid and Wilhelmine of Sagan and Dorothée Talleyrand helped her.Charles hasn’t been officially cleared of the charges. The investigation into Princess Tatiana’s death is still open. And of course Charles won’t stop trying to learn the truth. And knowing Charles, not to mention Mélanie, I strongly suspect he–they–will uncover it. The problem is I can’t see the truth making anyone very happy. I said that to Geoffrey Blackwell last night, and he–Gelly, I have news. More news. I don’t know how to tell you except to say it straight out. I’m engaged. To Geoffrey. I know, I’ve always said I’d never get married, but I hadn’t considered– I’ve discovered marrying a specific person is quite a different prospect from marriage in general. I think I’ve been in love with Geoff since I was twelve.Yes, I know, I never mentioned it, even to you. I wasn’t even properly aware of it myself. I don’t think I quite admitted it until he proposed. But once I did it seemed so obvious. When I’m with him, I never have to worry about what to say or do. I never have to pretend to be interested in something I couldn’t care less about. I always thought marriage meant I’d have to be someone different. Instead with Geoff I can be more myself than ever.I’m happy. In fact I’m ridiculously giddy with it. I hope you’ll be happy with me. I’ve written to Mama as well. Make sure she’s received the letter before you talk to her about it.Oh, and before you ask, yes, Geoff kissed me. And yes, it was splendid.Love,AllieCharles is out of prison. He’s not officially cleared of Princess Tatiana’s murder, but Metternich has agreed that the blackmail letter probably never reached him. Princess Tatiana was indeed trying to blackmail Metternich and probably Tsar Alexander as well. We’ve learned a great deal, some of which I won’t touch on as it concerns Charles’s family. I know, it probably seems pointless and ridiculous–not to mention hypocritical–for me to keep anything secret concerning Charles. But by keeping his confidence in matters that don’t directly touch on political affairs in which you have an interest, I maintain the tattered illusion of some sort of loyalty.Princess Tatiana also, which I have not yet told Charles, appears to have been trying to blackmail Frederick Radley. Radley apparently was behind the attack by bandits on the gold that Charles and Princess Tatiana steered the French away from. A treasonous secret. A secret a man might kill to conceal, especially a man like Radley. I confronted him about it tonight, but I can’t say with certainty whether or not he was behind Princess Tatiana’s death. I think the story I told Charles about my past with Radley accounts for anything Radley may tell Charles. We’ll see.Meanwhile, at the Zichys’ tonight, Charles and Adam Czartoryski overheard Count Otronsky and a confederate, who Charles thinks is Gregory Lindorff (another of Princess Tatiana’s former lovers). It appears the target of the assassination attempt at the opera gala is Tsarina Elisabeth. Which surprised all of us. But Czartoryski says Otronsky is rumored to have been behind the murder of the tsarina’s lover. If he learned the tsarina’s letters to her lover had gone missing and guessed at the contents, he might have decided she’d become too much of a liability. And he’s been pushing his sister at the tsar. Perhaps as a second wife rather than a mistress.Charles and Czartoryski plan to confront Lindorff tomorrow.More soon.M.Keep your head, querida, which I know is not easy, but which I have not doubt you will do. You’ve survived far worse. But it’s always more difficult when the risk is to someone one cares for rather than to oneself.I’m glad Charles talked to you about Acquera. And yes, I did know that his false information was connected to the attack. Making the attack on Acquera part of your cover story seemed a good way to ensure he would do everything possible to help you and would let his defenses down (not an easy thing, as you know, to get Charles to do) which would be beneficial for the mission involving the Carevalo Ring. I didn’t of course at the time realize you would end up married to Charles. If I had, I’d like to think I’d have considered the added burden I was placing on both of you.But as an objective observer of your marriage, I would say that Charles’s reasons for marrying you appeared from the first to have to do with a great deal more than guilt. And in so far as Acquera played a role in your marriage, I would suspect being able to help you eased his guilt rather than adding to it.These blackmail attempts of Princess Tatiana’s intrigue me. Keep me informed of developments as you can.Let me know if you need me.R.I’ve just left Charles at the prison. I only have time to dash off a few words, but I felt a desperate need to talk. Charles just told me what he thinks Princess Tatiana was going to try to blackmail him with. In the Peninsula, he and Tatiana were trying to deceive the French about the route of shipment of gold form Rothschild’s in Vienna that the French had got wind of. Their false trail sent the French to Acquera. Tatiana was, Charles thinks, going to threaten to tell me the truth.The truth. Did you know? Did you know Charles held himself responsible for the attack on Acquera? Was that why you suggested it for my cover story? If you could have seen the self-hatred in his eyes when he told me. It explains so much including why he so chivalrously offered for me when he heard of my predicament. He was trying to make amends. Of course he doesn’t see it that way at all. He actually compared himself to Frederick Radley, saying he took advantage of my predicament to get me in his bed as Radley did.Dear God. All I could do was tell him I could never hate him, remind him of everything he’s given me, of how much I owe him.I can’t think. Given all the ways I’ve wronged him, perhaps it’s silly to cavil at this. But I hate that with everything else I’ve added to his guilt.In hasteM.My dear David,I write to you as an enforced guest of the Austrian state. Baron Hager and Prince Metternich have seen fit to detain me. I won’t bore you with the reasons now. I trust the matter will shortly be cleared up and I will be back at my duties in the Minoritenplatz. But my situation in Vienna has obviously become rather more complicated than it was.Should Mélanie and Colin have to return to Britain without me, I trust I may rely upon you to offer them your support? I’ve left travel documents for Mel and letters for you and Aunt Frances. Mel’s very well able to take care of herself. But God knows English society isn’t easy for outsiders. She’d stand in need of friends, and I know how she values you and Simon, and Bel and Oliver as well. With time, I comfort myself she’d do well. Should she find herself a widow, I expect she’d marry again.As for Colin, I can’t think of two men I’d rather have stand in for his father than you and Simon. At this age, I doubt he’d remember me, which is perhaps as well. I’ve been gone for too much of his young life as it is.And no, I have no reason to believe these circumstances will to pass. Only taking precautions, as I told Addison recently. Speaking of Addison, he too is well able to look after himself, and with what I’ve provided for him he shouldn’t have to work should he not wish to, but I’d appreciate it if you’d keep an eye out for him as well.As for you, David– Well, I think you know. No one could have a finer friend.As always,CharlesPrince Metternich is clearly looking for someone to blame. Damnable about Radley and the letter, but it would take more than that for them to convict a British duke’s grandson who’s close to the foreign secretary.You’re doing everything that’s sensible, under what must be an intolerable strain. Not that I’d have expected anything less. What you’ve discovered about Princess Tatiana’s activities interests me greatly. It does sound as though she was engaged in blackmail. And no, I knew nothing about it until you mentioned it. Knowing Tatiana Kirsanova’s history she could have been employed by anyone. Or she could be acting in her own interests. It could even have to do with her true identity.I’m glad you now believe she wasn’t Charles’s mistress. I hope it’s due to something Charles told you, something you found yourself able to believe.I hope by the time this letter reaches you Charles has been released from prison. If so, I imagine it will be due to your offices. If not, keep doing what you’re doing. I can come to Vienna should you find it helpful.R.Charles has been arrested. For Princess Tatiana’s murder. It was a risk from the first, but somehow I thought– But that’s neither here nor there at present as Charles would say. Baron Hager came into possession of a letter Princess Tatiana wrote attempting to blackmail Charles (over what I don’t know). I’m quite sure Frederick Radley took the letter from Princess Tatiana’s rooms the night of the murder and Charles had never seen it. Radley acted, I’m sure, because I had been pushing into his own connections to Princess Tatiana. Who appears to have been trying to blackmail him as well. If– But no, this is no time for guilt.Just before Charles was arrested, I told him about Radley. I had to, because Radley was threatening to talk to Charles. I didn’t tell Charles the whole truth, of course, but a version of it that should tally with what Radley might say. I said that Radley found Blanca and me after the attack at Acquera, and I became his mistress before he abandoned us in Léon. The least of my lies, but I was prepared to see Charles’s view of me as innocent victim of war die in his eyes. He has a wonderful ability to think beyond the confines of his world, but he’s still a British gentleman. And yet when I told him, all he was was angry at Radley and– tender. I never thought– I have a remarkable husband, who I don’t deserve.Charles hasn’t said anything yet about what my affair with Radley could mean for Colin’s parentage, but I’m sure he can’t help but wonder. I shall have to tell him the dates make me sure Radley isn’t the father. I’d rather have my son thought an anonymous French soldier’s bastard than Frederick Radley’s child.I spoke with Tsarina Elisabeth and Adam Czartoryski last night. It seems Princess Tatiana was trying to blackmail Tsar Alexander through the tsarina and Princess Metternich through the Duchess of Sagan. And, I suspect, she was trying to get to Castlereagh through Charles and Radley, who is close to Castlereagh’s brother. To what end, I don’t know, or whether the purpose was her own or she served a master. You’d tell me if it was our own people, wouldn’t you? I don’t know how heavily this will weigh with you, but Charles’s safety could depend on it.I’m going to see Charles in the morning. I think I’m doing everything I can, but let me know if you think of anything I’m missing. I wish you were here. I feel damnably alone.M.Dearest Gelly,I’m still not sure I’ll actually post this letter. It seems beastly to give you a shock when hopefully by the time the post reaches England everything will be resolved. On the other hand, if it was me, I’d want to know. And I’m convinced you would want to know as well, however you claim to feel about Charles.Charles has been arrested. For the murder of Princess Tatiana. It sounds so absurd I almost laugh as I pen the words, save that I know full well how serious it is. Apparently Baron Hager – the chief of police – came into possession of a letter Princess Tatiana wrote to Charles which makes it sound as though she was blackmailing him. Mélanie says she’s quite sure the letter was taken from Princess Tatiana’s rooms the night she died, and Charles never received it. Which, yes, doesn’t explain the blackmail. A bit disturbing. But then anyone who does the sort of work Charles does is bound to have secrets. And though I pride myself on being a keen-eyed observer of my fellows, unlike you I’m quite convinced it can’t be anything to Charles’s discredit.Mélanie tried to do and say everything to be reassuring, but I could see how frightened she is. A bit of a jolt to see someone with her self-command so shaken. But the one quite splendid thing is that she told me she’s now sure Princess Tatiana wasn’t Charles’s mistress. They must have talked about it, which is splendid in itself, and she must have believe him, which speaks reassuring volumes about the state of their relationship.We dined at the French embassy tonight. Everyone was surprisingly kind, especially Dorothée Talleyrand and the Duchess of Sagan. And Alfred von Windisgrätz – the duchess’s lover – was quite sweet and charming to me – in a delightfully non-flirtatious way – at dinner. Afterwards we went to the Burgtheater to see Schiller’s Don Carlos. I know it was one of Aunt Elizabeth’s favorites, but I confess I scarcely absorbed a word. We saw Franz Schubert, who said the kindest, most sensible things about Charles. Mélanie was gone for much of the second act. From the look on her face when she returned, I think she may have learned something helpful. Thank goodness for Geoffrey Blackwell. It was most reassuring having him beside me in the box.How I wish you were here to talk to, Gelly. Love,AlineA musicale at the Duchess of Sagan’s last night. A young musician named Franz Schubert played his own compositions. Quite exquisite. And amazingly sophisticated for one so young. Princess Tatiana had befriended him as it happens. But though the music still echoes in my ears, it’s the least of the day’s revelations. This assassination plot Princess Tatiana had discovered seems to have been orchestrated by Count Otronsky. One of the most belligerent of Tsar Alexander’s advisers. Adam Czartoryski is working with us. He even agrees it’s possible Otronsky is acting on the tsar’s orders. Which means we can’t take this to anyone. Thanks to a communication I intercepted tonight at the musicale, it appears the attack is planned for the opera gala on 10 December. Charles is taking that to Castlereagh.Meanwhile, it appears Princess Tatiana had papers both the Duchess of Sagan and Prince Metternich wished to recover.And at the end of the evening, Schubert of all people revealed that he’d seen Princess Tatiana with Frederick Radley. Three days before Radley supposedly arrived in Vienna. So of course I’m going to have to discover why.By the way I no longer believe Princess Tatiana was Charles’s mistress. The details don’t bear on international politics, but I confess it is a relief.Keep safe.M.Dearest David,Who on earth is Princess Tatiana Kirsanova? Was Charles really mad enough to take her as his mistress? Oh, that didn’t come out right. You know I have few illusions when it comes to marriage. But would Charles really resist any sort of entanglement for years (or at least any sort of entanglement that we heard about, and goodness knows it’s hard to keep those things silent) and then take a mistress just after he takes a wife?I know some would say his marriage itself was odd, and one doesn’t see much of the lover in him when it comes to Mélanie. But for heaven’s sake, has Charles ever acted like the lover with anyone? For that matter, has he ever expressed his emotions in a conventional manner? Or expressed his emotions much at all? Some might accuse me of being a romanticism–though you know I’m the farthest thing from a romantic–but I would say his feelings for Mélanie run far deeper than one would assume from the surface. As do hers for him. Which is why I hate to think of him putting her through this.And now I understand the wretched woman has been murdered. Oh, dear, that’s not fair of me. I’m very sorry Princess Tatiana is dead and sorry too the Charles is in the midst of the investigation, which must only be making things more difficult for everyone.Why did Father have to send you to Carfax Court just at this time? It’s most provoking. Of course I wouldn’t ask you to break Charles’s confidence, but do let me know as much as you can.Your distracted sister,IsobelI thought the Congress would prove eventful in unexpected ways, querida, but I confess the recent events you’ve recounted are the last thing I anticipated. I’m sorry to hear of Princess Tatiana’s death. I’m sure it’s difficult for Charles, though not, I suspect, for the reasons you seem to be assuming. I would think by now you would know you husband well enough to realize the obvious explanation is seldom the correct one when it comes to him. Charles Fraser has never been one for dalliance. And he takes vows seriously.I’m sure you’re right that he needs to talk, though I’m not surprised talking’s the last thing he’s inclined to do, not just to you, but to anyone. Even as a boy he was inclined to shut down and pull everything inward. You aren’t exactly conversational yourself in times of grief. I’ve more than once been at a loss on how to reach you. Not that I’m any more open at such times myself. One deludes oneself that one isn’t burdening others, though considering the situation from the outside, I suspect silence may make the burden worse. I suspect simply having you there to work with means a great deal to him.I’m most interested to hear of this plot Princess Tatiana had uncovered. She had her foibles, God knows, but she was an astute agent. Working with Charles, as you say, is undoubtedly the best thing you can do, for reasons both personal and political. Adam Czartoryski is a man of startling integrity. You and Charles have chosen well in your ally.I’m sorry Radley’s there to trouble you, but you’ve always been able to dance rings round him.Take care of yourself, querida.R.Charles wounded Fitzwilliam Vaughn in a tournament. Well, in point of fact he unhorsed him and only because someone had tampered with one of the shoes on Fitz’s horse. Doro had pressed Charles and Fitz into taking the place of two of the riders at the Carrousel who came down with mumps. The Carrousel went off very well until then. Fitz was knocked out, but Geoffrey Blackwell expects him to make a complete recovery. Charles, of course, blames himself. The more troubling question is who tampered with Fitz’s horse and why. Was it because of something Princess Tatiana told him?I didn’t tell you Fitz and Princess Tatiana were lovers, did I? Trying to be discreet about people’s private secrets, but that’s as difficult in a murder investigation as in espionage. Difficult to believe it of Fitz. He and Eithne seemed so devoted. Or perhaps I simply wanted to believe that sort of devotion was possible. Eithne already knew. The look on her face– Better, perhaps, to have no illusions about one’s husband.And believe it or not that wasn’t the greatest revelation of last night. At the ball after the Carrounsel, Charles received a letter Princess Tatiana had left for him before her death. The look on his face when he saw her handwriting– but that’s not the point of what I’m trying to say. It seems Princess Tatiana had stumbled upon something. An assassination plot. But not who the target is. Save that it’s someone of importance.It’s easy to see how the assassination of just about anyone could shake the Congress to its core. And not necessarily to our advantage. In fact, it would be all too likely to bring about more reactionary measures. The best thing ai can do is help Charles discover the truth. Rather nice to be working on the same side. For once the different pieces of my life neatly align, and I’m scarcely playing a part.Save for Frederick Radley. I was obliged to dance with him last night. He assures me he has not wish to disrupt the life I’ve built for myself (if only he fully understood that life). But as I said, I fear his connection to Princess Tatiana will make it impossible for me to stay away from him.More soon.M.Dearest Gelly,I’m dressing for a medieval tournament. Yes, I know, it sounds mad. That’s what life at the Congress is. It’s called the Carrousel and it’s a re-creation of a medieval tournament. Mélanie’s been very involved in organizing it with Dorothee Talleyrand, Prince Talleyrand’s niece by marriage and his hostess at the Congress. Mélanie says it’s actually more a re-creation of a sixteenth or seventeenth century tournament when noblemen played at recreating the days of chivalry. She and Doro have done a great deal of research. I’m only a spectator, thank goodness, but Mélanie’s one of the belles d’amour who preside over the tournament. I’m sure she’ll do splendidly, she’s much more comfortable in the public eye than I am. In fact she seems to quite enjoy it.Charles was only the night before last pressed into service as one of the knights, along with Lord Fitzwilliam because Felix Woyna and one of the Trautsmandorffs came down with mumps. Not the sort of thing one imagines Charles doing, but he’s such a good rider I’m sure he’ll acquit himself well. And he was quite brilliant at theatricals growing up and at Oxford.There are all sorts of rumors flying round Vienna now that Princess Tatiana wasn’t who she claimed to be (the daughter of Prince and Princess Sarasov). Catherine Bagratin made the announcement at the Metternichs’ masquerade. I didn’t hear it, but she claimed to have done research, and she’s being taken seriously. I must have heard at least a dozen versions of Princess Tatiana’s true identity from a scullery maid in Prince Talleyrand’s employ to the Prince Regency’s illegitimate daughter.Princess Tatiana’s funeral was yesterday. I didn’t go of course, but Charles and Mélanie did along with Lord and Lady Castlereagh. Afterwards Charles looked–well like he did at your mother’s funeral is the best I can describe it. Which made me want to hug him while at the same time I felt quite beastly for Mélanie.I wish I understood what was going on.Love,AllieRather an interesting turn of events cast night. Charles had a meeting arranged at the opera with the man who tried to buy these unknown papers of Princess Tatiana’s from him last night at the Metternich masquerade. I was watching one door and Adam Czartoryski the other. We thought we had it nicely covered, but a second man sneaked up on me and put a knife to my throat (yes, dreadfully sloppy of me, I blush to tell you) and then burst into the salon and demanded the papers. The upshot was that the two men escaped out the window with the dummy papers I’d created. One fired off his gun and grazed my shoulder, which distracted Charles, not mention me. (I’m fine. I know you’re too sensible to fuss. Charles in the other hand turned dangerously Hostpurish for a bit. I think I’ve managed to make him see sense).What these papers are remains a mystery. Charles thinks he recognized the second man from the Chancellery. Which implies Princess Tatiana had papers of interest to Prince Metternich. Or perhaps to the Duchess of Sagan. It’s beginning to look as though she was compiling a blackmail dossier against powerful people. The reasons could be personal. Save that a young musician whom Princess Tatiana had befriended, Franz Schubert (I haven’t heard his music yet, but he’s an agreeable and very intelligent young man), told us that Tatiana had discovered something disquieting shortly before her death. And then last night at the opera another man-yes, I know, this is beginning to resemble a French farce-told Charles he was asking the wrong questions. That he should be asking not who killed Tatiana but what she had discovered and looking into why Tatiana went to Empress Rose tavern the day she died. All of which sounds as though Princess Tatiana had stumbled upon some sort of plot. Charles and I are going to the tavern tomorrow. Charles agreeing to my going with him I take as a good sign that the Hotspurish tendencies have been put to rest.Charles, I know, would be intensely relieved if Tatiana had indeed discovered a plot and if her actions in her last days had been driven by heroism rather than blackmail and scheming. It’s not easy to discover the one you love isn’t what you thought him or her to be. One can only hope he never discovers the truth about me. Not that I have any foolish illusions that he loves me.Speaking of which, I neglected to tell you one development from the Metternich masquerade. Fredrick Radley is in Vienna. As annoyingly self-confident as ever. He assures me he hasn’t come to disrupt the secure life I’ve built for myself (kind of him, isn’t it, if only he knew the truth). But last night Doro told me she’d met Radley at Princess Tatiana’s in Paris and that there seemed to be something between Radley and Tatiana, though not a love affair, even a past one. Which means Instead of avoiding Radley I’m going to have to learn more about him. Not that he knows anything close to enough to expose me, but he could certainly ruin Charles’s image of the innocent war victim he married. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I got myself into this.More soon.M.My dear David,Just a few quick words, dashed off in the midst of a mad day. I’ve just returned from a funeral. Princess Tatiana Kirsanova. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned her. She’s a Russian princess who’s lived much in Paris recently. She’s also provided valuable intelligence to the British, and I’ve been her contact. She was murdered the night before last. I expect by the time you receive this letter, even allowing for the speed of diplomatic couriers, you’ll have heard of her death. You’ll probably also have heard that Mélanie and I discovered the body. God knows what else you’ll have heard. Which is why I realized I’d best write to you.Even before you heard of Princess Tatiana’s murder, you may have heard certain rumors about the princess and me. I hesitate to dignify those rumors by replying to them. But I think you know not to believe all you hear, particularly when it comes to the gossip out of the Congress. And I think you know me well enough to realize that, whatever my inadequacies as a husband, I take my marriage vows seriously. Be a good fellow and do what you can to dispel the rumors. I don’t care for myself, but I hate to have them hanging over Mélanie when next we’re in Britain.Castlereagh has me looking into the princess’s murder, which complicates the already complicated situation here. Thank God I have Mel helping me.Love to Simon.As always,CharlesWhat do you know about Adam Czartoryski? Because he now seems to be Charles’s and my ally. Which is a good thing because we apparently have unseen enemies.Oh, poison. To think you used to compliment me on the coherence of my reports. But in truth so much has happened since I last wrote to you that I scarce know where to begin. We made a number of interesting discoveries today, including the fact that Princess Tatiana apparently was selling looted art treasures and had some sort of altercation with Wilhelmine of Sagan not long before she was killed. And that she was still working for Talleyrand, more than Charles had realized, and that Talleyrand put her up to resuming her affair with Metternich (which Charles didn’t know had resumed) as well as engaging in an affair with Tsar Alexander.Then, on the way back from the French embassy, someone stuck a knife against Charles’s ribs and told him to meet him in the garden during the Metternichs’ masquerade. Which Charles did, but with me hiding behind the shrubbery with my pistol (yes, we took precautions, surely you know me that well). The man arrived masked and offered Charles an extraordinary amount of money for something unspecified that he evidently believes Charles has. Before Charles could learn more, noise in the shrubbery startled the masked man off. (So many people in the shrubbery wouldn’t have been so surprising at a Metternich entertainment a month ago, but is a bit odd now it’s late November). The noise proved to be Adam Czartoryski. He also offered Charles money for something unspecified. After we all danced round each other for a bit, we ascertained that Czartoryski is trying to recover papers of Tsarina Elisabeth’s which had fallen into Princess Tatiana’s hands. He believed Charles had the papers. The masked man was evidently after those papers or others in Princess Tatiana’s possession. As perhaps were the people who attacked us last night.It ended with Czartoryski offering to do everything in his power to assit us in learning who killed Princess Tatiana and recovering hte papers. And Charles agreed, which shows a surprising level of trust. Even more surprising, I find myself sorely tempted to trust Czartoryski. Am I going soft? Perhaps. But if you could have seen his face– I’d swear he genuinely loves the tsarina and would do anything in his power to protect her. Charles told me something of their history. Remarkable that such a love could endure so long, in the face of separation and infidelity and God knows what other obstacles. But then, as you say, cynicism can sometimes be too easy a way out when it comes to viewing the world.As if that wasn’t enough, Princess Bagration announced at the masquerade that Princess Tatiana was an impostor. That is, she wasn’t really the daughter of Prince and Princess Sarasov. Princess Bagration had cause to be jealous of Princess Tatiana, but I doubt she’d risk such a public statement without evidence.If Charles is shocked by all these revelations about a woman he loved, he doesn’t show it. He doesn’t show much.More soon.M.Dearest Fanny,You must know by now. About Tatiana. I heard it myself from—well, suffice it to say, I heard the news. Damn and blast. I never had any illusions that life was fair, but sometimes it seems gratuitously cruel. She lived a risky life, but this was one danger I didn’t anticipate for her. Rumors are circulating madly, but I understand her killer has not yet been discovered. And that Charles has been asked to investigate. I have no doubt he won’t rest until he discovers the truth. What the search will do to him is another question.I keep seeing Elizabeth when she talked about Pierette or showed off a letter from her. God knows Elizabeth had her flaws as a mother, but no one could claim she didn’t love her children. All of them. And I can say from personal experience that not being with a child all the time doesn’t lessen one’s degree of concern.Let me know if you hear how Charles does.R.My dear Fanny,I don’t know if Aline’s letter or mine will reach you first. I don’t know which of is it would be easier for you to hear this from. In truth, there’s no easy way to say this. Pierette—Tatiana—is dead. Murdered in her salon last night. Stories are flying round the city about precisely what happened, each more outlandish than the last.Then Charles called on me and told me he and Mélanie discovered the body. Or rather, Charles discovered the body and Mélanie arrived shortly thereafter. Closely followed by Tsar Alexander and Prince Metternich. Apparently Tatiana summoned all of them. Or else the murder set it up, though Charles says the notes from her appear to be genuine. He says he thinks Metternich would have arrested him on the spot if Mélanie hadn’t said they’d arrived together.Metternich will have Baron Hager looking into it of course, but Charles says Castlereagh’s asked him to launch his own investigation. When I first heard that, I cursed the foreign secretary roundly. Though he can’t know, of course, quite what Tatiana was to Charles and quite how hard this will be for Charles. On the other hand, I can’t imagine Charles staying out of it, whatever Castlereagh told him, and he may do better with a task.Mélanie, not surprisingly, has insisted on helping him. I can only imagine what this must be like for her. I understand Charles’s determination to keep Elizabeth’s confidence. It’s a last tie to his mother in a way. But for Mélanie to believe Tatiana was his mistress (she can hardly ignore the rumors) can only create a barrier between them. This afternoon, I found myself wondering if perhaps that’s precisely why Charles doesn’t tell her. To keep a distance between them. Emotional surrender doesn’t come easily to anyone in this family.I keep remembering Elizabeth’s stories about Tatiana—Pierette—when she was a child. I think she found it a great relief to be able to talk to us about Tatiana. In a way, I suppose, it’s a comfort Elizabeth isn’t here to see this.Damn.As always,GeoffreyDear Mama,Something quite dreadful has happened. How melodramatic I sound. But the events of the past twenty-four hours are melodramatic. There’s no other way to describe them.Princess Tatiana Kirsanova has been murdered. Tommy Belmont told us (Eithne Vaughn and me) this morning at breakfast. He’d picked up all sorts of outlandish stories about how the body was discovered while out on his morning ride. It quite distracted me from my notebook, and I was working on a particularly interesting equation involving an iterating wave. Then Mélanie walked into the room and told us she and Charles found the body.Apparently Charles returned from Pressbourg late last night and found Mélanie at Baroness Arnsteins’ after we left (Fitz Vaughn and Eithne and me, that is, I’m getting muddled, we’d all been at the opera with Mélanie, but she stayed on at the Arnsteins’ after we went back to the Minoritenplatz). Charles received a note from Princess Tatiana at the Arnsteins’ asking him to call immediately. Mélanie went with him. They found the princess dead (her throat was cut apparently, it must have been a hideous sight), and then Tsar Alexander and Prince Metternich arrived one after the other. Supposedly Princess Tatiana summoned them as well. Which is odd, because everyone (even someone as deaf to gossip as I am) knows Metternich used to be the princess’s lover and the tsar currently occupies that role.At least that’s the story. To be honest, I’m not sure Mélanie told us everything, which isn’t the least bit surprising, as she and Charles almost never reveal everything about what they’re involved in. And the thing is—well, I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors in London by now. Everyone says Charles is—was—one of Princess Tatiana’s lovers. And they were certainly close. One could feel the intimacy in the air between them. Yes, I know, there’s nothing surprising about a man in Charles’s position having a mistress. But it seems so unlike Charles. He takes his promised so seriously (and he’d consider marriage a promise, Mama, whatever you may say of the institution). And yet I’m quite sure Mélanie believes it’s true, which wouldn’t be so bad is she could shrug it off, but I think it bothers her far more than she’d ever admit. It makes me quite cross with Charles.I knew Vienna would be complicated. I just didn’t envision that it would be quite this complicated.Love,AlineSomething unexpected happened last night. Tatiana Kirsanova is dead. It would be more accurate to say Princess Tatiana was murdered. I discovered the body. Well, Charles and I did. She summoned us to her rooms. She also summoned Tsar Alexander and Prince Metternich. Unless, as Charles pointed out, it was the killer who summoned us. Though if the notes are forged, the forgery is expert.Her throat was cut. I haven’t said that yet, have I? I fear I’m not thinking as clearly as I should. With an antique dagger that had been displayed in the room, arguing perhaps a crime of impulse. The killer was someone who could get close to her.Charles came under suspicion from both Tsar Alexander and Prince Metternich. I think only the fact that I assured them we arrived together prevented his arrest. Metternich and Tsar Alexander postured for power over Princess Tatiana’s body as though they were facing each other across a council chamber. The crime having occurred in Austria, Metternich was able to take control. He sent us home, and I’m sure he planned to summon Baron Hager.Charles and I were attacked on the way back to the Minoritenplatz. I’m not sure why or by whom or how it relates to the crime. We found Castlereagh awake and waiting for us. Well, for Charles. He’d already been informed of Princess Tatiana’s death, and he wants Charles to investigate. I hadn’t realized Princess Tatiana was an agent. For the British but apparently for others as well. She worked for whomever paid best. Did you know? Charles was her contact, which explains some of their relationship, though not perhaps how close they were. Charles has been very affected by Princess Tatiana’s death. He reacts to loss with guilt, and this is plainly a loss he feels keenly. I think he desperately needs someone to talk to, and the damnable thing is that I’m the last person to whom he’d speak about it. He has agreed to let me help him in his investigation, for which I am inestimably grateful. But I feel rather as though I’m stumbling on stage in the midst of a play without knowing what has transpired before.More soon.M.My dear Fanny,By now I’m sure Mélanie and Charles have written to tell you Aline is safely arrived in Vienna. I think she’s enjoying herself. Though she did ask me, at a ball at the Hofburg, if we could sit on the sidelines and discuss my experiments, as she was quite weary of court gossip. Have I mentioned how refreshing your daughter is?Charles and Mélanie seem to be getting on well enough, though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit Vienna appears to be taking a toll on them. It’s an exhausting life we lead here, and not easy on a marriage I think (speaking as one with no personal knowledge of the institution). On the one hand, Mélanie has acquired more polish as she navigates court circles. Quite the perfect diplomatic wife. On the other hand, there’s something a shade too brittle about her crystal perfection.It doesn’t help that Tatiana is here. Mélanie can see how close she and Charles are (I’ve observed her watching them together, particularly at a recent reception at the Zichys’), and she can’t but wonder. And I doubt Charles will ever tell her the truth. He holds promises inviolate, and I suspect that’s doubly true when it comes to Elizabeth.As for Charles, he has that haggard look he wears when he’s pushing himself too hard. Yes, I know that’s most of the time, but though Vienna may lack the obvious dangers of the Peninsula, it’s holds unique strains. Negotiating all day, dancing into the small hours (with negotiating often continuing in the antechambers at balls where Charles is usually to be found), and then coming home to draft new memorandums more often than not. I doubt it helps that Charles finds himself in disagreement with Castlereagh on a number of matters. I’ve always thought he’s far too independent a thinker to able to support arguing others’ policies in the long run.My regards to the children. And to you.As always,GeoffreyGelly darling,Charles has gone to Pressburg for a few days. He left yesterday. He didn’t say anything about it beforehand. Of course he very well might not to me, because his work is quite secretive, but from Mélanie’s manner when she told me, I rather suspect he didn’t say anything about it to her in advance either.I confess I can’t make sense of them. Not that I’m good at making sense of people. Numbers are so much more straightforward. But I’d swear Charles isn’t as indifferent to Mélanie as you state with such determination (don’t scowl, Gelly, you can’t deny you have a tendency to make sweeping assumptions when it comes to your brother). Sometimes I catch him looking at her across the room and something flashes into his eyes that I can only call wonder. What a ridiculously imprecise word. And yet it’s the best description I can come up with for that look that quite transforms his face.And yet there’s no denying they don’t live in each other’s pockets. Well, no married couple at the Congress seem to. And even I’ve heard the rumors— oh, poison, I’m not sure I should mention it to you, Gelly, save that given the way letters are flying back and forth I’m sure by now the rumors have crossed the Continent and the Channel and are current in London drawing rooms. The rumors about Charles and Princess Tatiana Kirsanova. Of course there seem to be rumors about Princess Tatiana sharing the bed of half the men at the Congress (she’s at least as gossiped about as Wilhelmine of Sagan and Princess Catherine Bagration), and they can’t all be true.And yet— There’s something between them. Between Charles and Princess Tatiana. I saw them standing together on the balcony at the Zichys’ last week. They weren’t even touching, but there was something about Charles’s pose—the lien of his shoulders, the angle of his head tilted toward her own. He looked more at ease than he does with almost anyone. Even Mélanie.I turned my head, and I saw Mélanie watching them. She’s always so perfectly composed, especially at public events. But for a moment she looked as though someone had dealt her a blow to the stomach. You know how I adore Charles, but in that instant I was quite furious with him for putting Mélanie in such a position.I wish you were here to talk to. You’re so good at reading people (at least if you could set your prejudices about Charles aside). I almost talked to Geoffrey Blackwell last night. He’s so sensible, and he was at Charles and Mélanie’s wedding and saw them a great deal in the Peninsula . But I’m afraid he’d think I’m being dreadfully presumptuous. Which I suppose I am. I should return to my equations. But oddly I find the personal equations here too compelling to ignore.Love to Judith and Chloe and Mama (and for heaven’s sake don’t show her this letter).Love,AlineInteresting. Somehow I doubt Charles has gone to Pressburg. I’d hazard a guess it’s something to do with the Saxon situation. I shall be most interested to hear what you can discover on his return. (His skills at slipping from the room undetected must indeed be formidable. I know from experience how difficult it its to avoid waking you).The aftershocks of Metternich’s affair with Wilhelmine of Sagan are avid topics of conversation even in my location. I almost—almost—feel sorry for Metternich. I confess a part of me greatly regrets not being in Vienna this autumn, while another part is very relieved to be well out of it. Which would not be possible without your excellent reports.I’ve noticed you have a tendency to apologize for caring about your husband. Which complicates an already complicated situation. It is entirely possible to have feelings that might be called hypocritical but are still genuine feelings. Just as it’s possible to betray someone in one way and feel intense loyalty in others. Knowing Charles, I suspect he’s complicating things by keeping his feelings even more in check than usual. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—with Charles, it’s never wise to assume the obvious explanation is the correct one.Take care of yourself, querida.R.I woke this morning to find Charles gone and a note on the pillow saying Castlereagh has sent him to Pressburg on unexpected business. Castlereagh must have given him the instructions last night. Charles said nothing of it to me, but then he’s always careful. He trusts me—damnably well—but he has a good agent’s innate caution.Of course I’m not in the least convinced he’s actually gone to Pressburg. Which may be part of the reason he didn’t tell me. I can see through him rather well.He can still manage to slip from our bed without waking me. I can’t but admire his skill, while at the same time deploring my own. I’ll let you know what I can discover when he returns.We have a rehearsal for the Carrousel today, always a good place to pick up information. Dorothée is discreet about Talleyrand’s business but more confiding as we’ve become closer friends (she’s one of the best friends I have had in years, which in the hideous paradox of this business makes her an excellent source of information). Young Marie Metternich is remarkably poised for seventeen, but she sometimes lets something slip about her father’s affairs (political affairs that is). And then there’s Thérèse Esterhazy who prattles on incessantly. Nine tenths of it is irrelevant nonsense, but one tenth can be quite illuminating.Vienna is still abuzz over the end of Metternich’s affair with Wilhelmine of Sagan. And the political implications of her apparent move toward the tsar. Political and romantic speculation are so intertwined at the Congress it’s impossible to separate them. Of course, even I hear the rumors about Charles and Tatiana Kirsanova. I appreciate your attempts to reassure me in your last letter, but Charles’s relations with Princess Tatiana are his own affair. I should look the worst sort of hypocrite if I objected to any lapse of fidelity on his part. That doesn’t, of course, mean I don’t mind. But I’m endeavoring to be a good diplomatic wife and turn a blind eye.Keep safe.M.Dear Mama, Thank you for letting me know about Aunt Frances and the baby. I’m glad to know they are both well. One can’t help but worry a bit. Judith is a nice name. I expect Allie will like having a little sister, and Gisèle and Judith will be able to play together when theiy’re older. It will be nice for Gelly as she’s so much younger than Edgar and me. I can’t wait to see her again next holiday. It’s odd being gone and having one’s sister change so much in one’s absence.I was talking about the Henry plays with David only yesterday. I was explaining how I asked Mr. O’Roarke who was right in Henry IV Part I , Prince Hal and the King or Hotspur and the rebels, and he said I should think it over and decide for myself. It’s rather splendid being asked to decide something for one’s self.I wrote to Mr. O’Roarke as you suggested. I hope he has time to write back. If he can’t come home, do you think we’ll ever be able to go to Paris and see him? I hate the thought of never having a chance to talk to him again.It would be splendid if you could come for Speech Day. I know it can be complicated to arrange.Yours always,CharlesDear Charles, Your aunt Frances was safely delivered of a baby last night. A little girl. Her name is Judith Elizabeth Catherine. Aline’s already held her, looking very solemn and serious. Cedric’s at school of course, and I’m not sure Christopher had the least idea what was happening when he was carried in to see his new little sister. He seemed disinclined to look at the baby at all, and then he cried very loudly.Frances is in good spirits and remarkable health. In fact, she plans to put in an appearance at Holland House this evening. She has a good wet nurse installed in the house, Mrs. Jellaby, who I used for Gisèle. I remember you liked her. So much safer to have the nurse and the baby in the house. I’m glad I did that with all of you.Gisele said doll (at least I think that’s what she was saying) yesterday. You’ll be quite impressed with how many words she has when you see her again.I went to the Tavistock last night. Henry V, which I know is one of your favorites. A good performance, though I think I prefer the one I took you and Edgar to two years ago.Excellent news about your translation. I shall try to get up for Speech Day.Your proud and loving,MamaMy dear Charles, Thank you for your letter. It meant a great deal to me to receive it. I write this sitting in a café. There’s a buzz of lively talk all round. I can hear the whiffle of newspapers being turned and the rattle of dice. I have a cup of excellent coffee at my eblow. Paris is one of my favorite cities, but I miss Britain and Ireland, and I miss our talks particularly. I quite agree with you. The fact that life is unfair doesn’t make it right. However, I remind myself that there are many people suffering worse privations than being forced to live in Paris.I’m glad you’re reading the Ludlow. It’s an interesting picture of the aftermath of a revolution. Quite timely, as you astutely point out. And yes, I do often comfort myself with the thought that whatever comes in France, I don’t think things will ever go back to the way they were before.Given your tendency to understatement, I suspect you dazzled your tutor with the translation you say he was happy with. I’m not in the least surprised. I should very much like to spend an afternoon talking Latin or ancient Greek with you and young Mallinson, though I suspect you’d both run rings round me.Do write again when you have the time.I miss you as well.Yours always,O’RoarkeDear Mr. O’Roarke, I hope you are well. Mama says she’s not quite sure where you are, but that she’ll find a way to get this letter to you. She said she thought you’d like to hear from me. I know it may be a while before you can come back to England or Scotland or Ireland. I don’t think it’s fair. But then as you’ve told me many times, a lot of things in life aren’t fair. That doesn’t make it right though. I think you’d agree with that.I’ve been reading the Ludlow you sent me for Christmas. It’s very sad. Thinking everything would change and then having it not turn out as the revolutionaries wanted. Or at least not as all of them wanted. And then having a king come back in the end. Though it didn’t all go back to the way it was before. So it’s not as though the Civil War didn’t matter. I wonder if there will ever be a king again in France. I expect even if there was it couldn’t ever go back to the way it was before. Does that make you feel any better? It must be hard to work to change things as much as you do and have them not turn out quite as you want.The term at Harrow has started out pretty well. I did a Cicero translation my tutor seemed happy with. It’s good to see David again. We spent a whole afternoon only talking in Latin and another talking in ancient Greek.I miss you.Yours sincerely,Charles FraserBeloved, I’m not in the least surprised Charles worked out the code so quickly. He neatly dissected Locke’s arguments on natural law the last time I spoke with him. In very short order he’s going to be able to out think both of us. Something that both terrifies me and fills me with pride.I’m glad you took to boys to school. Whatever Charles may seem to be asking of you, you’re giving him a great deal simply by being there with him. As quickly as his mind works, he’s still a boy of eleven. And I rather think he craves personal connections all the more because he isn’t good at asking for them. I know a bit about that myself. As, I think, do you.I thought about you a great deal over the holidays. A damnable time for you to be shut up at Dunmykel. I hope at least you filled the house with agreeable people.I go on well. I knew I’d miss you and Charles. I knew I’d miss Ireland. I’m rather surprised to find I miss London. Now that I’m away from it, it seems far more like home than it ever did when I resided there. I sit in a café sipping coffee and turning the page of a newspaper and feel an absurd nostalgia for riding in the park through the press of the promenade, sharing ices at Gunter’s, walking along the riverbank and seeing the moonlight reflected in the greasy water.Uncharacteristic sentimentality. I daresay I shall soon get over it. Meanwhile, I rather like the connection it gives me to the people I care about.Give Fanny my love and my best wishes for her confinement (knowing Fanny, I daresay she’ll deliver the baby in the carriage leaving a ball and be off to another ball the next night).Take care of yourself.A always,R.My darling, I took the boys back to Harrow. I traveled down from Scotland with them and let them off at school before I went on to London. I gave Charles a new code to work on in the carriage. He had it deciphered before we were scarcely out of Perthshire. Then he went silent, staring at me with those serious eyes of his. Your eyes. As though he wanted something but couldn’t figure out how to ask for it. And even though I wasn’t sure what he wanted, I was quite sure I wouldn’t be able to give it to him. In so many ways he’s so like you. I’m often not sure what you’re thinking. And I often feel I’ve disappointed you.Edgar stared at the window and counted the number of carriages that went past, giving a running commentary on the type and the number of horses. In many ways, Edgar is a much easier child.Oh, the devil. I’m sounding gloomy, and I’m actually not feeling gloomy at all. The boys were quite easy traveling companions. We had some very agreeable dinners at the inns we stayed at along the way. Yesterday, when we stopped before getting to Harrow, the boys devoured their shepherd’s pie and trifle and were quite noisy and quite like the other boys were saw at the inn with their parents on their way back to school.I miss them. The Berkeley Square house feels oddly quiet. Gisèle should arrive tomorrow with her nurse. And I expect Kenneth will be back in a week or so. I’m not quite sure where he took himself off to when he left Dunmykel. Not that having Kenneth back makes the house seem less quiet. Or rather it does, but not in an agreeable way.I’m well. I had a fit of the blue devils, the way I often do over the holidays, but I’m better now. It helps to be doing things. Fanny’s back in town with the children. She’s due to be confined soon though that didn’t stop her from dancing until past two at Melbourne House last night. Bobby Trenwith was being very attentive, but I don’t think he’s the baby’s father. Fanny won’t tell me who it is, which is unusually discreet for her. To own the truth, I’ve been wondering if it isn’t a royal duke. Of course, Prinny’s always liked her, but I’m not sure—-I hope this finds you well and safe.I miss you.Always,ElizabethMy dear Charles, I hope to God you never read this letter. But if you are reading it, it means you’ve uncovered the truth or someone’s or someone’s told it to you. I’ve always feared Mélanie’s guilt would drive her to make an ill-timed confession.My actions have been inexcusable. And yet I can’t say with certainty that I wouldn’t do it again. I decided years ago where my greatest loyalty lies. I consider regrets a singular waste of time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have them.I don’t suppose there’s any point in asking you to believe that I genuinely thought you and Mélanie could make each other happy at the same time I knew she could obtain valuable intelligence from you. It sounds madly contradictory, not to mention self-serving. But then the truth can be contradictory.But I ask you to believe me when I say that Mélanie’s love for you is no deception. If she didn’t go into the marriage loving you, she loves you now. It took all my powers of persuasion to convince her to continue her work after your visit to Britain last year. Even then, I’m not sure she’d have continued if Castlereagh hadn’t been so intransigent and reactionary in Vienna. It’s been harder for her these past weeks in Brussels, with the lines more clearly drawn again. I’ve been worried about her health.Mélanie made her decision about how to fight for the world she believes in. You may not agree with the choice she’s made, but I think, on reflection, you may understand her need to fight for what she believes in. And her refusal to let personal feelings compromise her other loyalties.However it began, the two of you have something worth preserving. Place the blame where it belongs—on me. Look after your wife and son and be happy.As always,R.My dear Charles, I never thought I’d write this letter. God knows I never wanted you to know the truth.No, that’s not entirely true. When you were born I wanted you to know very much. Even at that age I was far from a romantic, but I confess to some mad fantasies about running off with your mother, to somewhere we could have lived openly as a family.Absurd I know. Your mother could defy convention, but she remained a duke’s daughter. Some lines she wouldn’t cross.I remember the night you were born distinctly. I was in a tavern in London. Unremarkable, save that it was as close as I could get to Berkeley Square. Which was nonsensical, because of course I couldn’t go near the house or even ask anyone to inquire after your mother’s progress. All I could do was sit there, moving from ale to porter to whisky. Your mother managed to smuggle a message to me the next day. I still have it.I haven’t done nearly enough for you, Charles. I haven’t made nearly enough decisions with you at the forefront. But the time I’ve spent with you has—meant a great deal to me.I know it would be an understatement to say your childhood wasn’t an easy one. I won’t speak about Kenneth Fraser. Whatever I think of him, I know I did him a wrong. Your mother’s moods must have been confusing to say the least. I know she wasn’t always as present in your life as one might wish. You’re old enough now to understand that she was troubled. Indeed, I think one could say she was ill. I don’t make excuses for her. But I know she cared for you very deeply. And that she’d want you to be happy.As I do. We haven’t set you much of an example, but somehow you’ve become a remarkable father and husband. And though I know Castlereagh and Wellington both try your patience, you’re plainly quite brilliant at your work.No father could be prouder of his son than I am of you.Yours,R.My dear Fanny, I trust this finds you well. It was good to see you when you were in Vienna last winter. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Aline these past months. She’s a remarkable young woman and has made, from what I’ve observed, a remarkably felicitous marriage. I always thought Blackwell was a good m an.It would be massive understatement, even by British standards, to say the past few weeks have been extraordinary. It’s very difficult to know what the future holds. Society in Brussels in confined, and I’ve seen Charles and Mélanie nearly every day since they came here. I haven’t made nearly enough decisions in my life with Charles at the forefront, but shaking his hand at Lady Charlotte Greville’s reception last week it occurred to me that these weeks in Brussels could be the last time I see ever him. And I’ll lose forever the option of telling him the truth.Have no fear, I’m not going to rush off and make a confession. I don’t think he’s ready to hear it now. Perhaps he never will be. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that one can never tell how people and circumstances may change through the years. Besides, Charles being Charles, he’s quite capable of uncovering some or all of the truth on his own.I leave it up to your judgment as to whether, if ever, Charles should receive the enclosed letter. I beg you to guard it closely. It’s in code, but I need hardly tell you of the risks should it fall into the wrong hands.I don’t know that I’ve ever properly told you how I value your friendship. This seems a good time to do so.As always,RaoulQuerida, When you gave me the letters for Charles and Colin yesterday, it occurred to me that I should have a letter prepared for you. God knows we both know what it is to live with risk, but the risks in the coming weeks are likely to be great than they’ve been for the past year.If you’re reading this, I’ve succumbed to one or more of those risks. I hope I have managed to do so without disrupting the life you’ve built for yourself. For don’t fool yourself, it is a life. I’ve seen enough of you with your husband and son to be quite sure of that. However your marriage began (and most marriages I know of begin with some sort of deceit) it is a very real union. And though Charles may not know your true history or the nature of your work, I have only to watch the two of you exchange a glance to realize that in some ways he knows you astonishingly well.Whether and how you continue with your work will of course be your decision. I know you will make it with care. The one thing I ask of you is not to waste time on guilt or recrimination. However you got to this point, you have something few people find. Cherish it.It’s been a privilege knowing you and working with you. However I met my death, you can make sure my last thoughts were of you.Take care of yourself, querida.R.<Dearest Colin, You’re the best and most important thing that’s ever happened in my life. Whatever you hear about me, however you feel about me in the future, please never doubt that.I lost my mama when I was seven. I was sad and angry and sometimes simply furious with her for leaving me. Even at seven a part of me understood I couldn’t possibly blame her for dying in childbirth. But that didn’t make the anger go away. I expect you’ll be angry at me. I suspect the anger will be all the greater when you learn I was working for the French.There are different types of loyalty, darling. I made a commitment long before I met your father, long before you were born. Your father and I believe in so many of the same things. The freedom to speak and write what one believes, a legal system that doesn’t throw people in prison without charge, a life in which children don’t starve on the streets or die in workhouses or lose their limbs in factories, a say in one’s own government. Your father and I made different choices about how to work for that world and where to place our allegiance. You’ll have to decide for yourself as you grow up what you think about the choices we made and where your own allegiance lies.But whatever you think of what I’ve done, I hope you understand that I love you with all my heart, as I know your father does. However your father feels about me, I know he’ll always listen to anything you may want to talk about.I’m so very proud of you, and I know you’ll have a splendid life. I only wish I’d been able to see more of your growing up.Love always,MummyDarling, If you’re reading this letter, the unthinkable has happened. No, not the unthinkable, for it’s an eventuality that’s haunted my thoughts from the day I agreed to become your wife. And I suspect that fact that you have this letter means I’m dead, for were I alive I would do everything possible to have this conversation with you in person.I can’t imagine you aren’t filled with rage. Thank you for at least taking time to decode this letter and read the contents.I won’t insult you or waste your time by making excuses for myself. Because the truth is, I’d do what I did again. I nearly stopped after our stay in Britain last summer. I realized then how much you meant to me, you see. For weeks I lived in the rosy delusion that love could come first, and I could turn my back on everything else.But in Vienna I saw how wrong I was. Castlereagh and Metternich are trying to turn the clock back to before the Revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte has done many things I disagree with, but even you don’t deny the reforms he’s spread across the Continent. A world in which those reforms are wiped away, in which all dissent is stifled for fear of Revolution, isn’t the world I want Colin to grow up in.And so when Napoleon escaped, I knew where my loyalty lay. I don’t expect you ever to forgive me. I’d like to think that, not being a stranger to deception yourself, perhaps some day you’ll understand, at least to a degree. But then, for all your formidable skills, I can’t imagine you ever betraying someone as I’ve betrayed you. You’re a much better person than I am, Charles.What I do, quite desperately, want you to understand, is what you came to mean to me. You may not have known my true name or the details of my past, but no one’s ever known me or understood me as you did. You made me believe in things I’d dismissed a fairytales before I knew you. Doubt truth to be a liar, but never—I love you. Hate me, rage against me, smash my things, slash my portrait if it helps. But try to believe that my love for you—and for Colin—was often the one true thing in my life.I won’t ask you not to blame Colin for any of this, because I know you’d never do so. What you choose to tell Colin about me is up to you. But I hope in time you’ll give him the letter I’ve left for him. I’d like him to understand. Being the sort of boy he is, Colin is bound to sense a shift in your feelings about me, whatever you tell him. Rather than leave him with myriad questions, I’d like him to know the truth.And yes, I fully appreciate the irony of my upholding the virtues of the truth.I know you’ll be a wonderful father to our son. I hope you’ll find happiness. You so very much deserve it.Yours, with so much of my heart that none is left to protest,MelTrust you not to sugar coat things. Very sensible, because of course I’d have seen straight through comforting platitudes about it all being in my imagination or London society magically opening its arms to me on my next visit. At the same time you quite skillfully managed to remind me that I’m worrying about belonging in a world for which my husband has little use. Of course Charles is always going to belong in that worldwhether he likes it or not. As will Colin I suppose. Provided his mother’s secrets don’t become public. He’s old enough now to be quite fascinated by our soldier friends. I think he wonders why Charles doesn’t get to wear an interesting uniform. It’s—challenging to observe at times.Speaking of which, you still have the letters I gave you for Colin and Charles, don’t you? In the event anything should happen to me. No, I don’t expect that anything will, but in these mad times one needs must be prepared for anything.Difficult to believe matters will eventually be settled, one way or another. I find myself thinking we’ll live in this mad, uncertain state forever, sipping champagne and picnicking in the Belgian countryside while we teeter on a knife’s point.We dine with Wellington and Stuart tonight. Hopefully I’ll have more to report.M.You should know I never flatter my agents. I don’t have time for it, and it’s dangerous to give them an exaggerated sense of their abilities. The strength Charles takes from you would be abundantly apparent even if my knowledge of you was confined to our public interactions. The English ton rivals the Cantabrian Mountains for difficulty in finding one’s way. I grew up on the fringes of that world, and I still find it a challenge. From what I’ve observed, you’re doing admirably. You’ve certainly made a number of powerful friends who will stand you in good stead the next time you go to London. But it’s quite true that while an outsider can be accepted, the only way to truly belong is to be born one of their number. I doubt Charles understands that—it’s the sort of thing wasn’t doesn’t tend to see from the inside, particularly when one takes as little interest as he does in the rules of the world one was born to.Your updates on Allied Headquarters are fascinating. And in a way gratifying.Yours,R.Rank flattery on a number of scores. I’m not remotely sure having me beside him would help Charles confront whatever ghosts lurk for him in Britain. From our experience last year, I rather think having me there complicates matters for him. He has to worry about introducing me to people and what his family and friends make of me and I of them. Though I must say he seems to be blessedly deaf to the gossip about our abrupt marriage and the foreign-born hussy who ensnared the Duke of Rannoch’s grandson. Not to mention the month we married and the month our son was born. Sorry. I meant not to talk about that. I forget sometimes. I get so used to leaving on the surface I lose sight of the reality underneath.It’s different in Brussels. Vienna was its own sort of challenge, but in a sense most of us were outsiders there. I learned to navigate among Continental royalty. There’s such a large British ex-patriate community in Brussels that we’re immersed in the world of the English ton. The world Charles grew up in, to which I’m still woefully a stranger. A world filled with unwritten rules. For all you’ve taught me about code-breaking, I still find it difficult to make my way.But not gather information. Wellington has told the Prussians at Charleroi that Napoleon is setting out from Paris today. I suppose that might be true—I daresay you wouldn’t tell me if it was—but based on our most recent conversation I doubt it. The Emperor seems to have done an admirable job sealing off the border. Colquhoun Grant is a very able intelligence officer—I saw that first hand in the Peninsula—but the reports we’re (that is, the British) getting veer wildly. Are you running a disinformation campaign?More when I know more.M.Charles would make a good MP. From what I saw of him as a boy and what I know of his family, I’m not surprised he’s hesitant to return to England. Kenneth Fraser was a difficult father. Elizabeth Fraser was a brilliant woman but also troubled, which made her an erratic presence in her children’s lives. They all took her death hard. As you yourself have pointed out, Charles has a tendency to make everything his responsibility. I believe he was in rather a bad way of it when he left Britain. But obviously his years of self-imposed exile haven’t healed the wounds of his childhood. I don’t know that confronting the past would be a bad thing (God knows I was hesitant to return to Ireland, but in the end I’m glad I did). With you beside him, I suspect he could cope with whatever ghosts Britain holds.As to your own work, you’ll be an asset wherever you may be. And it’s entirely possible to focus on that work and also on what’s best for your husband. Balancing the two is obviously a challenge, but then you’ve always thrived on challenge.Take care of yourself, querida.R.Charles’s friend David—Lord Worsley—has written suggesting Charles leave the diplomatic corps and come back to Britain and stand for Parliament. Not surprising, really, considering Charles’s frustrations with Castlereagh and British policy in general, which I know he’s shared with David. Though I confess I didn’t see this coming. Charles didn’t tell me about David’s letter at first. Then he did in that quiet, detached voice he uses when he’s controlling his emotions with particular care. He thinks he’s needed on the Continent for the moment, but I know he’s tempted. And I think it would be good for him. He’ll mad if he goes on as he is, carrying out orders from men whose policies he disagrees with.I’m sorry. I know it’s better for you if I’m on the Continent. But I have to think about what’s best for Charles, and I’d have access to information in London as well.God help me. In the same sentence I’m talking about what’s best for my husband and planning to spy on his friends and associates. But then that’s been my life these past two and a half years.In any case, Charles has other qualms that keep him from going back to Britain. Qualms he won’t talk to me about, save to say he’s not sure it’s the best place for us. I can only speculate it’s to do with his family. His father, particularly, I think, and perhaps his mother’s death. And wait to see if he ever feels able to talk to me. Love is one thing. We have that, I think. Intimacy is something else, Something that takes longer to develop. If it ever does.Notes attached from our dinner at Headquarters last night. More when I know more.Keep safe.M.Darling Simon, You know, I’m sure, about David’s latest letter to Charles in which he proposed that Charles consider leaving the diplomatic corps and returning to Britain to stand for Parliament. I was with Charles when he received the letter. He got the oddest look on his face. I asked him if something was the matter, and he said no nothing at all. He was too distracted even to come up with a creditable lie.It was some hours later before he told me the truth. Well, in fact it was when we were lying in bed that night. He told me what David had written and then went quiet for the longest time. At last I asked him what he wanted to do. He said he couldn’t see leaving now, with so much at stake, whatever disagreements he might have with Castlereagh and Wellington. But if he ever did think about it, how would I feel about living in Britain. I said I’d quite like it on our visit last spring and summer. At which point Charles called me a liar and said I’d thought London society was insular and confusing and that I was quite accurate in that assessment. To which I said that London society wasn’t all Britain, and that there were several people even in London society whom I now great friends (don’t say you aren’t in London society, Simon dear, you know perfectly well you are). I added that it was up to him, but that I thought he’d make a splendid M.P.Charles laughed and said that was rank flattery. Then he got quiet again and said there were a number of reasons he wasn’t sure Britain wasn’t the best place for him. For us. He loves Britain, especially Scotland and Dunmykel, that was abundantly plain on our visit. But he feels the need to continue his self-imposed exile for reasons he’s never discussed with me. I suspect it’s at least in part to do with his father. Having met Kenneth Fraser, I can understand that in part, but it isn’t like Charles to run from a difficult situation. I suspect you may know more. I won’t ask you to tell me. Charles must do that himself when he’s ready. If he ever is. But I will say I think Charles quite desperately needs to talk. I hope he’s able to articulate at least some of his feelings to you and David if not to me.All my love,MélanieMy dear David, Of course you would know, none better, just how to tempt me. All those months in Vienna and I’m not sure what we accomplished. I fear my Spanish comrades won’t get any of the things they thought they were fighting for. People seem quite willing to forget about the self-determination rights of the Poles and the Saxons. The Jewish community may lose the full equality accorded them under Bonaparte, and the clock may be turn back on countless other reforms.And yet– having begun I suppose I feel I have a role to play that I must finish. Arrogant and probably futile to feel I can make any difference at all, but a part of me can’t turn away. Then too, what Mélanie and I have is still fragile. Paradoxically, I’m more aware of that than ever now that I know just how much we do have and how much more may be possible between us. I’m not sure what we have could bear the strain of London. Or of me in London. The city is too small, I fear, to hold both me and Kenneth Fraser comfortably. No doubt I am a coward, but to you, if to no one else, I can admit that Britain holds ghosts I am not yet ready to confront.But I am immeasurably pleased by the thought of working with you and Oliver. So what I’m saying is less no than not yet.Have I told you lately how much I value your friendship?As always,CharlesMy dear Charles, I didn’t realize quite how difficult you found it. I should have done, of course. I daresay there’s no more chance you’ll believe me when I say you’re being too hard on yourself than there was when we were at Harrow or Oxford. You have a wonderful sense of perspective save when it comes to understanding that the world isn’t entirely your responsibility. As Edgar once said, sometimes it proves a bit much even for you. As an attaché all you can do is offer advice when possible and then follow orders, even if you disagree with them.However, perhaps I might take this opportunity to point out that should you decide to leave the diplomatic corps and stand for Parliament, you’d be free to voice your own opinions. Not that those opinions would necessarily be listened to, but you’d have a rather larger forum than we did in Oxford coffee houses. You’d still have to compromise to have a hope of accomplishing anything, but at least they’d be your own compromises, not someone else’s. And at you’d be assured of two allies in Oliver and me.I know you had your reasons for leaving Britain, but a great deal has changed in the past seven years. From what I saw of Mélanie last spring and summer, I think she might like it here. You’d have a settled home, and you’d be able to raise your son in Britain. Whatever your feelings about your family, I’m sure you want Colin to know London and Dunmykel.Of course my father wouldn’t thank me for luring away one of his best agents, but perhaps that’s one of the most persuasive arguments I can make for your leaving.As always,DavidMy dear David, In truth I’m the last person to ask for advice when it comes to getting on with someone of an opposing viewpoint. Say what you will about him, Castlereagh would have been well within his rights to dismiss me more than once when I found myself incapable of holding my tongue. That he did not I must put down to unusual forbearance on his part or to his amusement at the outlandishness of my ideas. Save that we know full well that when it comes to anything that smacks of Radicals or revolutionaries, Castlereagh is more likely to see phantom dangers than to be forbearing or amused. Mel says it’s simply that he recognizes he can’t do without me. I doubt I’m that indispensable to anyone.But often as I’ve spoken out of turn, there are plenty of occasions on which I’ve bitten my tongue and swallowed self-disgust. I had to face Adam Czartoryski in Vienna—a man I grew to like and respect tremendously—and admit that my country’s policy toward Poland had little regard for the interests or wishes or the Polish people. I’ve sat across the negotiating table presenting arguments I disagreed with, that I thought ran counter to every instinct of humanity and good sense.If there’s any trick to learning to might one’s tongue in such circumstances, as your friend I wouldn’t want you to learn it. It comes at the price of self-hatred and a killing numbness. Even now I wonder— I’m doing my best to ensure we win a war. A war I’m not sure we should be fighting. I keep going because it’s my job, and I like to do things well. I comfort myself with that thought that my efforts don’t amount to much. Mel says that’s a dangerous illusion.Hold onto your conflict, David. it may be the only way to hold on to yourself.As always,CharlesMy dear Charles, War looks more and more certain. I can’t help but wonder at what point honor compels one to cease to object and offer support to one’s country. My father would say that point was the moment Bonaparte escaped. Simon would say it’s never.We had a difficult family dinner two nights ago. Father accused me of not understanding what was due to my country and listening to much to my Radical friends (which means Simon). I came to the defence of my Radical friends (which means Simon) and what they’d taught me about seeing beyond the confines of the world I’d been born into. Bel looked torn in two different directions like the victim of some sort of horrible medieval torture. Oliver tried to smooth things over and ended up inadvertently jumping into the fray.I came home to find Simon hard at work on a play about an army deserter, which he’s been talking to me about distinctly less than he usually discusses his work. He poured me a brandy and said he understood the tug of crown and country. Words delivered with just the faintest tug of mockery. Or perhaps it was my own conflicted feelings that made me imagine that..How the devil do you do it? You supported Castlereagh in Vienna (very ably to hear tell of it), yet I know full well how ably you disagree with him on everything from the self-determination rights of the Poles to the dangers of Radicals at home.I’m sorry, I’m going on too long, but I confess to missing your good sense more than ever of late.My warmest regards to Mélanie. Hug Colin for me.As always,DavidBel darling, Sincerest sympathies. I can picture the scene vividly, and I know full well the torment of sitting by while people one loves are at odds. For David to have snapped back at his father, I can imagine the extent of the strain he must be under. Your father is a brilliant man, but not the easiest parent, I imagine, for you and certainly not for David who has all the burden of the expectations of an eldest son and heir. I saw last summer the strength of the bonds of affection in your family. Not every family has that. Which I’m sure didn’t make it any easier to get through a painful evening. I hope you went home and drank a glass or wine–or two.It must be both easier and more difficult for Simon. He didn’t have to sit through a difficult dinner, but he also has the knowledge that David went through a painful evening, and he wasn’t able to be there to support him. Of course knowing Simon goodness knows what he might have been provoked into saying if he’d been there–particularly if he thought your father was being too hard on David.Wellington’s arrival does seem to have calmed fears in Brussels, particularly among the British ex-patriates. In fact I have heard some commented on how phlegmatic he is, almost with disappointment. As though his calm has removed the drama from the situation. Personally, I find that life has had quite enough drama lately. And however sanguine Wellington appears in public, I’ve seen him with drawn brows more than once in private and heard him mutter imprecations. Mostly over the soldiers and officers available to him and the thicket of working with London, the Prussians, the Dutch-Belgians, etc… That said, your father is quite right. I can’t imagine Wellington not thinking he had this-or any other-situation well in hand.As to our situation here, Charles is convinced we are unlikely to see fighting for some weeks. Believe me, I have been much closer to fighting on many occasions than we are at present.Love to Oliver and the children.Your affectionate friend who misses you,MélanieDearest Mélanie, Everyone in London seems calmer now we know Wellington is in Brussels. One can’t help but feel he’ll have everything well in hand. As Oliver pointed out, Wellington’s own niece, Fitzroy Somerset’s wife, is there and about to have a baby. Surely the duke would insist she go back to England did not not feel he had the situation under control. But then it’s hard to imagine Arthur Wellesley not thinking he has any situation well in hand, as my father said last night. I’m not sure whether or not that was a compliment.Last night was a bit of a strain, as I know I may confide in you, my dear friend, because you saw full well last summer how complicated our family can be. We had a family dinner. Father upbraided David about his latest comments in the House on the advisability of war. He said normally he could look the other way, but this was a time of war and David should be respecting his country and not listening to his Radical friends. Which was a veiled reference to Simon, and nothing sets off my self-controlled brother like a reference to Simon. David shot back that he could make his own decisions ,and that if he owed anything to his friends it was the ability to see beyond the views he had been born into. Oliver said of course they all knew which country they belonged to. He was trying to smooth things over, but Father said in that case they should start acting like it, and David said it was it was precisely because he loved his country that he didn’t think we should rush into war. At which point Mama started talking about Lord Byron, who suddenly has become respectable dinner table conversation matter compared to Bonaparte and the war. And of course even that didn’t help, because Amelia chimed in that Caro Lamb was in Brussels.Oh, dear, I’ve gone on and on about myself when you have so much more to worry about. Do tell me how you go on.Your affectionate friend,IsobelAn order has been issued directing officers to make their reports to the Duke of Wellington in future. The Prince of Orange seems quite cheerful about giving up his command and continues to treat the duke with the hero worship of the young aide-de-camp he so recently was. The failure of the Duc d’Angouleme’s expedition against the French-about which I’m sure you were informed long before we were-is the talk of Brussels. Grouchy seems to have dealt with him very ably. Sir Henry Hardinge has been sent as military commissioner to the Prussian headquarters. If anyone can improve our relations —that is, British relations, what an odd slip—with the Prussians, I imagine Sir Henry can do it. He has a wonderful combination of tact and good humor.The Marquis of Wellesley, Wellington’s elder brother, is here. Fascinating to watch the two brothers together. They appear genuinely fond of each other, but the Duchess of Richmond was telling me that when they were younger Richard Wellesley was considered the brilliant one in the family. He helped Arthur—Wellington—get his start in the military. It can’t but be difficult to be eclipsed by one’s younger brother. Richard Wellesley is a quite charming man with a keen intellect, though given his record in India I was hardly disposed in his favor. My opinion about his record in India remains unchanged, but as so often, I find it possible to like people with whom I am entirely at odds politically.Keep safe.M.Dearest Simon, Brussels is like a soap bubble. No recreations of renaissance tournaments yet, but otherwise the social whirl is quite as frenetic as in Vienna, if on a bit less lavish scale. Not so much royalty present–the French royal family tend to remain in Ghent, and the Netherlands royals have a quite comfortable rather than imposing feel to them. (Though I fear Wellington and King William don’t see eye to eye on a number of things which makes for some awkwardness).There’s no Festivals Committee orchestrating the festivities, so there’s a more improvised sort of feeling to the entertainments, but what they may lack in grandeur they make up for in high spirits. It’s as though everyone’s determined to extract every last possible bit of pleasure out of the spring days. And yet for all the champagne and waltzing, one can feel the pressure of what’s very likely to come in the air, like the pressure that warns of a thunderstorm.Because much as Charles would like to believe peace is possible, it’s quite clear Wellington thinks war is inevitable, much as it sounds like Lord Carfax does. Which rather makes one fear it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.Knowing what I do of David, I can imagine how difficult it must be for him. And for you. It isn’t easy to be in disagreement with the person with whom one shares one’s life. Holding one’s tongue is often the safest course–it’s so fatally easy to say things one can’t take back–but I imagine it’s no easier for you to do than it is for me.I do hope your play is produced. It sounds a splendid answer to these mad times we live in. Is there any possibility I can prevail upon you to send me the script?LoveMellyMelly mine, Wild reports are circulating from Brussels. On the one hand we hear of extravagant parties, champagne picnics in the Belgian countryside, military reviews that seems to devolve quickly into parties with yet more champagne. On the other hand, there are daily rumors that Bonaparte is on the march or even that he’s already reached the city. I’m inclined to discount the rumors because of a certain sameness. And because Lord Carfax, whatever his concerns about the future, seems quite sanguine about the present. Whatever my disagreements with David’s father, I can’t deny his keen mind or his phenomenal intelligence sources (one of them being Charles).David is so conflicted these days I find it difficult to watch. Torn between a conviction that war should be avoided based on all ins principles against which he battles the tug of crown and country (though I’ve pointed out that loyalty to one’s country can mean not rushing into battle) and the pull of being his father’s son. However much he may disagree with Carfax, the bond cannot be denied.I’ve been listening when he wants to talk (which predictably for David isn’t often) and biting my tongue a great deal. There are some things that once said cannot be unsaid. Meanwhile, I’ve started work on play whose hero is an army deserter who stumbles into the home of an aristocratic family (in fact, he climbs in through the bedroom window of their very lovely, high-spirited daughter). I’d like to pull if off so which country any of the characters belong to is unclear. I wonder if there’s the faintest chance I can get it produced.I’d say taken care of yourself, but you’re much too sensible not to do so.Love,SimonThe intelligence in your latest report was invaluable. It’s some time since you’ve had to send me detailed military information. You don’t say so, but I suspect you find it far more difficult now than you did in the Peninsula. You have far more history with these people than you did then. They’ve become your friends, people you see a great deal more often than you see me. And your feelings for Charles have changed. That can’t but weigh in the balance. Yes, I can hear you protest, but you’ve never stepped passing along information. But reporting on the deliberations in Vienna, with so many different sides and with just about everyone dealing intelligence, was quite different from passing on Wellington’s plans in the build up to armed conflict, with your friends–and the husband you love–on the opposite side.I hope it is some comfort to know that your intelligence has never been more vital. We have the possibility of change. Don’t loose sight of that.Take care of yourself, querida.R.Charles spent the yesterday going back and forth between Stuart and Wellington. Wellington met with the Prince of Orange yesterday, and it seems to have gone smoothly. Charles was in the outer office when they emerged from their conference with every appearance of good humor. Later, over a pint of Belgian beer, the prince confided to Charles that Wellington had seemed pretty satisfied. Wellington, however, Charles says from his own meeting the duke, is far from sanguine about the state of the army. He may feel he could prevail even if Napoleon chose to march at once, but he doesn’t feel his own forces are anything approaching satisfactory. A lot of his best soldiers are still in America. He’s worried about both the Belgian and the British troops presently in the Low Countries, and he’s written to Bathurst asking for 40,000 more infantry and 150 pieces of field artillery. He’s upset that Bathurst hasn’t called out the militia or even announced in Parliament that he intends to do so. He isn’t comfortable with Sir Hudson Lowe as quartermaster general, and relations with Prussian headquarters look to be difficult. He doesn’t find either General Gneisenau or General von Röder easy to communicate with. He’s concerned about Bonapartist sympathies among the Dutch-Belgian troops and the general difficulties of stitching together an army of British, Dutch-Belgian, Hannoverians, Brunswickers. He wants Colquhoun Grant to run intelligence. I suspect he’ll get him, which won’t be good for us.All in all, though, Charles says, the duke seems quite confident that he can do the job. He wouldn’t be Wellington if he wasn’t.We went to the opera last night (“Così fan tutte” and quite well done, particularly the Fiordiligi). The nerves of the British ex-patriates seem to have calmed considerably with Wellington’s arrival. And from the stories I hear and the cards of invitation already overflowing the basket in our hall, the social whirl is Brussels is nearly as frenetic as it was in Vienna.Charles has gone to Ghent with Wellington to meet with King Louis. More when they return.M.We arrived in Brussels the night before last and are settled (or rather settling, we are still surrounded by trunks and bandboxes that have yet to be unpacked) in a house Stuart found for us in the Rue Ducale. For all his casual manner, Stuart can be surprisingly thoughtful. Directly upon arriving in Brussels, Wellington wrote to Gneisenau at Aix, urging him to bring the Prussian forces closer. He is quite confident that he could prevail even should Napoleon choose to march upon Belgium immediately. But he believes Napoleon will wait until he’s had time to assemble a larger army.Last night we went to a fête at the Hôtel de Ville in honor of the King and Queen of the Netherlands. Slener Billy—the Prince of Orange was his usual enthusiastic self in his greetings to Charles and me. It wanted only a few questions over a glass of champagne for him to chatter away about the disposition of the troops presently in Brussels and the vicinity (see attached). He approached Wellington with the hero-worship of a young man who was once his aide-de-camp. It doesn’t look as though there will be any tension over his relinquishing his command to the duke.Wellington presented me to Georgiana Lennox, one of the daughters of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond. The Richmonds are old friends of his, and Georgiana appears to have been a particular favorite since she was a young child. She is about twenty now, bright-eyed and lively, and refreshingly direct. I think she’ll be both a good friend and good source of information. And yes, I flinch inwardly at how accustomed I am to that contradiction. Lady Georgiana is quick to dampen the pretensions of young soldiers starry-eyed with dreams of honor and glory. She’s all too well aware of the reality of war, perhaps due to several of her brothers being soldiers. I know her eldest brother, Lord March, from the Peninsula. He’s presently on the Prince of Orange’s staff, an intelligent, sensible check on Slender Billy’s high spirits.It’s a bit of a reunion with so many Peninsular friends here. A bit of an odd reunion, considering they’ll soon be taking the field against my other comrades.Don’t worry. I’m adjusting to battle lines being sharply drawn again.Keep safe.M.Pray forgive any stray ink marks. I write this on my traveling writing desk, and we are jolting over a rough bit of terrain at a rather alarming clip. Wellington is eager to reach Brussels, which he has decided to make his headquarters. Charles is buried in dispatches on the seat across from me. Blanca and Addison are entertaining Colin. They’re presently trying to teach him Cat’s Cradle with Blanca’s hair ribbon. He grasps the idea, but his fingers don’t quite have the coordination yet. Dorothée came to see me yesterday and sat on the bed playing with Colin while I packed. Talleyrand is in rather dire financial straits without the royal government in Paris to send him funds. He’s had to let staff go, including his chef, which will be a true deprivation, not only for those at the French embassy but for their guests. Wellington advanced him 10,000 pounds to tide him over.Napoleon has made overtures to Talleyrand. He sent none other than Charles de Flahaut to Vienna secretly, but Flahaut was arrested on his way to Stuttgart by officials of the King of Württemberg. (All of which makes me wonder what Hortense thinks of recent developments. I suspect she won’t be happy at being thrown back on the public stage. How I wish I could talk to her—do give her my love is you are in communication). Bonaparte then sent Casimir de Montrond, who made it into Vienna using the alias Abbé Altieri. Talleyrand, to hear Doro tell it, was unusually unequivocal in his refusal of Montrond’s offer and his insistence that he supports the declaration again Napoleon.More soon.M.Dearest Mélanie, I can scarcely imagine what you must be going through. Of course you’re much more accustomed to danger and upheaval than I am, so I daresay you aren’t the mass of nerves that I fear I would be in such a situation. But even with your nerves of steel, it can’t but be difficult. Because what I think would truly drive me to distraction, even more than the danger (though goodness knows that’s anxiety-provoking enough, especially when one has children to consider) is the uncertainty. David says Wellington’s likely to go into the Low Countries, and he may take Charles along to help deal with King Louis and the King of the Netherlands or he may decide to leave him to help negotiate the diplomatic thicket in Vienna. When I asked which he though was more likely, he said Wellington himself might not even be sure yet. Frightening as is the thought of armies marching across the Continent, I think it would be not knowing when I might need to pack up husband child and staff at a moment’s notice that would reduce me to tears.I told David to tell Charles that of course you and Colin could stay with us should you decide it’s safer to return to England. Simon, who was in the room at the time, told me not to be ninny, that having given birth to your son in the midst of a war and taken him across Spain in the wake of the British Army as a baby (an experience, Simon points out, from which Colin has emerged remarkably happy and unafraid), you’d hardly turn tail and run now. I daresay he’s right. I know you wouldn’t want to be separated from Charles. But should you ever need to return to England, we would love to have you and Colin with us.Of course everyone here can talk of nothing but Bonaparte and the chances of war. My father, not surprisingly, thinks it’s a foregone conclusion, and is impatient with any discussion. David gave a quite excellent speech in the House on not rushing to a decision before we see how matters play out in France. But Oliver says he thinks war is all but certain, knowing what he does of Wellington and Castlereagh.Do take care of yourself. Write when you can.With all our love,IsobelEaster yesterday. Another of those holidays I scarcely noticed until I married Charles. We were invited to dine at the Kaunitz Palace. An event made more interesting because the Duchess of Courland, Dorothée and Wilhelmine’s mother, arrived in Vienna on Friday, just short of midnight. Doro says her mother fled Paris last Sunday and descended from her carriage in the courtyard of the Kaunitz Palace with the news that when she left the French capital Napoleon was about to enter the city and the king and court were preparing to flee as well. Doro marched round to see me the next morning, in a temper because her mother left Doro’s two little boys behind in Paris. I must say, if I still had a mother, I don’t think I could ever forgive her for abandoning Colin in similar circumstances. Though I think Doro already decided years ago that she’d never forgive her mother for forcing her to marry Edmond de Périgord. And so we had Easter dinner with the four Courland princesses (Jeanne and Pauline were there as well) and their mother. A somewhat fraught meal. Doro was still noticeably out of sorts with her mother, while the duchess had clearly noticed that Talleyrand, her own lover until very recently, now looks distinctly non-avuncular when his gaze rests on Doro. “The great man is at least kept in the family,” Willie murmured to me as the soup was served.This morning dawned warm and spring-like. Charles and I heard strains of a Bonapartist song drifting out of a café when we were walking with Colin in the Prater. Charles’s fingers tightened on my arm. He’d prefer that we not go to war—he’s confessed as much to me—but he thinks war is all but certain And he knows the cost. We both do, even if our sympathies lie with different sides. He swung Colin up out of his baby carriage and put him on his shoulders. I saw his hands shake—always a telltale sign with Charles—and I knew he was thinking about what Colin might be facing were he older. I’m usually so good at avoiding thoughts of the future, but for a moment I saw Colin in twenty years’ time. An Englishman. Well, a Briton in any event.And yet I confess I still felt my heart lighten at that familiar melody.Don’t worry, I didn’t let Charles see any of it, the fears or the rush of joy. I can conceal my thoughts admirably even from my husband. Especially from him.On the way back to the Minoritenplatz, we passed a street vendor’s stall offering portraits of the imperial family for sale—Napoleon, Marie-Louise, and the small prince. More unity than has existed between the imperial couple for some time.More soon. It looks as though we will leave with Wellington for the Brussels as early as the day after tomorrow.Keep safe.M.Eynard’s odds on Napoleon prevailing went from 1,000 to one to 10 to one in a few days. Two more days and the bet is even. Which rather makes one wonder what inside knowledge Swiss bankers have. I wish I felt so confident of success. At Wilhelmine of Sagan’s last night, the mood of many in the Prussian delegation was markedly improved. Eynard’s odds not withstanding, they see better possibilities for a favorable settlement in war than in peace. I think their vision of victory involves a France carved up into tiny pieces with significant chunks, such as Alsace and Lorraine, given over to them.Tsar Alexander has offered to command the Allied troops. Wellington was politely equivocal in response (while being far more vocal back at the embassy). Metternich, not surprisingly, is hesitant to accept the offer as well. In fact, when I first heard it, I thought he and the Tsar might close to blows again, but they seem to be behaving with some self-control than last autumn. Perhaps it’s the threat of war. Or a few months’ perspective on Wilhelmine of Sagan. They now seem to be agreeing on a new war council—Alexander, the King of Prussia, and Schwarzenberg. Wellington was invited to join but declined, saying he prefers to be in the field.It looks as though the British and Prussians will take up a position somewhere in the Low Countries. Charles thinks we’ll be going to Brussels. The Austrian army will be on the Rhine. The Russian army have a great deal of ground to cover to get from Poland to join the other armies. Which also has raised concerns about the Russian army marching across the Continent.Yesterday, the Great Powers renewed the agreement they made at Chaumont, pledging not to make a separate peace with Napoleon and to each provide 150,000 troops for the coming campaign against him. Britain has reserved the right to pay additional funds in lieu of some of the troops. A matter of necessity, Charles points out, a number of our—that is the British—troops still being in America.Keep safe.M.Dorothée says that Alexis de Noailles announced that now Napoleon has escaped, they must hang him. The King of Prussia retorted that they can’t hang him until they catch him, which will be no easy task. Meanwhile, the ministers are still trying to persuade the King of Saxony to agree to the compromise whereby he yields two-fifths of his territory and about a third of his population. Talleyrand, Metternich, and Wellington went to meet with him in Bratislava. They returned empty-handed. Being one of the last monarch to remain loyal to Napoleon, his majesty of Saxony appears to bargaining that Bonaparte will return to power and offer him better terms.Wild stories are circulating through Vienna about Napoleon’s escape. Including a great deal of speculation that the British connived at his escape. Supposedly so he can be recaptured and treated with more severity. Even if I didn’t have an intimate knowledge of Charles’s dispatches, the concern that hangs thick in the air at the British embassy would give a lie to this.You probably know by now that the allies have declared war on Napoleon. On Napoleon, not on France. Talleyrand drafted the first version of the declaration. Doro says his concern was evident—unusually so— when he left the Kaunitz Palace to present his draft. Charles, who was at the meeting, says Talleyrand’s wording called his former employer a “wild beast’ and a “bandit” and said that “every measure permissible against brigands should be permissible against him.” Metternich frowned as he read the draft. After all, the bandit and brigand is also his emperor’s son-in-law. Wellington too raised questions about wording that encouraged out-and-out murder. The meeting lasted well into the night. Charles says at one point twenty voices seemed to be shouting at once. In the end, they settled on Metternich’s more temperate version.Doro says Talleyrand returned to the embassy waving the document in triumph. Charles was in a more sober mood. For the first time in history, he says, a group of countries have declared war on an individual.More soon.M.My dear Charles, Nothing but Bonaparte is talked of, in the halls of Westminster, in clubs, in drawing rooms, on Rotten Row. Father, not surprisingly, says war is certain. A France under Bonaparte is untenable proposition in his view. I expect he’s already written to you, no doubt in code. In one breath he’s saying it wasn’t Britain’s responsibility to be Bonaparte’s keepers, that we never signed the treaty that put him on Elba, in another he’s cursing the Royal Naval cruisers Bonaparte somehow evaded and asking why the devil Neil Campbell left Elba.Simon, on the other hand, points out that if we just left the French to themselves the Jacboins and Republicans and Bonapartists are bound to quarrel, whereas war is sure to unite them all against the common enemy, and what better than war to make everyone look to Bonaparte. Grenville and Grey are at odds, the former distinctly warlike, the latter urging peace. Prinny of course favors war (and probably has himself convinced he’ll lead the troops himself) and naturally Castlereagh thinks there’s no other option, but Liverpool and Sidmouth are surprisingly temperate. And as Oliver pointed out to me last night at Brooks’s, declaring war is one thing. Where we’re going to find the troops, with so many of our soldiers still in America, is another question entirely.Bel asked me to tell you that Mélanie and young Colin are more than welcome to stay with them should you decide it’s safest to send them back to Britain. I told her I didn’t think Mélanie was the sort of woman to be sent anywhere and that given what I’ve heard about your adventures in the Peninsula you’d probably find yourself relying on her more than ever now. Also that having kept Colin with you during the latter days of the war, I doubted you’d send him off now. But I promised I’d pass the message along.Look after yourself. It goes without saying your friends are concerned for you.As always,DavidWe learned yesterday that Napoleon landed at Golfe-Juan, though I suspect you knew that long since (perhaps even before he landed). So Metternich was right and Talleyrand wrong, which is not something I often find myself saying. There’s been much grumbling and finger pointing. Wellington, Metternich, and Talleyrand have all been heard to murmur in various ways that if their advice had been followed Napoleon wouldn’t have been anywhere as close to the Continent as Elba. But of course someone else—namely Tsar Alexander—argued strenuously for Elba.There are a number of questions about where the British naval cruisers were when Napoleon sailed away from Elba, and why Neil Campbell left Elba so shortly before Bonaparte. Talleyrand, in particular, has been his usual incisive self in voicing these questions, to which Lord Stewart asked if the British were Napoleon’s keepers. None of which has stopped Charles and me from dining at the French embassy as often as ever.Humboldt, meanwhile, has been raising questions about the funding for Bonaparte’s escape. There are rumors that General von Koller went to Elba in secret shortly before Napoleon’s escape. Supposedly it was to arrange for a divorce between Bonaparte and Marie-Louise, but some are claiming (in rather loud whispers that echo behind fans and champagne glasses) that the Austrians might quite like to have Marie-Louise Empress of France again and her son the heir to an empire.I’ll be fine. If I ever thought Charles and I could be anything but enemies, I was sadly deluded.Keep safe, wherever you are.M.You’re right. I couldn’t have told you then, and I can’t tell you now. You’re in the field, and that sort of knowledge could put you in additional danger. But I must say one of the best compliments I’ve received lately is your saying you can’t see past my defenses. Given your abilities, that’s high praise indeed. Charles put it exactly. Cliché or not, this does change everything And yet our objectives remain the same. We just have a clearer chance of achieving them now. You’re in a vitally important position. Wellington is now a diplomat as well as a general. I assume Charles will go where Wellington goes, so you’ll be at the heart of things, even more so than in the Peninsula, where you were often in Lisbon away from the army.I know this will be difficult. No, don’t protest. You’ve now been married almost two and a half years. These past months, with Napoleon on Elba, battle lines have been blurred. Now you and Charles are reduced to enemies again. And that’s the sort of clarity that brings guilt and conflicted loyalties. I don’t think I need to remind you of how high the stakes are. I have every faith in your ability to handle the situation.More soon, querida.RDid you know? Ridiculous question. Of course you won’t tell me if you did. When I met you two weeks ago, I’d have sworn you didn’t have the remotest idea anything was in the offing. But that’s absurd. I may be able to read you better than most people, but when you put your mind to it even I can’t see past the defenses. Wellington pounded on the door of our bedchamber just after eight this morning. It’s the first time I’ve ever known him to do that. He didn’t even seem embarrassed when he caught sight of me behind Charles with my dressing gown not properly fastened. Truth to tell, I don’t think he noticed me at all. He said, “Bonaparte’s escaped” and then stalked off down the passage without waiting for Charles to follow. Charles squeezed my hand and ran off after, leaving me to digest the news in private without having to pull off one of the greatest acting challenges of my life.Dorothée called round an hour or so later. We had a dress rehearsal scheduled later in the day for a performance that evening. “Old Love Affairs” by Kotzebue. Doro and me and Marie Metternich and Gabrielle Auersperg and others. Doro said she’d thought we should cancel, but Talleyrand told her the performance should go forward. We had to give every appearance of calm.So I spent the evening on stage, which was probably the simplest acting challenge I faced during the day. One could palpably sense the whispers going through the audience during the performance. And among the actors backstage.Talleyrand thinks Napoleon will land on the Italian coast and go into Switzerland. Metternich predicts he’ll go straight to Paris. For once I suspect Metternich has the right of it. Charles says Pozzo di Borgo claimed if Napoleon went to Paris he’d be seized and hanged. A prediction which Charles doubts, as do I.Charles hasn’t said much. Except that it would be a cliché to say this changes everything. I don’t think he’ll sleep much tonight. I know I won’t.More as soon as I know more.M.I have entirely selfish reasons for addressing your concerns, querida. You’re of little use to me or to our cause if you’re beset by doubts or qualms. And yet we all have them. It’s part of my responsibility to help you through them. Besides, I do think about you rather a lot, as I think you know. Personal lives always intertwine with the political, but that seems to be particularly true at the Congress. My impression is that Metternich and Tsar Alexander cordially disliked each other before the Congress began. I suspect it galls Metternich to have to give right of precedence to a man he sees as his inferior in understanding and wit. And I fear Alexander’s autocratic side has a tendency to win out over the liberal principles he was trained in. I’m not surprised their rivalry has carried over into the boudoir.I shouldn’t worry about Charles and Tatiana Kirsanova. They have a complicated history, but as with so many things relating to Charles, the obvious explanation is likely not the correct one.Take care of yourself, querida.R.You have a damnable knack of knowing just what to say. I suspect I should apologize for having forced you to take the time to address my concerns. But I would be lying if I didn’t confess that your letter left me feeling—comforted. And I do enough lying as it is. I’d like to have observed the scene when you discovered Aline decoding your letter. Her mind is every bit as brilliant now as you remember. I’m being extra careful with codes while she’s staying with us. Though I have to be careful with Charles in any case. Which— No, enough of that.According to rumor, La Bigottini is carrying Count Palffy’s child (some say it already shows beneath her ballet costumes, though I haven’t noticed it). I hope he provides well for her and the child. Josephine Wolters apparently slips into the Hofburg most nights, often in men’s attire, usually to spend the night with a member of the Russian delegation. According to my intelligence, she’s reporting directly to Baron Hager. She’s only nineteen. Of course at nineteen I was— Well, we both know.Someone broke into the Spanish embassy and took some papers of Labrador’s, but I can’t find any intelligence of who or why. The Crown Prince of Bavaria and the Crown Prince of Württemberg nearly fought a duel after a quarrel that broke out during a game of blindman’s buff at the Princess of Thurn und Taxis’s. The King of Bavaria had to intervene.Nothing more (that I’ve been able to discover) on the supposed plot kidnap Napoleon.A new Swiss Committee was just appointed, while the German Committee is at such an impasse over Saxony that they just declared they would stop meeting.Metternich continues visibly distressed over the Duchess of Sagan, though he and Princess Metternich are planning a masquerade ball at their summer palace in a few days. Tsar Alexander has taken to paying regular visits to the duchess while apparently continuing his affairs with Catherine Bagration and Tatiana Kirsanova. Charles is quite close to Princess Tatiana, by the way, but he doesn’t talk about her a great deal.More soon.M.p.s.Colin’s building quite splendid block towers. And he walked up four steps quite by himself yesterday.A social whirl is its own type of strain. And keeping up a deception in times of peace, surrounded by friends, can stir guilt that’s masked by the snipers’ bullets and ambushes, and the constant danger of wartime. You aren’t growing soft, you’re finally having time to think, and I suspect your conscience may be bothering you. Are you surprised to hear me talk about conscience? I never denied that any of us have them, even me. They can just be damnably inconvenient. And dangerous if one ignores them completely.Try to enjoy Vienna. The music at least must be glorious. Sleep when you can, and don’t berate yourself for enjoying the parties (which I suspect you do, at least some of the time). One of your greatest assets as an agent is your ability to lose yourself in a party.I remember Aline Dacre-Hammond as a small girl with a solemn face and a frightening mind. She once found a paper of mine and had I half-decoded before I discovered it. Fortunately, she was too young to make sense of the contents.The notes on the Saxon situation are very interesting.Take care of yourself, querida.R.A typical week in Vienna. The opera, a masquerade ball, two receptions, the theatre, dinner at the French embassy, the opera again. I wake exhausted and then wonder how I managed in Spain. We didn’t get any sleep there either, and we were dodging snipers’ bullets and guerriellero ambushes. We were sleeping in mud huts or barns or on the ground instead of in lovely featherbeds with Bavarian lace-edged sheets. We were eating stale bread and hard cheese (if we were lucky) instead of four and five course dinners washed down with champagne and Tokay and Meneser. I remember never being able to get properly warm in the winter and feeling scalded in the summer. Here we have the most delightful porcelain stoves that keep the rooms cosy and don’t smoke like fireplaces. All in all a pampered life. Obviously I am growing soft.But I do have information. Some interesting notes on the Saxon situation attached.Charles’s cousin Aline is staying with us. She’s quite brilliant at numbers and refreshingly unlike what one expects of a nineteen-year-old girl. As I never was a typical nineteen-year-old girl, that probably accounts for why we get on so well.Wherever you are, I hope the climate is as temperate as Vienna this autumn.Keep safe.M.Allie darling,You have no notion how jealous I am. If I looked in my glass now, I daresay I should find my skin a lovely shade of Pomona green (which would at least match the sash on my new gown). Only the fact that you’re my very favorite cousin (and really more a sister to me than either of my brothers are brothers) and can be counted on to share all the details with me reconciles me to being left behind in gray, mizzling London while you are lost in the delights of Vienna (where apparently even the weather is golden). Well, that and the aforementioned brother. It would be excessively awkward to spend too much time in company with Charles and that intimidating wife of his.Yes, yes, I know. They’re being very kind to you and all that. You’ve always had an uncharacteristic soft spot, not to mention a blind eye (is that a mixed metaphor?) when it comes to Charles, Allie. I don’t dislike him, it’s just that it’s quite obvious he’s more interested in his work than in any of us, so why should I take an interest in him? And there’s no denying his marriage is odd. A woman like Mélanie could have had her pick of men. Of course, objectively I suppose Charles is quite an eligible parti (Honoria certainly thought so), and Mélanie might have married him for his name and fortune. That makes a certain sense. But Charles doesn’t act in the least in love with her (can you imagine Charles in love?). We both saw them together last summer. She might be one of his fellow attachés from the way he treats her. He barely danced with her, and he didn’t seem in the least bothered by all the other men who clustered round her. In fact, he’d retire to the library and not even notice whom she was dancing with.There must be some reason why he married her. And no, I don’t think it’s the obvious one people keep whispering about behind their fans, about how many months little Colin was born after they married. Though that’s odd too. Whatever Charles’s sins, I don’t think he’d anticipate the wedding night. Which makes one wonder…With you seeing so much of them in Vienna, perhaps we’ll be able to figure out what’s really going on in their marriage. Do try to be objective, Allie. You can be very good at analyzing things when you put your mind to it.I must go. Aunt Frances is taking Evie and Honoria and Judith and me to a silk warehouse. Her attempt at diversion for our not being in Vienna.Write more soon.Love always,GellyDearest Lady Frances,Aline is safely arrived, and we have so happy to have her here. I quite understand your concerns about her, and I’m so pleased your wrote to me. Society is difficult to navigate. Society in Vienna is particularly complex and perhaps particularly difficult for an unmarried young woman. So many gentlemen are here without their wives, which leads to even more license than usual. But though conventions are being transgressed right, left, and center (or rather in every antechamber, garden folly, and closed carriage) the consequences for an unmarried woman in going beyond the line are as serious as ever. And then there are the scars to one’s heart, which though they may not haunt one’s life on the surface, like damage to one’s reputation, can leave a deeper mark.Like you, I think Aline is far too sensible to fall prey to the worst of the traps. But rest assured I will watch carefully (as will Charles). We’ll try to let her spread her wings and take risks but to save her from the sort of adventure that would do lasting damage. From her reaction at the Duchess of Sagan’s salon last night, I think she will respond to Vienna more as a detached observer than as a participant. I caught a distinct glint of amusement in her eyes more than once. She seemed happiest talking to Geoffrey Blackwell (another happily detached observer).I hope you and Judith and Chloe are well, and that you have good reports from Christopher at Harrow. Colin still babbles happily about “Aunt Fanny’s house.” He hasn’t forgot the wonderful chocolate or the splendid toys that appeared in the drawing room.Yours most affectionately,MélanieDearest Gelly,I’m safely arrived in Vienna and settled in the British delegation’s lodgings in the Minoritenplatz, a beautiful cobbled square. The British delegation occupies three floors, with the public rooms on the ground floor, the staff on the first floor (where Lady Castlereagh has very kindly given me a lovely room of my own), and Lord and Lady Castlereagh on the top floor. The official British embassy is across the square, presided over by Lord Castlereagh’s brother, Lord Stewart. Which is rather a relief. Not that I imagine Lord Stewart would waste his attentions on me, but one never knows. Being pinched is distinctly disagreeable.Mélanie had flowers arranged in my room and a shelf of books and an escritoire stocked with paper and ink and freshly mended pens. She said she knew I’d like to have time to work on my own, and I should always feel free to retire to my room. I asked how she knew me so well, and she said I’m very like Charles. I can’t imagine how I ever thought her unapproachable. I suppose I was taken in by the Paris gowns and the hats worn at just the right angle. One would think I’d have learned by now not to judge by appearances.Charles was in meetings at the Chancellery when I arrived. Don’t scrunch up your face, Gelly, I can imaging the expression you’re making as you read this. It’s his job and there is a good deal of working being done in Vienna, despite the fact that all we seem to hear about are the masquerades and balloon ascensions. At least, they’re trying to get work done. The negotiations don’t seem to be progressing very well, and Charles looks tired. But we had the most delightful conversation when he returned to the Minoritenplatz, and I showed him the new equations I’ve been working on. He said they could use my help with codes. I’m not sure he was entirely joking. It would be quite splendid if he actually did ask for my help.We went to the opera (Don Giovanni) and to the Duchess of Sagan’s salon. Wilhelmine of Sagan is a very beautiful, very wealthy woman who was Metternich’s mistress and apparently now may be Tsar Alexander’s. She took a moment to welcome me to Vienna quite kindly. Charles says she’s a more astute politician than nine-tenths of the delegates to the Congress. We saw Geoffrey Blackwell at the duchess’s. It was a relief to see an old friend in midst of all the new acquaintances. I confess I was quite happy to retire to a window seat and hear about his latest experiments.Tomorrow Mélanie is taking me to be fitted for a gown for masquerade ball given by Prince Metternich. Not at all my sort of thing, but I am determined to embrace these new experiences.Love to Judith and Chloe. I’m writing separately to Mama.Love,AlineMy dear Mélanie,I trust you will forgive me for writing this letter. No, what I really mean is that I trust Aline will forgive me. Save that I hope Aline never knows I wrote this. Aline’s trunks are packed and she’ll be leaving for Vienna in the morning. I suppose it isn’t unusual for a woman to have qualms about sending her nineteen-year-old daughter off to a foreign country, but my qualms aren’t of the conventional maternal variety. In most ways Aline has been quite grown up since the age of seven. Indeed, I fear there’ve been a number of times when she could easily have been considered the most mature member of the family (including myself and my late husband).But as I’m sure you noted on your visit to Britain in the spring and summer, she has a tendency to bury herself in her books and equations and not come up for air. Much like Charles. It seems to make her happy, and goodness knows I’m all for my children finding happiness in whatever form it takes for them. But I hate to see her entirely turn her back on the more convivial pleasures of life without at least experiencing them to some degree.On the other hand, I’m not at all sure Aline’s keen understanding and formidable education have at all prepared her for the type of the games that seem to be being played in Vienna. I know something of those sorts of games. And I know how all too easy it is for those with far greater experience than Aline to have their hearts broken and worse. Heartbreak, of course, could be considered a necessary part of growing up. But there’s the sort one grows from and the sort that does irreparable damage.What I’m really saying, my dear, is look after my daughter for me. But for God’s sake don’t let her know I asked you to do so.Yours most affectionately,FrancesMy dear Fanny,You would be in your element here, I think. The social whirl is incessant enough even I find myself getting caught up in it. I’ll even admit to on occasion enjoying it, though don’t let it get about that I said so. There’s something rather fascinating about observing one’s fellow creatures disporting themselves, particularly at a masquerade ball where they have the illusion of anonymity. The study of human interactions, a different sort of science but one filled with fascinating possibilities.Still, an evening out (stumbling home when the sky has begun to lighten which reminds me of my undergraduate days) leaves me very happy to retreat to my rooms and the comforting society of my microscope. Unfortunately, the British attachés don’t seem to comprehend the notion of leave, at least in the case of anyone other than themselves. They have a habit of banging on my door just when I’m in the midst of a delicate experiment, wanting patching up after a night’s drunken brawl or worried about the French pox.Amazingly, there actually is some negotiating going on, as Charles tells it, sandwiched in between the rounds of pleasure. They don’t, however, appear to be making a great deal of progress. Talleyrand has managed to carve out a greater role for the French than was expected. Watching him at work is always fascinating. Even in his exile in England, he was a master strategist.Charles looks tired. I’m not sure when he’s sleeping, as he’s staying out late as the rest of us but then appears to rise early to draft papers and prepare for meetings. The Peninsula certainly prepared him to get by on little sleep, however. But you’re quite right, he and Mélanie aren’t having a great deal of time together, though I imagine they’re used to that in their marriage. In fact, I rather wonder what both of them would do should their marriage ever turn conventional.Mélanie seems to charm everyone, and here her foreign birth in an asset. She’s made friends with Dorothée de Périgord, Talleyrand’s niece and hostess. Mme. de Périgord has asked her to be one of the court of ladies at a mock tournament to be held in November, an event which is talked of at least as much as the disposition of Poland and Saxony.Little Colin seems to be thriving here as much as he did in Spain and Portugal. He likes the Prater, particularly the colorful buildings copied from other countries.I shouldn’t worry about Aline. She may be unlike you in a number of ways, but she’s equally strong-minded. If she gets overwhelmed, she’s quite capable of retreating to her room with her notebooks, but Mélanie will see to it she doesn’t retreat entirely.As always,Geoffreyp.s.One other thing of note. Tatiana Volkonsky is here. Which complicates matters for Charles of course.My dear Geoffrey,What on earth are you lot getting up to in Vienna? The stories that are reaching us in London make me positively nostalgic for my girlhood in the ‘80s. I begin to think I made a grave error in not deciding to spend the autumn in Vienna myself. I thought it would be too crowded, and I didn’t want to be of those thronging after the diplomats and royalty because it seemed the place to be. I thought there’d be a lot of stuffy court protocol. Instead I hear about masquerade ball after masquerade ball, gala nights at the opera, picnics in the Austrian countryside, flirtations in the Prater. Some of the delegates and sovereigns (notably Prince Metternich and Tsar Alexander) seem to be engaged in so many amorous intrigues it’s a wonder they’re getting any work done at all.It doesn’t sound at all like your sort of society, however. Or Charles’s. And while you can shut yourself up in your rooms with your medical experiments, Charles’s position must have him in the thick of it. I shouldn’t be surprised if he’s nostalgic for riding round Spain dodging sniper fire. Though I confess I sleep better knowing he is safely in a ballroom, however stultifying he may find it.I make so no doubt Mélanie is adapting well. From what I saw last summer she has the ability to adapt to just about any setting, and just the combination of charm and wit and a knack for self-preservation to enable her to navigate a salon. I don’t imagine the social whirl in Vienna is giving her and Charles much time to grow into their marriage however. A pity.I’m glad Aline’s going to join them. It’s just the sort of adventure I’d have adored at nineteen. Of course Allie isn’t the least like me, but it will be good for her to get her nose out of her books for a while. Or am I judging her too much by my own standards? One does that so often as a parent.Write and let me know how you all go on.’All my love,Frances


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Minoritenplatz
19 November 1814

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Minoritenplatz
19 November 1814

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undisclosed location
20 November 1814
(original in code)

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Minoritenplatz
18 November 1814
(original in code)

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Harrow
18 February 1799

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Berkeley Square
15 February 1799

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Paris
22 February 1799

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Harrow
8 February 1799

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Undisclosed location
7 February 1799

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Berkeley Square
26 January 1799

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undisclosed location
20 April 1815
(original in code)

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undisclosed location
20 April 1815
(original in code)

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undisclosed location
20 April 1815
(original in code)

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undisclosed location
12 April 1815
(original in code)

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Rue Ducale
11 April 1815
(original in code)

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Rue Ducale
11 April 1815
(original in code)

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Rue Ducale
10 May 1815
(original in code)

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undisclosed location
10 May 1815
(original in code)

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Rue Ducale
9 May 1815
(original in code)

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undisclosed location
6 May 1815
(original in code)

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Rue Ducale
6 May 1815
(original in code)

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Rue Ducale
5 May 1815

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Rue Ducale
4 May 1815

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The Albany
30 April 1815

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Rue Ducale
25 April 1815

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The Albany
19 April 1815

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Rue Ducale
22 April 1815

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St. James Place
18 April 1815

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Rue Ducale
12 April 1815

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Rue Ducale
15 April 1815

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The Albany
10 April 1815

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undisclosed location
11 April 1815
(original in code)

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Rue Ducale
8 April 1815
(original in code)

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Rue Ducale
7 April 1815
(original in code)

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The road to Brussels
30 March 1815
(original in code)

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St. James’s Place
28 March 1815

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Minoritenplatz
27 March 1815
(original in code)

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Minoritenplatz
25 March 1815
(original in code)

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Minoritenplatz
13 March 1815
(original in code)

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The Albany
15 March 1815

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Minoritenplatz
11 March 1815
(original in code)

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undisclosed location
14 March 1815
(original in code)

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Minoritenplatz
7 March 1815
(original in code)

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undisclosed location
20 November 1814
(original in code)

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Minoritenplatz
16 November 1814
(original in code)

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undisclosed location
12 November 1814
(original in code)

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Minoritenplatz
7 November 1814
(original in code)

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South Audley Street
4 November 1814

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Minoritenplatz
28 October 1814

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Minoritenplatz
27 October 1814

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South Audley Street
18 October 1814

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Vienna
22 October 1814

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South Audley Street
16 October 1814

Pen

149 Responses to “Fraser Letters”

  1. Evie Alexis Says:

    Saw your post on aarlist2 and came right over to visit. It is beautiful and very professionally done. Congrats on your new book. Seems elegant and sophisticated.

  2. Tracy Grant Says:

    HI Evie,

    Thanks so much! Greg and jim will appreciate the comments on the site (as do I), and I appreciate the comments on the book! We’ll be updating content frequently (these letters get updated once a week), so do check back.

    Cheers,
    Tracy

  3. Perla Says:

    I was so excited to recieve news of your book Secrets of a Lady. I am anxiously awaiting my copy, I already pre-orderd with amazon! And I love the Fraser correspondence. I can’t wait to read one by Charles.

  4. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks so much, Perla! I love writing the Fraser Correspondence, so it’s great to hear you enjoy reading it. You bring up something I’ve been meaning to mention–I’m going to be writing a lot of letters, so if anyone has particular characters, subjects, etc… they think it would be interesting to hear about, do let me know. I can’t promise all suggestions will be work with the back story, but I’d love to hear thoughts.

    Cheers,
    Tracy

  5. daphne sayed Says:

    tracy thank you for your reply and the link to this your site.I love the letters. You have the tone of the age so authentically.I shall be getting hold of ‘secrets’ to read the extra.

  6. Tracy Grant Says:

    Daphne, I’m so glad you visited the site and particularly that you like the Fraser correspondence.I love writing the letters and part of the fun is trying the capture the tone of the period, so your words are a lovely compliment! I add a new letter every week, so do be sure to check back. And if you have suggestions for topics/characters for letters, do leave a comment or send me an email.

    Cheers,
    Tracy

  7. Kathryn Garrelts Says:

    Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your Charles and Melanie books! I saw you on one of my Historical Fiction reader groups and replied about your books but didn’t see my comment. Excellent work and I look forward to more!
    Kaathryn Garrelts

  8. Tracy Grant Says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    Thanks so much! I think the group is historicalfiction.org? I just joined, and it’s a great list!

    Cheers,
    Tracy

  9. JMM Says:

    Do you have any news on further Charles/Melanie books yet?

    If not, will you be writing any others? I have ordered many of your older books.

    I must say, I enjoy your more realistic view of the Regency period. Not to mention, characters who actually act like people did.

    A heroine who is class conscious (A Sensible Match), French characters who are NOT drooling villains, and England is not presented as the one country where Truth and Justice Rule.

  10. Tracy Grant Says:

    “Beneath a Silent Moon” will be reissued in May. I’ve just gone through and made minor edits, and I’m finishing up a new epilogue (another letter from Charles to Mélanie) and the A+ section (this time letters between the characters *after* the conclusion of the novel, which allowed me to show some things I couldn’t wrap up in the book–and also meant I had to do quite a bit of thinking about exactly who would have gone where, done what. etc…). I hope to know more about “The Mask of Night” and other Charles & Mélanie books fairly soon. I’m also working on an historical novel set in the French Empire in 1811.

    So glad to hear you ordered some of my earlier books and enjoyed them! That makes me so happy and would have really pleased my mom (who I co-wrote many of them with). Alessa, in “A Sensible Match” was a fun heroine to write, because she was very conscious of class and her own position. I liked her imperfections (she also has a temper and is a bit spoiled), though we had to be careful to get the balance right. This actually ties in with the discussion in the Elusive Scarlet Pimpernel Thread under “Dear Reader” about Marguerite St. Just. And with the blog I’m planning for Monday on “Imperfect Characters”.

    Thanks so much for your interest in my books. As soon as I do, I will definitley post something!

  11. Perla Says:

    I have been waiting for “The Mask of Night” for years, news cannot come soon enough. Your Fraser correspondence is a fantastic way to keep Charles & Melanie fresh and alive during this extreemly excruciating wait.

  12. Tracy Grant Says:

    I’m so glad you enjoy the Fraser Correspondence, Perla! I have so much fun writing it, and it’s a great way for me to think more about the characters. Let me know if there are any particular sorts of letters you’d like to see.

    I can’t wait for “The Mask of Night” to be published either🙂. I’m in the midst of editing the latest draft, and I have to say at the moment I’m fairly happy with it (my opinion tends to veer wildly in the midst of an edit🙂.

  13. JMM Says:

    Oh, Honoria is a nasty little… witch, isn’t she?

    I wonder WHY she wanted Charles so much – was it because he was so blind to her true nature and she thought she could get away with anything, or just that she *couldn’t* have him? He was probably the only man she went after who rejected her.

  14. Tracy Grant Says:

    Great question, JMM. I think it was that she couldn’t have him. He was the only man who’d ever rejected her, which only made him more intriguing. When he married, he became even more of a challenge, and when she suspected he had genuine feelings for his wife, that increased the challenge even more. Like the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil, Honoria loved challenge.

  15. JMM Says:

    It’s odd to see letters from Evie. And to see her trying to be fair about Honoria; considering… everything.

    I mean, knowing just what her feelings for her cousin are.

  16. Tracy Grant Says:

    I think Evie’s feelings about Honoria at this point are complicated–she alludes to that in her scene with Val in “Beneath a Silent Moon”, when she’s talking about things like Honoira slipping into her room and holding her hand when she first came to Glenister House and would cry for home. I meant that scene to be very sincere.

  17. JMM Says:

    I feel bad for Melanie; it must be terrible, to be surrounded by people gloating over the defeat of the French.

    Of course, Louis XVIII wasn’t the worst king (his younger brother was).

    Interesting glimpse of David.

  18. Tracy Grant Says:

    I had thought about (and alluded) to Mélanie’s time in Paris after Waterloo being difficult, with foreign soldiers thronging the city and symbols of the Revolution obliterated. I hadn’t thought about her first visit to England also being a trial, until to write this letter I was reading about Wellington’s triumphal return to England and the Prince Regent’s fête, and I realized Mel and Charles would very likely be there. The supper tents really were decorated with allegorical transparencies, and one did have the theme of “The Overthrow of Tyranny by the Allied Powers.”

    David, as you pointed out in your comments on last week’s blog, is more cautious and more of a conventional English gentleman than either Charles or Simon.

  19. JMM Says:

    I have always had a liking for Quenton, even if he is a rake. No, I don’t have the usual romance reader’s adoration of rakes. (Except for Mary Jo Putney’s Reggie in “The Rake”)

    Maybe it’s because underneath, Quen *knows* he’s wasting whatever potential he has. Because he has a sense of… humor? self deprecation? about himself.
    Because he admires Charles so much, even if he thinks he doesn’t have Charles’ strength.
    Because in the end, he is willing to throw aside his ‘conditioning’ and live the life he wants.

  20. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks, JMM, I love it when people comment on the Fraser Correspondence! I have a soft spot for Quen myself. I particularly realized this when I did a light revision of the book for the re-release and wrote the letters for the A+ section (which deal a lot with what happens to Quen after the end of the book).

    I don’t necessarily love rakes as heroes, either (though Dameral in “Venetia” is one of my all time favorite heroes). But like you I like Quen’s sense of humor and self-deprecation (which I was aiming for in the letter) and his underlying affection for those he cares for and passion for the woman he loves. I think you’re right that his admiration for Charles shows his sense of, perhaps, the man he would like to be. And I love his willingness to overthrow everything he’s been raised to be. It takes a lot of strength to do that. I love writing letters from Quen. And he has a cameo in “The Mask of Night” which was a lot of fun to write as well.

  21. JMM Says:

    Loved Aspasia’s letter – she’s got Honoria’s number. “No man is a hero to his valet”. I used to do cleaning for a temp company in college; you certainly see a lot about people. While I would love to have enough money to have a housekeeper (I hate housework) I hate to think what they would know about me!

  22. Tracy Grant Says:

    I’m so glad you liked Aspasia’s letter, JMM! It was really fun writing from her POV and getting her take on the characters. You’re so right about servants and staff being a “warts and all” view of their employers (my friend Pam Rosenthal uses this wonderfully in her book “The Slightest Provocation”). I’m sometimes struck by the appalling lack of privacy my characters have by modern standards. (And they’re the ones leading a life of luxury).

  23. JMM Says:

    LOL! Heck, the richest people didn’t even DRESS without their servants! I can’t imagine having someone dress me!

    Did you ever see Marie Antoinette? The scene where she’s dressed – and they have to keep stopping while she’s standing their naked, because each woman coming in the door is of a higher rank and has the right to hand MA her clothes?

  24. Tracy Grant Says:

    I didn’t see “Marie Antoinette” (keep meaning to rent it), but I saw an exhibit of jewelry and furniture of hers from the Trianon recently The text at the exhibit talked about how the excessive formality of the French court was difficult for her, after growing up in the Austrian court which was a bit more relaxed (one reason she liked to escape to le Petit Trianon).

    I sometimes have Mélanie dress herself–but I figure with the life she lives, she’d need to have her clothes designed so she could get in and out of them on her own if need be. And if Blanca isn’t there, I often have Charles help with the hooks and laces.

  25. JMM Says:

    Yes, it was very different for her.

    And the scene in the movie is based on fact; it’s mentioned in several bios. The woman couldn’t even pick up a glass of water for herself; people fought over who did what – who carried her train, who lit a candle, who put her clothes on. Yikes.

  26. Tracy Grant Says:

    And with all sorts of court and political ramifications if the protocol was violated. I think we sometimes forget how very crowded and unprivate that world was. The Regency was a bit more private, but still very public by the standards of what we’re used to today. Of course, lots of my friends have nannies who might write letters to their sisters, much as Aspasia did.

  27. JMM Says:

    Hmm… what *did* happen at the Lievens three nights ago?

  28. Tracy Grant Says:

    The prior letter, from Kenneth Fraser to Honoria’s uncle and guardian Lord Glenister, alludes to the fact that Kenneth danced with Honoria and Glenister got upset and he and Kenneth has a row. What else may have happened is still open to debate🙂.

  29. JMM Says:

    Oh, boy. I have a bad feeling about this. I’ve commented on how “conventional” David is; I’ve often wondered if he would give in to his “duty” by marrying and providing an heir. The thing is, I don’t see Simon going along with the idea. I mean, he might accept David marrying, but I don’t see him remaining in a relationship.

    Boy, Carfax really doesn’t get Charles, does he?

  30. Tracy Grant Says:

    You’ve got the characters exactly, JMM. I’m quite sure Simon wouldn’t remain in a relationship with David if David married. Simon can’t bear lying and hypocrisy. David’s problem is that he takes the idea of his duty to his name and family seriously and part of that duty is providing an heir. He continues to insist to Simon that he won’t marry, but he’ under constant and increasing pressure from his family.

    In many ways Carfax doesn’t get Charles, though he is very good at playing on Charles’s feelings (as in the excerpt I posted last week).

  31. JMM Says:

    David is rather naive, isn’t he? He’s so certain that Charles was going to marry Honoria; that Honoria is the sweet little girl she presented herself as.

  32. Tracy Grant Says:

    David tends to view the world through convention-tinted glasses. He’s perceptive enough to know there’s more to the Charles/Honoria relationship than meets the eye, but he doesn’t know precisely what (because Charles hasn’t confided in him and has , in fact, taken pains to ensure David doesn’t learn the truth). And yes, when it comes to Honoria, David is quite deceived–but then Honoria’s good at deceiving people🙂.

    Thanks for commenting–I love it when people comment on the Fraser Correspondence!

  33. JMM Says:

    What *was* David’s (private) reaction to Charles’ marriage?

    Was he secretly upset that all his family’s hopes were dashed?

  34. Tracy Grant Says:

    Good question, JMM. Some of the earlier Fraser Correspondence letters touch on David’s reaction to Charles’s marriage. David wants Charles to be happy, and I think senses fairly early on that he has a chance of happiness with Mélanie. But I think not understanding what happened between Honoria and Charles gnaws at David, and while on the one hand he was perceptive enough to know Honoria and Charles weren’t well-suited, a part of him is afraid Charles broke Honoria’s heart. David wants everyone to be happy.

  35. JMM Says:

    Is “R”, Raoul? Does Frances know who Charles’ father is?

    I really, really, REALLY want “Mask of Night” to be published! I want to see what’s going to happen to everyone!

  36. Tracy Grant Says:

    Yes, “R” is Raoul. I somehow didn’t think she’d put his full name–not sure why. Lady Frances does indeed know who Charles’s father is.

    I want “The Mask of Night” to be published too! For lots of reasons, including so that I can talk about it with readers🙂.

    Meanwhile, I’m happy to try to answer questions with spoiler space.

  37. Sharon Says:

    I didn’t realize one could leave comments for the Fraser Correspondence. (Silly me.) I had a “wait a minute, did I miss something in the books?” moment last week. Is this a new twist, Tracy, or did you plan it from the very beginning? I wonder how Lady Frances know. There are so many possibilities, each tells different stories of the relationships, I think.

  38. Tracy Grant Says:

    You can leave comments on all the pages on the site, Sharon–one of the thing I love about the design.

    Good questions about Lady Frances. When I first writing “Daughter/Secrets” she wasn’t even Elizabeth Fraser’s sister–she was a friend and Charles’s godmother (and a bit older than she ended up). But my friend and critique partner, Penny Williamson, assumed she was Charles’s aunt, and I realized this added a lot to the book. I definitely knew at least the outlines of Lady Frances’s connection to Raoul when I wrote the scene in “Daughter/Secrets” where Mélanie says, “I think sometimes Charles wonders if Kenneth Fraser was really…”

    And Frances says, “Oh, no, Mélanie. I have no doubt he wonders, but some questions are best left just that. For everyone’s sake.”

    I worked out more of the details when I was working on “Mask of Night,” and the connection is explained a bit more there.

    Care to speculate on how Frances knows?🙂.

  39. Sharon Says:

    How did Frances know? Was she told, or did she piece the truth together from various sources? Before Raoul’s reply last week, I might have guessed that Elizabeth was the primary source, even indirectly. After reading his reply, I am not so sure. I am eager for the details in “Mask of Night”.

    I have to say that out of the full cast of characters, Elizabeth puzzles me the most. Besides Raoul, did she tell no one but Edgar? I don’t know why but I somehow don’t want to explain her actions away as “simply” that comes out of her suffering from maniac depressive disorder. Are you going to write more about her in future books?

  40. Tracy Grant Says:

    Very timely comments, Sharon! I’ve been thinking a lot about Elizabeth Fraser lately, because she, or at least her memory and her past history, plays an important role in “Charles & Mélanie Book #4.” And yes, there was a lot going on with her and a lot more behind her actions than being bipolar (though that certainly complicated her life).

    As to your other questions, if you don’t mind relatively mild spoilers…

    Elizabeth told Frances about Raoul being Charles’s father. Frances kept Raoul updated on Charles after Elizabeth died. They all would have known each other well growing up and as adults.

  41. JMM Says:

    Aw… poor Gelly! Will she and Andrew be in the new books? I do feel for her, even if she is somewhat mean to Charles.

    Will we see more of her courtship of Andrew?

  42. Tracy Grant Says:

    There’s a fair amount about Gelly and Andrew’s courtship in the letters I wrote for the extras in the reissue of BENEATH. And I’m planning to pick up on the story in the Fraser Correspondence. I’m also planning to have them both figure prominently in future books. My current plan is that they will both play a significant role in Book #5.

  43. JMM Says:

    So Andrew met his natural mother. Awkward. Especially since he knows he was born out of incest. Yikes!

  44. Tracy Grant Says:

    Definitely awkward. But it’s always seemed to me that Georgiana Mortimer would want to see him, now that she knows he knows the truth. Especially given that she’s just lost Evie. It wasn’t anything I could deal with in “Beneath a Silent Moon.” One of the things I love about the Fraser Correspondence is that I can explore things that happen between books.

  45. JMM Says:

    Awww… Quenton misses his beloved! *Wibble*

  46. Tracy Grant Says:

    I do have a soft spot for Quen, JMM. And because of the way the mystery unfolded, so much of his romance with Aspasia had to take place “off camera” as it were (I really didn’t want readers to clue in that they’d end up together until very late in the book). So it’s fun to to be able to explore their relationship more in the Fraser Correspondence.

  47. Sharon Says:

    “What could be lonelier than fearing one’s lost track of oneself?”
    What a beautiful line. I love it.
    But is it the loneliness that Raoul warned Mélanie about, or did he mean something else (or something in addition to it)? Does it have anything to do with his own boundary crossing? After all, Raoul does come from a somewhat privileged background, doesn’t he?

  48. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful words, Sharon! I love it when people comment on the Fraser Correspondence. So glad you like that line. I’m quite fond of it–must figure out how to work it into a book!

    You’re right, Raoul does come from a quite privileged background–not quite so much as Charles, but he’s definitely from the elite class, both in Ireland and in Spain. But he’s also very used to being an outsider, as a Irishman, as a Republican, as a man from two different countries. And he knows the loneliness of constantly playing a role, of never being able to truly be “yourself” with anyone. I think he probably came closer to being able to be himself with Mélanie than with anyone else for a long time. He knows that even though Mel loves Charles, even though she’s going to stop spying and deceiving him, the fact that she’s still playing a role will wear on her. Even with Charles she can’t (at that point) entirely be herself. A large part of which has to do with her political ideals and also her background. So I think the loneliness he was talking about was the loneliness of “fearing one’s lost track of oneself.”

  49. Sharon Says:

    Well, somehow I thought Raoul might have meant something more than what Mélanie has experienced at the time of this letter. I’ve always thought that the bark of loneliness has multiple layers. As the surface layer peels away with time, one discovers additional layers underneath. With his being much older than Mélanie, I just thought Raoul might have experienced other layers of loneliness in addition to the one of constantly playing a role, such as his from two worlds yet belonging to neither, which Mélanie has yet to experience. No?

  50. Tracy Grant Says:

    Oh, I think that’s definitely part of it, Sharon (and you delineate it much better than I did!). When I said he’s an outsider, I didn’t mean that meant he didn’t experience the loneliness of being from different worlds. Quite the reverse in fact. He’s half-Spanish and half-Irish a Republican with an aristocratic background who’s spent much of his life among the English aristocracy. As you say, he doesn’t really belong anywhere. And I think he understands, a Mel probably doesn’t at one-and-twenty, that simply being desperately in love doesn’t give one a sense of belonging or take away the loneliness. There are, as you say, multiple layers to loneliness (great image) and Raoul has experienced a lot more of them than Mel has, at least at that point.

  51. Sharon Says:

    What an interesting analogy! You made loneliness almost appealing and its peeling away erotic.🙂 I have never considered comparing loneliness to clothing, but you’ve made me wonder: Can loneliness be worn comfortably? Do some wear it to keep warm and others to dazzle? And I suppose one can become so comfortable cloaked in loneliness that one is reluctant to remove even the outermost layer. Perhaps that’s what is happening/has happened to Raoul?

  52. Tracy Grant Says:

    The clothing analogy just occurred to me as I was writing the letter and seemed like something Raoul might say. I do think loneliness can be worn in a variety of ways–awkwardly, gracefully, and yes in some cases comfortably. As you say, the outer layer can be a protection against being hurt (because what can be more vulnerable-making that letting oneself care for another person and risking hurt?). I think it’s a good insight that that has happened/is happening to Raoul. It’s one of the reasons I’d love to write a love story for him as the series progresses and explore the many layers to his characters more. I also think he’s more connected to Mélanie, Charles, and Colin than he’ll admit, even to himself.

  53. Sharon Says:

    Yes, yes, a book for Raoul. It’s got to be a good read, love story or otherwise. Any news on Books 3 & 4, Tracy?

  54. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks, Sharon! I do think he’d be a lot of fun to write about. Book #3 actually deals with Raoul a lot, and his relationships with both Charles and Mélanie. No news on books #3 #4 unfortunately😦.

  55. Cathy Says:

    WOW! i just finished reading Beneath a Silent Moon! Fantastic! I love reading the history of the characters and the background of events taking place in the books. And the letters are fantastic! I am hooked waiting for Number 3 to come out!
    Thank you for these great characters.

  56. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks so much, Cathy! It’s great to know you found the books and wonderful that you’re enjoying the Fraser Correspondence. I have so much fun writing the letters. I love it when readers comment on them!

  57. JMM Says:

    I’m not optimistic about David and Simon right now. I know the letter from David to Charles is several years “in the past” (1814), but David is just so… dutiful.

  58. Tracy Grant Says:

    I confess I meant the letter to raise some concerns about David and Simon’s relationship, JMM. After all, part of the interest of a series is the tension and problems of the ongoing relationships. I do think David’s changed a bit since this letter, but he does take his responsibilities as a future earl very seriously. So far he hasn’t really confronted the fact that his relationship with Simon comes into direct conflict with some of those responsibilities, at least as defined by his father. Eventually he’s going to have to deal with that. Which isn’t to say he and Simon won’t come through that to a happy ending. But it makes for an interesting problem.

  59. anne k Says:

    Hi Tracy. Thanks so much for the letters. I finished both novels months ago and the letters make waiting for #3 more endurable. Any news on when we might see #3?

    Regarding David and Simon (two of my favorite characters), I ma surprised that Simon is accepted into David’s family’s home. It would seem to me that David’s father would eventually wage war against Simon as a way to get David to “take his responsibilities as a future earl seriously”. Maybe he (David’s father) is a more complicated and interesting person…

    For David, really, his concern should be lessened, if he would appoint Belle’s son as his heir. Besides, wouldn’t that be the way the lineage would work, if David outlived his father and died himself childless? Alternatively, he could adopt a some foundling and name him/her as the heir/heiress. If he really needed some good publicity about it, the mother could claim him as a father — in her dying breath. Simon does know an actress or two. Too much a Winter’s Tale?

  60. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks so much for your comments, Anne! I love talking about the Fraser Correspondence. I’m hoping I’ll have something to post about “The Mask of Night” (Book #3) in a bit.

    I’m glad you like Simon and David. I’m very fond of them both and enjoy writing them and exploring the dynamics of their relationship. David’s father, Lord Carfax, is an interesting character. He features prominently in “The Mask of Night.” He actually started out much more as a stereotype of a bluff English gentleman and got much more interesting and complex in subsequent drafts. He was Charles’s spymaster, and I think in many ways Charles is the son he’d have liked to have, or at least that’s what David thinks (though Charles and Carfax clash frequently too).

    Simon and David officially are friends who share rooms, as many single young men did. David’s family go along with that story and therefore sometimes include Simon at family events. I think David’s parents are wise enough to know that pushing this point would push David away. And they hope this is a phase that David will grow out of. But I think you’re right, as time goes by, Carfax is likely to try to drive a wedge between David and Simon. I actually have some thoughts for how this will play out in subsequent books, which repercussions on Charles and Mel.

    Because the Carfax title and many estates go through the male line (as most British peerages do), Isobel’s son wouldn’t be the heir after David. Since David is the only son, the next in line would be his father’s younger brother, if he had one. As Carfax doesn’t have younger brothers, the title would then go to the descendant of Carfax’s father’s younger brother. So a second cousin of David’s. David could adopt an heir for his personal possessions but not for the title and the entailed property. And even if he claimed a foundling as an illegitimate son that wouldn’t help, as illegitimate children couldn’t inherit titles or entailed property. The Carfax title and estates are in a sense a trust that David holds to pass onto the next generation. Part of his duty, as he sees it, is to raise up and groom an heir to pass them along to. And of course, Carfax would like them to go to his direct descendants (actually Isobel is probably Carfax’s favorite child, but the Carfax title isn’t one of the rare ones that can pass through the female line).

  61. Sharon Says:

    Oh, goodness, I wonder what went through Melanie’s mind when she read those words, “a testament to your acting skills”. What a mixture of emotions she must have felt when she finished the letter. And I wonder what Charles would feel year later if he by any chance recalled what he wrote. What an absolutely brilliant letter!

  62. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks so much, Sharon! It was a challenge, trying to put myself in Charles’s head so early in their marriage. But very helpful for “Vienna Waltz” which is set a year and half or so later (November 1814). I hesitated over that “acting skills” line, because it seemed like the sort of thing Raoul would say, knowing her acting skills full well. But then I thought that by this time Charles has seen her acting skills in action (though he doesn’t know their extent or origin), so it seemed right for him to say it.

    So glad you enjoyed the letter and thanks so much for commenting! That always means a lot!

  63. Sharon Says:

    I love it! It would be interesting to speculate how Charles might have reacted to it had circumstances been different and the letter made it to his hand.

    I am curious on your writing these letters: Does considering whether the original text is in code affect in any way what you intend to write?

  64. Tracy Grant Says:

    Very interesting to speculate about, Sharon! I wonder if reading the letter and not having Mel there he would have come to terms with her betrayal more or less quickly. What do you think?

    I confess I fudge matters a bit when the original letter was in code. If they were actually writing in code they’d probably be much more succinct, leave out words, etc… I do try to make the coded letters somewhat more concise, but in the case of these letters to Charles and Colin, I think Mel would write in a fair amount of detail. And in some of her letters to Raoul, I think she desperately needs to talk to one of the few people who knows the truth of her situation, so writes in detail and Raoul does the same in his responses knowing her situation.

  65. Linhie Says:

    Mel’s letters to Colin and her darling Charles is so heartbreaking! Her courageousness in dealing with live’s miseries is unquestionable. Despite her actions (call it treason or loyality) she knew what she did and done it with her eyes wide open. I applade her directness in admiting fault, but her refusal to take fault in which fault is not due. She truly is a model to live by. Charles, Colin, and not to forget Jessica… are lucky to have such a woman. I cannot wait to journey with them on more adventures!

  66. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks so much, Linhie! I know some readers fin Mel a challenging character (which I wrote her to be). I’m thrilled you like her so much. I’m really enjoying writing these letters from her and now Raoul and eventually Charles about what they’d want the others to know in the event they were gone. None of them expresses their emotions easily and these letters allow them to say things they wouldn’t otherwise.

  67. Sharon Says:

    First, regarding Charles’ possible reactions to the letter Melanie left him: had he received the letter at the time, I am afraid that Charles might have become bitter. It is not because of the betrayal itself; it’s because the finality of death actually makes their relationship unresolved in light of the revelation, I think.

    Some letters from the grave could ease the pain of separation, such as the one Melanie wrote for Colin or the one Raoul wrote for Melanie. Others bring closure that is more or less one-sided, like the one from Melanie to Charles or the one from Raoul to Charles. Yet some others place too much power in the writers of such letters over their recipients, such as the ones Raoul left for Charles, especially the one about Melanie. (Sorry to say that I don’t much care for this one, although I love the one last week.)

    But I like to think that Charles might never have received Raoul’s letters, either one of them, no matter what. Lady Frances just might not give them to him not because she doesn’t think he’s ready, but because she somehow recognizes the power imbalance. What a genius touch to have Raoul entrust the matter to Frances.🙂

  68. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Sharon! I spend so much time writing these letters, and I love being able to talk about them🙂. I do think it would have been horribly hard for Charles to learn the truth about Mel after she died, because as you say so much about their relationship would remain unresolved. I think that’s precisely what Mel’s afraid of, and that she hopes the letter will help. I agree though, that’s there’s little a letter can do in such circumstances.

    I’d love to hear you expand on what you didn’t like about this week’s letter. I had a hard time writing it, because I wasn’t sure how much Raoul would say, how much he’d acknowledge certain feelings even to himself.

    I think you’re right that Lady Frances might never have shown Charles the letters. And in any case, subsequent event render them rather superfluous. There’s even a good chance Charles and Raoul will talk some of the issue through in person…

    It was JMM’s suggestion to have Raoul entrust the letters to Frances. And I agree it was a genius touch!

  69. Sharon Says:

    My dislike of Raoul’s letter has nothing to do with how much or what he says (and certainly nothing to do with your writing.) It is the thought of his writing to Charles about Melanie, supposing from the grave, that I think gives him too much power over Charles and Melanie and their relationships. It’s hard to explain, but I think Raoul should’ve known that these are two strong individuals who could sort out their problems on their own one way or the other. He may have started it, but he doesn’t own it, thus should have no say in its end (and a new beginning.) Thus I perceive his choosing to say something as an act of demonstrating his power, and I don’t like it. Of course, I may be reading too much into it again.🙂

  70. Tracy Grant Says:

    That’s very interesting, Sharon! Thanks so much for replying. Anything anyone says in a letter from beyond the grave is unanswerable and in that sense makes for a one-sided statement. But I don’t think Raoul is trying to demonstrate his power. I think he feels horribly responsible and that in the event Charles learns the truth about Mel he wants to help if possible. Particularly to make the case that Charles should blame him, not Mel. (It’s very hard for parents not to try to sort things out for their children, and when it comes to Charles Raoul thinks far more like a parent than he’d admit).

    It’s interesting, today I was reading over the last scene in MASK OF NIGHT which is between Charles and Raoul. Raoul says things in that scene that he wouldn’t have put in to the letter or perhaps even admitted to himself.

  71. Sharon Says:

    What a delightful treat to have a letter from a young Charles. I think you wonderfully captured the voice of a thoughtful teenage boy.

    Speaking of fashion, I made an Elizabeth Fraser shawl a few weeks ago.🙂 It is my interpretation in fabric of your characterization and my reading of her, not necessarily what she’d wear. I hope to one day make a Melanie shawl.

  72. Tracy Grant Says:

    So glad you liked the letter, Sharon! It was a fun challenge to write a young Charles. Very glad to know you thought he came through well in the letter.

    And that is so cool that you made an Elizabeth Fraser shawl! I’d love to see a picture at some point if it would be appropriate to send one. I’m very honored my character inspired a piece of clothing/art!!

  73. JMM Says:

    Does Aline’s mum (Malcolm’s aunt) know about Tatiana’s parentage?

  74. Tracy Grant Says:

    Excellent question, JMM! I don’t think it’s specified in Vienna Waltz, but Lady Frances does know who Tatiana’s mother was (but not her father). I’m going to do a letter (probably next week) from Geoffrey Blackwell to her about Tatiana’s death.

  75. Sharon Says:

    And how about Raoul? I mean, does he know? I would guess that this might be one thing that Elizabeth never told him. Or did she?

  76. Tracy Grant Says:

    I think Elizabeth/Arabella would have told Raoul. (If you read Raoul’s assurances to Mel about Charles’s relationship to Tatiana, I think reading between the lines one can tell he knows about the relationship). He was in France a lot, and she’d have wanted him to check on Tatiana for her. But I don’t think he knows the identity of Tatiana’s father either. I’ll probably do a letter between Raoul and Frances about Tatiana as well.

  77. Sharon Says:

    And How about the father (Tatiana’s) himself? It didn’t seem he knew either?

  78. Tracy Grant Says:

    That’s very good question🙂. And I realize now that I wasn’t explicit about whether or not Tatiana’s father knew of her birth. As I wrote the book I was assuming Elizabeth/Arabella had contacted him (the one letter they discover in the Courland casket shows that she did write to him). Also the fact that Elizabeth engraved his initial on the locket makes me think she had told him. But I realize now I can go either way with it in the future…

  79. JMM Says:

    In the latest letter, you call Charles both names.

  80. Tracy Grant Says:

    Too funny, JMM. I guess that proves I can use the names interchangeably and not notice the difference. But for consistency, I changed it to Charles.

    I also added a bit about Princess Bagration’s announcement that Tatiana was an impostor.

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