Well, it’s been a heck of a week, hasn’t it? I’m writing this on 23 March (for those reading later). A week ago yesterday we had my son’s birthday party. Now we’re all one step from lockdown. It’s…surreal. Are you all ok? I hope so.
In an uncertain world, there are a few things we can rely on: sneaky servants, pretty dresses, and more painful exposition dump dialogue than any of us knows what to do with. Welcome back to Belgravia, everyone!
We learn right away that Sophia’s baby was given away, despite the doctor urging Anne to reconsider and keep the child to raise herself. He was handed off to a clergyman named (I kid you not) Pope, and raised as Charles Pope. He’s had no contact with his grandparents his entire life (as far as Anne thinks).
Anne decides to ignore what her husband thinks is best and drops in on Caroline to drop a total bombshell on her life: Caroline is not as alone in the world as she originally thought. Caroline tries to absorb this intense news just as tea is brought in, and Anne pivots directly to calmly remarking how happy the Duchess of Bedford will be to see how her innovation has taken off.
That was a truly bizarre moment. I mean, what kind of person literally goes, ‘Here’s some monumental, life-changing news for you–oh, nice, tea.’ I mean, that goes beyond a British joke and makes me actually wonder if Anne’s either a sociopath or has just had a complete psychotic break in the wake of Sophia’s death.
Caroline is completely dazed, as one would be, having just taken a whallop like that. In the course of the conversation, she murmurs something along the lines of how Sophia must have been really caught up in everything that was going on, and got carried away, and who wouldn’t?
I guess Anne gets pretty triggered, because she leaps right at that opening to pour forth to Caroline that Caroline’s son tricked her daughter into sleeping with him. So it wasn’t Sophia’s fault at all, but Lord Bellasis was an incredibly terrible person.
Jesus, Anne, what the hell? I get that you’re upset (and you have every right to be–after all, you lost your daughter in all this) but to go to a grieving mother–whom you have quite recently had a very serious conversation with about how raw that grief still is, even after all these years–and crap all over the cherished memory of her beloved, dead son… I’m sorry, but that’s terrible. Really, really terrible. And it seems worst because something about this scene and the way it plays out makes it appear that she came here just hoping and planning to tell Caroline all this. Bad form.
Caroline, rather unsurprisingly, lashes out, accusing Sophia of attempting to trick her son into marriage in order to better her own social standing. And that’s pretty much the end of this afternoon tea. I don’t think these two will be besties anytime soon.
Caroline goes off to the country with her husband, where they’re forced to entertain his younger brother, a reluctant clergyman (presumably this will come into play at some point, since Charles Pope’s adoptive father was also a clergyman?), the brother’s wife, and their grown son, John. They’re always asking for money. John seemingly has one character trait: he’s a jerk. He’s also maybe-kinda-almost engaged to Lady Maria Grey. She’s the daughter of an earl without much money, so marrying the heir presumptive to the Brockenhurst fortune seems like a good bet, for her family. Caroline comments that it must be nice to be marrying such a lovely girl, and that’s the second time in as many weeks a young woman’s whole worth has been wrapped up in her looks. Just for those keeping count.
John doesn’t seem all that excited. He tells his father it’s because the girl’s basically been tied up in a bow and presented to him, which takes the fun right out of it. See? He’s not very nice.
Also not nice: the Trenchard servants. The butler and the housekeeper (I think?) are stealing from their employers. They’re raiding the larder and selling the stuff off for a profit. Anne’s lady’s maid seems to know something’s up. I’ll be honest, nearly all the belowstairs folk are so interchangable and boringly unlikeable I can’t really be naffed to learn their names just yet. Maybe once one of them gets slightly interesting. Right now they’re pretty much all Thomases, but without the fun of having an O’Brien to play off of.
Back in London, Caroline meets up with Anne and manages to wheedle a little information about Charles out of her. It’s enough that Caroline can track him down to his offices. He owns his own business, as a cotton merchant.
She goes to see him, under the pretense of being interested in investing with him. He seems a nice, bright young man. She also invites him to a party and he seems rightly confused by the favour she’s showing him.
She also invites the Trenchards, even adding (at Anne’s request, which is cheeky as HELL) invitations for Oliver and Susan. This is honestly pretty big of her, considering how that terrible tea went. She could totally hog Charles all to herself, but she’s giving Anne a chance to meet him too.
At the party, John ends up flirting with Susan, and we find out that James Trenchard, while telling his wife to keep out of Charles’s life, has been very actively making himself a part of that life. He was, in fact, the very person who set Charles up in business. Anne, as you can imagine, is furious. And rightly so! What a dick.
Charles is completely oblivious to all the craziness swirling around him. He just thinks he’s hit the social jackpot. Even more so when he meets and has a lovely conversation with Maria Grey. She seems really charming and intelligent, and they share an interest in India, so we know they’re going to hook up.
So, for everyone keeping score: Anne probably hates her husband right now, Susan’s probably going to sleep with John, who’s going to lose both his kinda fiancee and fortune and title to Charles.
During the party, Caroline’s interest in young Charles does not pass unnoticed. After supper, Anne demands to know what Caroline’s up to. Caroline responds (seemingly sincerely) that she’s just trying to get to know the grandson who’s been concealed from her for the past quarter century. Anne tells her there was no need to do it so publicly; that Caroline must have noticed how much everyone was talking. She accuses Caroline of having done this on purpose, so people would guess who Charles’s father was, although that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Would she really want her dead son’s name dragged through the mud? Because it would be, if this story got out. This also suggests a nastiness that we’ve never really seen from Caroline, so I’m not sure where Anne’s really coming from here.
I guess we’ll see where things go from here. That’s if any of us can really focus on this sort of thing just now. Stay safe and well, everyone. Best of luck to you all. Hug your kids, maintain your distance from strangers and vulnerable loved ones, help your neighbours (if you can), drink tea, and Skype your parents. We’ll meet back here next week.