Things are closing in on Charles Pope as everyone circles and scrambles and completely forgets what era they’re living in.
Turton, the Trenchards’ butler, rifles through his employer’s desk and–ding ding ding!–finds a letter sent by Reverend Pope 20 years ago, telling James all about how well little Charles is getting on. Turton reports this to John, who starts to wonder why the hell James was so interested in this guy from such a long time ago. Turton has also deduced from the tone of the letter that Charles was not Pope’s actual son.
John pays Turton his blood money, but Turton refuses to hand over the first page of the letter (with Pope’s contact information on it) without being paid more money. He stupidly already told John all the information that was in the letter, though, so it’s not like he really needs that extra page. None of these people are particularly good at their nefarious dealings.
John tells his father what he’s found out, and Steven then uses it to try and shake Caroline down for £1500. This is the best part of the episode, because she’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, sure. Should I just make the check out to F. You? Drawn on the bank of Not in a Thousand Years?’
Meanwhile, Oliver is proving to be more intelligent than any of these people, which is kind of surprising, really. He takes himself off to Manchester, where he visits Charles’s mill and manages to scare up some discontented workers. He learns from them that they were meant to buy the mill when the last owner died, but Charles swooped in, bullied the widow and walked off with the place. Also, he’s cheating on his taxes. That was so weirdly thrown in there, like shaking down a grieving woman isn’t enough, he’s also got to be cheating the government, too.
Oliver rushes home and reports all this to his father. James, like most people, wants to see what Charles has to say about all this. Oliver throws a complete fit at his father’s club, because James doesn’t just disavow Charles right then and there.
James goes to Charles’s office and lays all this out for him. Charles does not deny it, but we know this can’t really be true, because Julian Fellowes isn’t particularly into morally ambiguous heroes. Secondary characters? Maybe, but not the romantic leads. Charles does say that it’s probably best, under the circumstances, that James not remain invested with him.
Reeling, James goes home and reports all this to Anne, who’s baffled. James decides to head up to Manchester himself and find out what’s going on.
On the Anne side of things: she finds out that her maid has been writing to Sophia’s former maid, looking for information. When she asks Ellis about it (and about that lie about the fan last week), Ellis proves to be quite the practiced dissembler and convinces her mistress that she was just gossiping a bit, and had misplaced the fan and thought it was lost at the Brockenhursts’. Anne seems to believe her.
As it happens, Sophia’s maid swings by for a visit on her way to America, where she’s going to live with her brother. He’s built a house on ‘a street called 5th Avenue.’ K.
Sophia’s maid happens to mention that she’s brought some letters Sophia wrote before she died. Convenient. Ellis can’t get her out of the house fast enough before grabbing the letters and taking them to Turton to make copies. Why can’t she make the copies? Does she not know how to read and write? If not, that would explain what happens next.
She takes the copies to John, thinking he’ll give her a nice reward for them. But instead he completely flips out and yells for her to get the originals NOW.
She runs all the way back to Belgravia, but she’s too late: Sophia’s maid has already taken the documents to Anne. They include letters Sophia wrote before she died, and the alleged marriage certificate. Sophia had given it to her maid and asked her to destroy it, but the maid didn’t, because she didn’t think it was hers to destroy. But, it was? Because it was given to you with the explicit instructions to destroy it.
John keeps sniffing around. He tracks down Reverend Pope’s wife, who is now a widow, and tries to pump her for information. That goes down about as well as his father’s attempt to blackmail Caroline. So, now Pope’s adoptive mother knows that John is looking for information on her son. John is kind of lousy at all this.
His prospective mother-in-law, Lady Templemore, is also terrible at what she’s meant to be doing. Her big plan to force Lady Maria to go ahead with this marriage is to…publicly announce the engagment in the newspapers.
Ok, if I’m being fair, that was a fairly significant thing to do. Once an engagement was made public in that way, it was pretty difficult to wriggle out of it without causing a very significant scandal. I’m not 100% sure of the legalities, but if Maria dumped John and then immediately got together with Charles, John might be able to sue for breach of promise. At any rate, the blowback would have been pretty bad.
Honestly, though, if you don’t happen to know that then this seems pretty tame.
Immediately after the papers go out, Lady T takes herself to Caroline’s to find out why Caroline has been taking her daughter on jaunts to a very business-y part of London. Of course, during this visit both Anne and Lady Maria show up and it’s all awkward until Caroline kicks Lady T out so she can have a nice visit with Maria. Yeah, that should quell her suspicions, Caroline.
Lady T reluctantly leaves and Maria immediately tells the other women that she has no intention of marrying John. Anne says she’s glad to hear that. Why, Anne? I mean, we know that John’s a cad, but you don’t. You don’t even know the guy. You saw him once at a party (did they even speak? I don’t think so.) and then you saw him at Charles’s office. Yeah, he was a bit of a dick there, but that could have just been passed off as awkward joking or just being socially awkward in general, so I’m not sure exactly where she’s drawing this from.
Also: why would Maria be admitting this, and her feelings for Charles, to these two women? As far as we’re aware, she doesn’t really have any reason to think they’d support her in this. John is Caroline’s nephew, so why would she think Caroline would be ok with her dumping him to go off with some random? Because let’s not forget: Maria doesn’t know what the relationship is between Anne, Caroline, and Charles. As far as she knows, Charles is just some bright guy that Caroline has decided to invest money with and seems to like. For all she knows, Caroline could have the hots for him, and that would make telling her about her feelings even riskier.
And she doesn’t even know Anne!
But of course, both Caroline and Anne are all gung-ho for Maria to throw over John to get together with Charles, and that’s another ‘yeah, no,’ from me. Remember how I mentioned the scandal a broken engagement would cause? That would engulf Charles too! Charles’s illegitimacy probably would have been a barrier as well, although illegitimate children of high-ranking aristocrats did sometimes marry into the aristocracy themselves.
Now, I know I said last week that aristocratic marriages mostly weren’t totally emotionless business deals, and I stand by that, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a businesslike aspect to them as well. In addition to being well-suited as far as personality, it was generally considered important for elite couples to be suited as far as rank, fortune, and position as well. It would be another 20 years or so before the European aristocracy began to feel the financial pinch enough to start jettisoning these concerns in order to marry women with no rank but plenty of cash. At this time, you were expected to marry an equal, and Charles would not have been considered an equal. He has no rank, no fortune, and though he’s been raised as a gentleman, he hasn’t been raised in this mileu and would definitely have been made to feel he didn’t fit in.
These women would have known all this. So I find it very hard to believe they’d be all rah-rah about Maria’s (fairly rash–she also barely knows Charles, remember! They met, what, a couple of weeks ago at most?) decision. At the very least, they’d council caution and tell her to really think about what she wants.
But whatever, this is total anachronistic fantasy. They love the romantic idea of Maria getting together with Charles! And Maria isn’t at all put off when she hears the rumours about Charles’s nasty business dealings (which he pretty much denies to her. And then he accuses her of ever doubting him, but need I point out again that these people barely know each other?).
Anne shares what she knows with Caroline, and also tells her about Oliver’s digging. Caroline immediately decides that she needs to tell the world she’s Charles’s grandmother. Yeah, that makes sense. Drag your whole family into his looming scandal. She seems to think that doing so will ensure he has an unassailable position in society and can therefore withstand the storm. Nope. Seriously, it’ll just drag you into it. And might I point out, her husband still doesn’t know about any of this? Don’t you think, maybe, he should be consulted before you make this monumental family decision? He’s not even mentioned, even when Anne says she’ll have to discuss this matter with her husband.
I guess Caroline doesn’t really need the Trenchards on board to go public with this whole thing, but it’s nice that she’s holding back and letting them give her the go-ahead.
Also, Anne wonders what Sophia’s role will be in all this and Caroline gently suggests they keep her name out of it. Anne starts to seem annoyed that her daughter’s going to be erased in this way, but honestly, what do you want, Anne? Do you want your daughter’s name to be dragged through the mud by the rich London gossips? Wasn’t keeping her name clear pretty much the goal of everything you did for the last 25 years?
James agrees with me and tells Anne that they need to make sure Sophia’s name is protected. And to do that, they have to cut off all contact with Charles. I don’t really see why that’s the case, and I think that’ll just seem even more suspicious, since James has a prior relationship with Charles, but ok, let’s just get this done.
Maria and Charles crash one of Caroline’s tea parties so they can ask her to help them. She hustles Maria away so Lady Templemore can corner Charles and hiss at him to stay the hell away from her daughter.
Meanwhile, Caroline takes Maria to her boudoir and tells her that Charles is her grandson.
And John has continued to do some nosing about and has found out that the soldier who fake-married Lord Bellasis and Sophia wasn’t a fake after all. He was, in fact, a real clergyman who then joined the army, as you do. So the marriage is totally legit (despite there not being any witnesses, which I guess we’re just ignoring.) And Charles is the true heir to the Brockenhurst title and fortune. Good for him.
And I find it kind of hilarious that the person who knows the least about Charles Pope is Charles himself.