Ducal Heir Follows in his Rakish Father’s Footsteps

Gentle reader, today’s column concerns a personage no less august than Toad Northope, the Marquess of Abersham, heir to that regular denizen of our newspaper, the Duke of Wellbridge, and his esteemed duchess, Bella, former envoy for the Crown and majority owner of Seventh Sea Shipping, one of England’s largest such concerns.

daminik_hieranim_radzivil-_%d0%b4%d0%b0%d0%bc%d1%96%d0%bd%d1%96%d0%ba_%d0%b3%d0%b5%d1%80%d0%b0%d0%bd%d1%96%d0%bc_%d1%80%d0%b0%d0%b4%d0%b7%d1%96%d0%b2%d1%96%d0%bb_xix_iiApril 1838

Spotted, not two hours past in front of the British Museum: Toad Northope, Marquess of Abersham, now sixteen, in London during Eton term time. He was seen in close quarters with the daughter of the Duke of Haverford, Lady Sarah Grenford, who is still in the schoolroom, but has, seemingly, already caught this rogue’s eye. And not only his eye, as he was caressing her face and kissing the back of her neck while two oblivious chaperones overlooked the entire episode.

Will we yet see the joining of these noble houses? Perhaps sooner than later, lest young Abersham find himself on the wrong end of Haverford’s pistol. It might be counted a shame that such a young girl–barely fifteen herself–could be forced to wed a known rake over such a small incident, were the groom not heir to the immense wealth and privilege of the Wellbridge duchy. However, Haverford may yet wish to think twice about joining his daughter to Wellbridge’s spawn.

Upon investigation, it has become plain Abersham has been asked to leave Eton for such crimes as this newssheet is loath to print, though one wonders if the ducal name (and purse) will mitigate such a sentence. Certainly, few at Eton expect Toad Northope to remain persona non grata permanently. His father is a wealthy duke and intimate of the House of Hanover, and the girl not unwilling. In fact, to his credit, Abersham left her well seated to face the loss of her position and reputation. The girl herself is quite keen for the marquess to return to Berkshire; complaint was made to the administration by a member of her family who did not share the sentiment.


Clearly, the Abersham apple falls not far from the Wellbridge tree, as anyone who knew the duke before his marriage can attest. The Wellbridges’ good friend, Haverford (Abersham’s godfather, in point of fact), may do well to recall his own ignoble past, and Wellbridge’s, and save his daughter’s virtue from a man who follows the example of their early histories. Young Abersham bids fair to exceed the rakish exploits of his legendary father and godfather. Those who remember their scandalous youth may beg leave to doubt the possibility, but this correspondent would remind those souls that the two dukes were considerably older than Abersham when banished from England by their own fathers (and the Prince of Wales). Given a decade, we submit, Toad Northope will put his father’s legend to rest.

Meanwhile, we are told the duke has made inquiries about entrance exams at Oxford, Trinity, and Cambridge. Perhaps a change of locale will solve the problem, but we caution His Grace that there are ladies strewn across England and the Continent, and anywhere else he might send the young marquess, and no shortage of ones willing to entertain a nobleman without benefit of clergy. It might be better to warn the boy of the dangers of the pox and the dignity due a noble title, admonish him not to follow his father’s poor example, and send him back to Eton to grow up.

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5Never Kiss a Toad, by Jude Knight and Mariana Gabrielle

David “Toad” Northope is heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and a rogue in the mold of his infamous father. Despite his reputation, he knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

(A Victorian romance continuing family stories begun in the various Regency romances of Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight.)

Never Kiss a Toad is serialized for free on Wattpad weekly, alternating between both authors’ accounts. To read the ongoing love story of Toad Northope and Lady Sarah Grenford, you can follow:

Mariana Gabrielle on Wattpad

Jude Knight on Wattpad

A Toadstone for the King

The latest peerage to be created by our beloved monarch is a Toad. Yes, my dears, you heard correctly. A Toad, or so says the King, and who is Madame Cancanier to gainsay such an esteemed prince? His Majesty has seen fit to bestow a barony on the infant son of none other than the Duke of W (once a regular source of scandal, but now—so we are told—reformed). A source close to the palace has given your faithful correspondent the true tale of the amphibious appellation our newest baron shall undoubtedly bear from this day forth. I trust he will be suitably grateful to His Majesty upon reaching his majority.

454px-Thérèse_Schwartze_012Prinny dandled his godson, the young Marquess of Abersham, on his knee with a bit more abandon than comfortable for the boy’s father, the Duke of Wellbridge. The duke’s hands seemed to try to hold the four-year-old boy aloft, even from across the card table. There was no chance of removing him from the king’s lap, however, as Prinny had won three rounds easily with his “Lucky Piece” at hand.

“Draw a card, Abersham, my boy,” the king said, offering the deck.

Davey took a card from the top and threw it on the table, face-down. A slight grin on the king’s face showed that his good-luck charm had proven effective once again, and the duke let out an almost imperceptible sigh of relief. If anyone knew the limits of royal regard, it was the Duke of Wellbridge, who had fought his way back into Prinny’s good graces only by the skin of his teeth. In part, because he was highly skilled at purposefully losing money to the king, a game made more difficult with his heir in the middle of things. He wished Davey’s sniffles had remained, so he would have had an excuse to keep the boy from his royal godfather’s presence. He wished he had gone along with the duchess’s suggestion that they remove to the countryside, rather than remaining in London.

Thankfully, once more, Prinny held winning cards. Wellbridge was another thousand guineas down, but he was in need of the magnanimous side of his sovereign’s nature. And it seemed he was on the right track. When Davey began wiggling and climbing on the king’s lap, he was indulged, even as he crawled halfway onto the table to grab at the royal plate of foodstuffs.

“Davey! That is not yours!” Nick snapped, but Prinny corrected the duke, not the child.

“Let him have it. I am not hungry.”

King George IV CoronationPrinny seated Davey on the edge of the table, and the boy grabbed handfuls of whatever was on the plate, but none of it found favor, and to his father’s horror, he threw it on the floor, where one of His Majesty’s pugs rid the world of excess mushroom tart. Rubbing his hand over his face, Nick said, “Truly, it is time for Master David to be in bed. To say nothing of his mother’s opinion of him being engaged in gambling.”

Prinny chuckled, “I do not envy you the sharp tongue of your wife, Wellbridge, through her sharp mind holds great appeal.”

“I cannot say I disagree with your assessment, Sire.”

Davey continued to throw mushroom tart at the dog, with the king offering up commentary on his aim, and the dog continued to make a meal of his master’s supper. Until, suddenly, it began choking, frothing at the mouth, and fell to its tiny knees.

At a glance, Nick swept around the table to pick up his son and shield him from the sight he had already seen and clean his hands and face of any trace of poison. Prinny sat staring in shock at the dog, dead not three minutes after eating from the king’s plate, while Nick tried to keep Davey from wiggling his way out of his father’s arms. With one word from Nick at the door, guards came in and removed Prinny and the dead animal, and began detaining everyone else currently in the castle. At the top of the list, the two gentlemen who had been closeted with His Majesty for two hours before the attempted poisoning: the Duke of Wellbridge and his heir.

It was the next morning, and many hours of questioning by men who should know better, before they were allowed to leave the palace. First, though, Wellbridge and his tired, cranky, frightened son were escorted to the king’s chambers, where Prinny made much of Davey, calling him, “my own toadstone,” feeding him from his tray, and casually giving him the Barony of Harburn, which included a manor house Prinny renamed Toadstone Hall, in recognition of the service Davey had unknowingly provided by virtue of poor manners.

His father’s courtesy title was rendered unnecessary, he now a peer in his own right, as well as heir to all of his father’s titles. But the whispers through Court didn’t now call him Harburn, but rather, they called the little boy “the king’s toadstone.” Within a week, Davey was called “The Toadstone” in his father’s presence; in a month, he was “Toad” to anyone who knew, or knew of, him. Within a half-year, it was obvious: he would remain “Toad Northope, Wellbridge’s boy,” the rest of his days.

His mother has sworn never to forgive His Majesty.

Meet the Duke and Duchess of Wellbridge, and read about their tense relationship with the monarch, in Royal Regard, by Mariana Gabrielle. Meet Toad Northope as a young man about town  in Never Kiss a Toad, by Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight, serialized for free on Wattpad.

Royal-Regard-cover-500x750After fifteen years roaming the globe, the Countess of Huntleigh returns to England with her dying husband. She soon finds herself plagued by terrible troubles: a new title, estate, and sizable fortune; marked attentions from the marriage mart; the long-awaited reunion with her loving family; and a growing friendship with King George IV.

Settling into her new life, this shy-but-not-timid, not-so-young lady faces society’s censure, the Earl’s decline, false friends with wicked agendas, and the singular sufferings of a world-wise wallflower. Guided by her well-meaning husband, subject to interference by a meddlesome monarch, she must now choose the dastardly rogue who says he loves her, the charming French devil with a silver tongue, or the quiet country life she has traveled the world to find.

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