Today, I am at Cavendish House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Trent. The house is exceedingly grand, with one of the most impressive collection of artwork and tapestries I have ever seen. Servants are bustling all about, readying the house for the duke and duchess’s return from their visit to the duchess’s family in Gloucestershire.
Looking around now, it is difficult to believe the rumours that had circulated about the duke’s alleged involvement in the passing of the former duchess five years ago. With me today is Mrs Tilford, the housekeeper of this grand home, who has been kind enough to be interviewed for the Lady’s Magazine. When asked about those dark rumours, she is quick to assure me that there is no truth at all in them. “I have known His Grace for over fifteen years now,” she says, with a firm note in her voice, “and His Grace’s character is above reproach.”
“So the duke and duchess’ marriage was a love match, then?” I ask. At that, Mrs Tilford smiles, looking very pleased. “Oh yes, it certainly is a love match. There is not a doubt in my mind about that.” I ask the question that had caused much curiosity among the ton, a question that I am certain many readers of this magazine would like the answer to. “Mrs Tilford, what about the reports that allege that the duke and Lady Alethea, as she was at the time, spent a night together in an inn unchaperoned. It has been suggested that this was the reason for their wedding, which took place a mere month later.”
Alas for us, Mrs Tilford’s loyalty to her master is absolute. She does not reply to my question, saying instead that she was not privy to those events and cannot comment. “Suffice to say that you need only look upon their Graces to see the love between them.” I sense that she would not divulge anything further, so I proceed with my other questions. “Will the coming Christmas be the first one for Her Grace in this house?”
Mrs Tilford nods. “Yes, it is. And I think it will be quite different from the past years. Her Grace has informed me that she wishes to hold Twelfth Night celebrations, which has sent Cook into quite a state. Fortunately, her Grace has agreed to employing extra kitchen staff to help Cook with the food preparations. There will be dancing and drinking and eating. I believe Her Grace has persuaded Lord Matthew, the duke’s younger brother, to organise the games for the evening. And if that wasn’t enough, Her Grace has informed Cook to prepare a Twelfth Cake, which I am sure will be look entirely splendid. I am so pleased that Cook will finally be able to show the skills she has in making sugar paste characters.”
I know that many of you, dear Readers, have been looking forward to finding out the recipe that the Cavendish’s very talented Cook uses for Twelfth cake; a cake which is to take pride of place at the Twelfth Night celebrations. Without further ado, here it is.
Take seven pounds of flour, make a cavity in the centre, set a sponge with a gill and a half of yeast and little warm milk.
Put round it one pound of fresh butter broke into small lumps, one pound and a quarter of sifted sugar, four pounds and a half of currants washed and picked, half an ounce of sifted cinnamon, a quarter of an ounce of pounded cloves, mace and nutmeg mixed, sliced candied orange or lemon peel and citron.
When the sponge is risen, mix all the ingredients together with a little warm milk.
Let the hoops be well papered and buttered, then fill them with the mixture and bake them.
When nearly cold, ice them over with sugar prepared for that purpose; or they may be plain.
And if you were intrigued by the events surrounding the duke’s courtship of his wife, you might wish to purchase THE DARK DUKE by Elyse Huntington.
This is Letitia Wellbeloved bidding farewell to Cavendish House. I do hope you will join me in my next Christmas adventure.