This story contains sensitive content including mild language, violence, and abuse.
July 18, 1814
Being my most trusted and longest-lasting friend, I thought it necessary to document the events of the happenings here at the estate of Bancroft. Let not cloudiness or muddle headedness interfere with the truth of such events. I would find it unarguable that the “good news” is the easiest to divulge, given most circumstances. The good news, in short, is I am finally free of the wretched company of the Duke of Dradevow, Sir Antony Bancroft. A most horrid display of a matchmaker’s cruel joke, I suppose. However, it gave me what I needed and secured my future. All of these years I spent by his intolerable side, having to pretend to bear the man to touch me, breathe the same foul and dingey air as the man, share the same bed, even the same home was near unbearable. Until I met a man who embraced me for all I was and could be, a man who knew my unfortunate circumstances and looked past them. He found something in me that I never knew was there, nor did my dear, sweet Duke find either. You’ll be thrilled to know, dearest that I am happier than I ever dreamt I might be.
I’m afraid this brings me to the “bad news” part of the letter. It is true, have been unfaithful to Antony. The temptations of such perfect flesh lured me into an almost perfect trap. I was forever taken from Antony, although not a hard task to complete I’ll admit. This new love, as I have come to realize it as, has sent my soul on a fiery calling. I now know who it was intended for, and I have been lucky enough to find him. This sent my thoughts in circles trying to sort out the best plan of action as concealing an affair would be near impossible for a Duchess. I feel I must say how sorry I am to have to write on such unfavorable terms, but you should know Antony met with his detestable and dishonorable end with none other than a hoe. Although, the actions may not be entirely as I might make them seem. What I mean to say is His Grace was bludgeoned to death in the head by a very sharp garden hoe. I raise my hand to God now and every day until I bear judgment in testimony swearing I could not stand another second attached to that man in this, or any life any longer. There is one more fragile piece of news I must bear, and in all honesty I am hoping you do not find me to be that of tarnished virtue. The Duke, as charming and forthwith as he may have seemed, had a dark and dangerous side to him. I will admit to you here, my dear friend, that there were many nights when I questioned if I should see the daylight of the dawn shine through the curtains and to feel it on my skin once more.
I must call your attention to another detail I found in the Duke’s desk before I decided on it all. A stack of letters, drenched in the sickening scent of rose and lavender. Antony Bancroft was conducting an affair with a gangly, cross-eyed hussy from London. Once I found those letters, Domonique, I knew what I had to do. I honestly never imagined I would find a true match from heaven at the same time, but I did. It made my decision even easier than it already was. I would do, will do, anything for my beloved.
I know what you’re thinking my dear, but I must implore you to keep the last twenty five years of our friendship in the forefront of your mind now more than ever. I ask you to keep a secret only so I might have a mere glimpse at happiness. You know more than anyone my marriage to the Duke of Dradevow was nothing more than that of which I mentioned earlier, a deal. A security blanket. You were with me the day we stood up before friends, family and God to vow ourselves to one another until the day death’s shadow clung to our doorstep. I tell you, Domonique, that marriage was conducted in front of friends, family and God, but most importantly the joyous occasion was devoid of love. My heart hurts to think of that young girl in that church saddled with so much responsibility her back may break. She was no better than a pack mule then.
I’m sure you’ll be inquiring about the remains of my dear Duke, and I must only tell you the staff here at Bancroft are unusually handy in sticky situations. They have certainly earned their respective places in the estate. I carefully formulated a most heartbreaking letter to myself from my dear Antony, in which it stated he left me for his whore in London, and would renounce his title and all of his possessions and money to be with his true love. It was the absolute perfect plan, and with the entirety of the staff on my side, I knew very well this elaborate scheme would succeed.
I was hoping to count on your attendance at the Duke’s funeral in a little over a fortnight, if you are able. I thought it might perhaps grant us some much needed time together and we could discuss everything further. Please, believe me, Domonique when I say I truly had no other option. I could not stand to live my life as a prisoner trapped in the tall, forgettable maze that was my arranged marriage. I am sure it is impossible to imagine, a union so lothesome and deplorable the only way out was murder. I admit to you, dear friend, I never thought myself humanly capable of such horrifics.
I believe I probably will no more have an invitation into the pearly gates of heaven once judgment day should arrive, however I take comfort in knowing I, a woman, in a time when the world is so controlled my men, was able to put a Duke, no less in his very rightful, and disgusting place. I may meet Antony in Hell’s fire, but I shall take in every second of seeing him burn in those flames alongside me, for he is not so innocent in this situation. Satan himself shall cower as I pass the halls knowing I fear no one.
I am hoping that in some time, the sight of me with another man, my man, will not be such a shock. I know it is scandalous for a widow to entertain such thoughts and frivolity however I cannot help to think the times are changing faster around us than anyone would like to admit.
True that only myself, you, the staff of the Bancroft house and the very hallowed halls I walk know what truly happened to Antony Bancroft, the Duke of Dradevow. I shall guess this letter may come to light sooner rather than later, although I should hope the reader then, wherever they are and whatever time they may be sitting in, never has to endure the true pain of marrying for status, security and nobility over that of love. If you choose to stay silent, I will forever be in your debt, Domonique.
Sending my love and dearest gratitude from the quiet and once more breathable atmosphere at the Bancroft Estate,
Elizabeth Bancroft, Duchess of Dradevow.