After serving as the Regent for many years, Prince George became king upon the death of his father, early in the year 1820. Never a popular prince, he was equally unpopular as George IV, with his love of spending money and amusing himself seeming to take precedence over the serious matter of ruling his subjects fairly.
That same year, Penelope gave birth to her third child, a chubby boy they named Roderick Spencer. Oscar was all but in retirement now, spending much of his time alone in his study, though always available to offer advice and support to Spencer as he managed the family businesses. With Penelope’s help, Aileen kept the house running smoothly, and they now employed more servants than ever before, to ensure that everything was always just so.
Richard had been promoted after his brave fight at Waterloo, and was now one of the youngest Colonels in the Army. He decided to marry at long last, and was bethrothed to the daughter of a local landowner in Yorkshire, the rather plain Miss Cicely Knowles. Though twenty years his junior, anyone out of earshot would have probably added ten or more years to her, based on her rather old-fashioned appearance. The wedding was a rather hurried and small affair, unattended by any of the Dakin family. That gave rise to rumours of course, but they turned out to be unfounded.
In keeping with family tradition, Cicely was sent to live at Dakin Hall. Richard’s regiment remained in Yorkshire, so he would only get home to see his wife when time away from the army was possible. Coinciding with the arrival of the new bride, Henry also turned up, supposedly to greet his new daughter-in-law. But it soon materialised that he had another reason. His health was not good, and he had taken the advice of his doctors to resign his commission, and leave the military. Plagued with gout, and with his florid features betraying a lifelong romance with strong drink, he announced he had now retired to live at The Hall.
Although pleased to see his cousin, Oscar had not counted on him living out his years back home, and confided in Spencer that he wanted no interference from Henry in the running of the business, or the estate. He need not have worried, as Henry had no intention of exerting either mind or body, preferring to relax in his room between three large meals in the dining room, as well as high tea taken on the terrace in good weather. When the new Butler, Cork, advised Oscar that he was running low on stocks of Port Wine and Sherry, it was obvious to all that Henry was not about to curb his drinking any time soon.
As for Cicely, she made herself very useful. With a natural talent for embroidery and an eye for colour, she set about helping Aileen and Penelope with the extensive interior decorating that was in progress. Every room in the house was to be painted, and many new furnishings had been ordered to reflect the new fashions of the period. During this upheaval, Henry decided to move into the East Wing, taking the rooms once occupied by James.
After more than twelve years spent expanding his cattle empire, Oliver was living very comfortably indeed. He not only employed many Bantu tribesmen, but also had some Dutchmen as managers and foremen. There were few large employers who did not buy beef from him for their workers, and most butchers in the growing small towns had little alternative but to use him as a supplier too. The money that Oscar had given him had increased one hundred fold, and he lived in a comfortable house looked after by four servants. He was aware that Zulu tribesmen occasionally rustled some of his stock from the borders of his range, but knew enough about their fierce nature to leave them in peace.
Many times, he had thought about writing to his father, perhaps to boast of his good life in sunny climes. But even his obvious riches were nothing compared to the fortune held by the Dakin family in England. He would think about expansion the following year, and bide his time regarding his family.
Cicely was delighted when Richard was able to get home for one week in the Autumn. She had not seen him for some months following their wedding, and all agreed that she did indeed seem to be besotted by her much older husband. They spent a lot of time together during that week, and the house maids giggled to each other that they had also shared the same room every night.
So the announcement at Christmas that Cicely was expecting a child came as no surprise to anyone.