The Nunnery

Here I should have felt safe. Here alone in my apartments. The royal apartments. Perhaps I should explain, I am Sophia, Princess Sophia, the daughter of King George – his favourite daughter. You would have thought that as a Princess I would have been safe, but I wasn’t. Not from my mother, whose vicious tongue snapped at all of us from the moment we were pulled from our beds until the time we were safely locked away again inside what we called “The Nunnery”. I was not alone here, my sisters, all six of us were locked away – under our mother the Queens orders.

We would spend our time doing normal duties of our sex, reading, writing, sewing, playing the piano & singing, my sister Charlotte, the Princess of Wales was the best of us at playing the piano, while our youngest, Princess Amelia sang like an angel.

You might wonder why with all the wealth and privilege, I as a daughter of the King of England was not safe in my own home. From the outside world I was perfectly safe – but from within was another matter.

A monster lived here with us, among us … a monster I am afraid to say was my own brother. He enjoyed nothing more than torturing all of us girls. At first it was the usual things brothers like to do with sisters, particularly younger sisters. As a child, I would often find frogs in my shoes, or other such nonsense, but as he grew older, the pranks as my father so lovingly called them became more and more disgusting.

He was violent too, and would often rage and storm at anyone who did not give in to his demands. Once, the guards themselves had to physically restrain him when in one of his moods after he grabbed me by the throat for some perceived slight and was squeezing the life from me. Indeed if it were not for the service rendered to me by my fathers equerry, Thomas Garth, I believe quite firmly my brother would have killed me.

But I digress, nothing could have warned me of his intent that day. We girls all strived to never be alone with him, and how it came to be that he found me alone, I cannot recall, only the feel of his hands on me, how he held my mouth shut and warned me not to make a noise. I tried to defend myself, weak feminine form that I own. I cannot forget, nor will ever forgive him for what he did to me.

It happened in the stables, and I was just fourteen, just maturing into woman hood with the first flush upon me. I had gone to see the horses, my horse had pulled up lame after riding a few days before and I wished to know the outcome of the treatment she had received from our grooms – who were nothing but excellent fellows.

While coming down the back stairs, before I had reached the stables proper, I gave a gasp, feeling a hand shooting out of the dark corridor and grabbed me. My mouth was gagged shut and I struggled against him. But my brother – I knew it was him hissed at me to be quiet or he would stab me. I kicked at him all the same but it was useless. He had hold of me in such a way that I was powerless against him. He forced me down the corridor, half dragging me with him and forced his way into a small room.

A bedroom – one of the grooms or stable boys most likely, he slammed the door shut behind him and such a look of evil crossed his face that my heart failed me. The door had no lock, instead my brother over turned a table, placing it across the wooden entrance either to hinder my leaving or any chance of rescue I may have still held hope for.

He grinned at me, a smile so malicious in his intent and he reached for the gold belt around his waist. I must have known what his intent was instinctively for I remember screaming, pleading with him for mercy. And found myself on my stomach, my face and jaw stinging from the blow he dealt me.

Again he warned me to silence, I turned my head away once more begging him to leave me alone. I must have made another noise for he hit me a second time, and then a third. My feet scrabbled on the hard wooden floor as I tried to escape from him.

Grabbing my skirt, he pushed it high above my head, so that I could see nothing, I am not sure if the darkness made it better or worse, but my screams were muffled. He slapped me again and again across the buttocks, making me cry with each lash of his belt until I could feel blood dripping down my thigh. I screamed as he entered me, my eyes rolling back in my head before darkness consumed me. How could this be happening? He was my brother. I was a princess.

Cold water dripped down my neck and I moaned softly. Everything was blurry, fuzzy and out of focus. Wincing at the gentle touch, I moved away whimpering softly. Slowly a face came into focus, and I gasped pushing my way away from him quickly.

It was not my brother as I feared, but somehow this seemed worse. Shame and despair flooded me as great gulps of tears began to fall. No. How could he dare touch me? The smell of horse seemed to fill the room as I met the eyes of my fathers equerry. Thomas Garth.

Garth was old enough to be my father, at least thirty years my senior with a languid pale horselike face and jowls that moved as he spoke. But he had always been kindly to my sisters and I. The pity in his eyes filled me with dread. He knew. Oh how low I had fallen. I tried to move away from him once more, my hands moving instinctively to my skirts, to protect my hidden parts from his eyes. To my surprise, my skirt had already been pulled down, covering my nakedness – but not my shame.

He rose from the floor, a faint flush coming over his face and he turned to face the door, clearing his throat before he spoke. “Forgive me princess.” He said softly. “But you appeared…”

I nodded, not sure of what to say to him. “Where is -?” I began and then paused. What would happen if I mentioned my brother’s name? Instead I limped towards the bed, feeling stiff and sore. At least the blood had dried. I sat on the edge of the bed and stared around me, unsure of what to do next. Blood stained my dress. The crimson seemed to scream to me. Soiled. I was ruined. I knew then my life was over. Shattered. With my brothers crime, he had destroyed any chance I had of marrying to escape this prison. Tears engulfed me once more.

Garth handed me a handkerchief, he appeared solemn stood in silence for a moment while I composed myself. “Shall I escort you to your mother?” He asked gently. “Her ladies will … take care of you.”

“No.” I whispered, horror and dread filling me of having to explain this to my mother. “My chambers … my sisters”

 

Garth nodded understandingly and held out his hand. I took it and rose unsteadily, glad of his arm to lean on. We made our way slowly. It seemed to take forever to traverse the miles of corridors. Finally, after what seemed an age, I slid inside the door to my own chambers and horror filled me at the sight.

My brother sat lounging in a chair, one leg crooked over the wooden arm, a satisfied smile on his face as he lifted a bun to his face.

Shaking, I stared at him in disbelief while my sisters gasped and Charlotte ran towards me in horror. “Sophie! My darling!” she cried. “What happened my love?”

I could not speak, instead I stood there, shaking with rage and fear as I met my brothers eyes.

Garth cleared his throat. “A mishap in the stables.” He replied for me.

Charlotte wrapped her arms around me, drawing me further into the room. Closer to my brother towards the fire. Mary called for the attending maids to light a fire in my room immediately and draw a bath.

I could feel my brothers eyes on me the entire time. Taunting me to say something, to accuse him. I don’t know why I didn’t. My tongue stuck to the top of my mouth, my lips refused to open and my legs trembled as I passed him. The door closed behind me, shutting me off from them all in the parlour.

Charlotte dragged me then, I was crying so desperately I couldn’t move. The next few moments seemed a blur as I was bathed, ointment rubbed into my skin from where his belt buckle had dug into my flesh, and warm fresh clothes pulled over me before I was tucked up in bed for some rest. No one spoke, or if they did I don’t remember, certainly I could not answer any of their questions if they were directed.

My mother was called for, naturally. Decisions were made without me. Numbly, I accepted it all. What could I do, what could I say? At least being sent out to the country would mean I would not have to see my brother. We all thought it would be best, a break, a change of scenery. Perhaps they were right.

Garth came to visit me regularly. He never said much, conferred gossip from court. My secret was hidden. Court was awash with rumours that we were lovers. We both found this amusing. My melancholy turned to sickness. The doctor was finally called, and delivered the news in dreaded hushed tones. I was with child. My brother’s child.

If only Garth had not been married. If only he had not been my fathers equerry. I felt he would have married me. I could not be more grateful for his offering to take my son. My tiny red-faced squealing son. No one must know the truth.

 

 

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