Royal Bride

Royal Bride

by Joan Wolf

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Overview

Royal Bride by Joan Wolf

Prince Augustus of Jura has devoted his life to trying to defeat Napoleon and defend his country. When Napoleon's forces are finally conquered, Augustus faces his next challenge - finding a wife in order to ward of Austria's attempts to take over Jura.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446606950
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 03/01/2001
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Part One

LONDON

1815

The direction on the letter read: Her Highness, the Princess Mariana, Dowager Countess of Beaufort. The elderly princess accepted the missive from a deferential footman, moved toward the daylight of an open window, and unfolded it carefully. A familiar strong, upright script, written in German, leaped out to greet her.

Hotel d'Aramis

Brussels

25 June 1815

My Dear Aunt,

By now, of course, you in England have learned of the Allies' great victory at Waterloo. It was a horrendous battle, and far too many men died, but I believe we have finally seen the last of the Ogre whose greed nearly gobbled up the entire of Europe.

As you know, before Napoleon's escape I was at the Congress of Vienna where Britain, Austria, Russia, Prussia, and France were meeting to divide up among them the countries that had been conquered by Napoleon. My concern at the Congress was to get the Great Powers to recognize the continued independence of our beloved Jura. In this we were successful. The Final Act of the Congress of Vienna does declare Jura to be a free and independent state.

Austria signed the Final Act, but only after the Austrian minister, Prince Metternich, had worked strenuously to get the other nations to declare that Jura would now be part of the Austrian Empire.

Austria concerns me. If you look at a map, you will see that Jura is now totally surrounded by the empire. I have no doubt that both Emperor Francis I and Prince Metternich will do everything in their power to bring Jura under the sway of the Habsburg empire. In order to strengthen our own position I feel that it is imperative for us to have the protection of one of the other Great Powers.

I discussed our situation with the British foreign secretary, Lord Castlereagh, while we were both in Vienna for the Congress, and he expressed an interest in making a treaty with Jura in which Britain will support Jura in return for the right of the British navy to use our port of Seista.

The reason I am writing to you is that I wish to make a British marriage in order to bolster this treaty. Unfortunately, I understand that Princess Charlotte is to marry the Prince of Coburg, and as there are no other British royal princesses available at the moment, the girl will have to come from a noble family that has strong ties to the government.

I write to you as the person most likely to help me in this matter. For the next few weeks you may reach me at the above address. I know, Dear Aunt, that you will fail neither me nor your country.

Your Nephew,

Augustus Josef Charles

P.S.-Do not say anything about this to my mother!

The Princess Mariana read the letter through again, more slowly this time, her brow furrowed in thought. She was seventy-two years of age and had lived in England since she was nineteen, but she never forgot that she had been born a princess of Jura, and her first allegiance was to the country of her birth.

What Augustus had proposed made excellent sense, she thought approvingly. She had always known that the boy was physically brave; it was a great relief to discover that he could also think like a statesman.

She took the letter and, using her cane, walked slowly to one of the red silk-covered sofas that furnished the Chinese Drawing Room of the Beauforts' London town house. Carefully she lowered herself onto a silk cushion and smoothed the letter in her lap. She was deep in thought when a familiar voice said commandingly, "Grandmama! Have you fallen into a trance?"

The princess looked toward the small figure approaching her across the red-and-blue Persian carpet. Her younger granddaughter was attired in a simple white muslin dress with one blue ribbon around her waist and another tying back her long brown hair. Her cheeks were flushed with healthy color and her large golden-brown eyes sparkled with curiosity.

"I am perfectly fine, Charity," the princess replied in German to the only member of her English-born family who had bothered to learn the language of her birth. Then she frowned. "What is that you have got on your dress?"

Charity looked at the yellowish smudge on her skirt and said unconcernedly, "I took Hero for a walk and he must have slobbered on me."

The princess sighed. "You had better change before your mother sees you. You know how she feels about that dog of yours."

Charity made a face. Then she noticed the pages resting on her grandmother's lap and she gave a little skip. "Is that a letter? Who is it from? Is it from Augustus, perhaps?"

"It is indeed from Augustus," the princess returned, her fingers caressing the paper she had just been reading.

"Oh, good." Unbidden, Charity came to seat herself next to her grandmother. "What did he say? Did he tell you about the battle? I read in the Dispatches that he and the men from Jura were especially commended by Wellington for bravery. Did he tell you what he did?"

The princess looked into her granddaughter's eager face and said repressively, "He did no such thing. Augustus is far too modest to boast of his own exploits, Charity."

Charity looked disappointed. "What did he say then?"

The princess looked once more at the pages in her lap. "He is worried that Austria will try to pressure Jura into joining the empire."

"They can't do that!" Charity cried. "Even though Napoleon occupied Jura, Augustus never gave up! His father may have spent the war years here in England, but Augustus stayed in Jura to fight the French from the mountains. And he fought at Waterloo! Austria has no grounds for annexing Jura. Even the Congress of Vienna saw that!"

"Let us hope that you are right, my dear," the princess replied. She began to fold up the letter.

"Aren't you going to read it to me?" Charity asked in surprise.

"It is very short and you have already heard the gist of it," the princess replied.

"Grandmama!"

"Never mind, Charity. Tell me, is your mother in the house?"

Charity shook her head. "She and Lydia went to pay a call upon the Marchioness of Langton in Grosvenor Square. They have not yet returned."

The princess stiffened. "Good heavens. Does this mean that Lydia is going to accept Langton?"

Charity sighed and slid down on her back. "It looks that way. Mama says that since there aren't any dukes available on the marriage mart this season, Langton is the best catch, even if he is only a marquis."

"Sit up, Charity," the princess ordered. Then, when her granddaughter had obeyed, she said, "Why are you looking so glum? I should think that you would be delighted to see your sister marry and move away. You and she rub against each other all the time."

Charity made a face. "I know, but once Lydia marries, Mama will turn her attention to me. I will have to make my come out and go to boring parties and boring dances and boring old Almacks and Mama will want to find me a husband."

"You are seventeen years old, my dear," the princess said. "It is time you were thinking of a husband."

Charity scowled. "I don't want a husband. A husband would only be a nuisance. I wish Mama would just leave me alone. I don't know why she insisted on dragging me to London. It is summer. I want to be at home in the country."

"You can't remain a child forever, my dear," the princess replied absently, still staring at the letter in her lap.

"What are you thinking, Grandmama?" Charity asked curiously.

The princess's lips tightened, deepening the lines in the fine skin around the sides of her mouth. "I am thinking, my dear, that there may indeed be someone on the marriage mart of a higher degree than either a marquis or a duke. When they return from their call, I must have a little chat with your mother and Lydia."

Three women, representing three generations of the Debritt family, sat in the Countess of Beaufort's newly decorated Chinese Drawing Room and discussed the Prince of Jura's marriage proposition.

Speaking in faintly accented English, Princess Mariana said, "I think Augustus has made a very clever and statesmanlike proposal. He has been the prince since the death of his father two years ago, and clearly it is his duty to marry. His wife will be a Crowned Princess." Here she looked directly at her elder granddaughter. "There are few positions in all of Europe that are higher."

Lydia was seated across the table from her grandmother in a Chinese-style Chippendale chair. "Read me the letter again," she said.

The princess complied, translating her great-nephew's letter into English as she read. When she had concluded, Lydia and her mother looked at each other across the black lacquered Chinese table that divided them. "Your grandmother is right," the countess murmured. "Jura may not be a very large or very important country, but it is always something to be a Crowned Princess."

"Jura is not small," the princess snapped in annoyance. "And Austria certainly thinks we are important."

The countess ignored her mother-in-law and continued to address her daughter. "Italy is just across the Adriatic from Jura, Lydia. You could visit Rome and Venice easily. And now that the Bourbons have been restored, Paris will once more be a great cultural and fashion center. As a visiting Royal Princess, you could virtually rule the salons there. There would be no need for you to spend all your time in Jura." Her lips tightened in disapproval. "Caterina certainly didn't."

The princess said, "I do not think that Augustus is looking for a wife to follow his mother's example, Sophia. He will want a wife who cares more for Jura than Caterina ever did."

Lydia looked thoughtful as she gazed at the slender, elegant hands that lay loosely clasped in her figured French muslin lap. Slowly she raised her beautiful long-lashed green eyes and fixed them on her grandmother. "What does Augustus look like, Grandmama? Have you ever met him?"

"I met him only once, when he was ten years of age and he visited here with his father. He was a nice-looking boy and I am certain he has grown into a nice-looking man." The princess looked down her still-impressive nose. "The Adamovs have always been a good-looking family. My nephew, the late prince, was a handsome man, and Augustus's mother certainly qualifies as a beauty."

At this last accolade, the countess stiffened. Princess Caterina was probably the only woman in London who was even prouder and vainer than Lady Beaufort.

The princess saw her daughter-in-law's reaction and went on: "You won't have to worry about Caterina. Now that Ivan is dead, she will most certainly return to her family in Venice. She lived in Venice most of the time even when he was alive, anyway."

Lydia, whose upright spine had never once touched the bamboo-style back of her chair, inclined her swanlike neck in a gesture that was infinitely graceful. "It is an interesting proposition," she conceded.

"Your son will be the Prince of Jura," her mother said. "Think of that, Lydia."

"I am thinking of it, Mama." The faintest trace of irritation showed in her throaty voice. She turned back to the princess. "What is the Prince's residence like, Grandmama?"

"The Pfalz is beautiful," Mariana replied promptly. "It was designed by the same architects who built Sch–nnbrun for the Empress Maria Theresa. It is smaller than Schönnbrun, of course, but it is far more impressive-and tasteful-than the Regent's Pavilion at Brighton."

"If only Jura was a little more important," Lydia fretted.

The princess lifted her Adamov nose. "If you do not wish to marry Augustus, Lydia, you have only to say so. I would never wish to push you into a marriage you do not like. I have several other girls in mind who I am certain would be interested in becoming the Princess of Jura if you decide to decline the honor."

"What other girls?" Lydia demanded.

"Lady Mary Bolton," the princess replied promptly.

Lydia's eyes narrowed. The angelically fair Lady Mary was her only serious rival for the crown of beauty of the season.

The princess and Lady Beaufort prudently allowed time for the image of Lady Mary wearing the crown of Jura to settle in Lydia's brain. Then the countess said to her mother-in-law, "Have you spoken to Beaufort about this matter?"

"Not yet," the princess replied. "I thought I would make the offer to Lydia first. You can be certain that Henry will have ideas of his own about whom Augustus should marry."

Lydia gave her grandmother a suspicious look.

"Don't you think Papa would want me to marry Augustus?"

"One never knows," the princess said delicately.

"Henry is such a political creature. He takes his position as secretary of the treasury very seriously. And you must admit, Lydia, that politics has never been one of your interests."

"I doubt that it's an interest of Lady Mary Bolton's either," Lydia shot back. The princess gave a very European shrug.

A slight frown creased Lydia's brow. "What if I married Augustus and Austria annexed Jura anyway. What would happen to me then?"

"Nothing would happen to you, Lydia," her grandmother assured her. "Austria has no wish to replace the Adamovs as the ruling family of Jura; it just wishes to make Jura part of its empire."

"But why?" Lydia asked.

"Because," the princess replied in a tone of voice she might have employed to speak to a child, "Austria would like to have complete access to Seista, which is one of the premier ports on the Adriatic."

"Why doesn't Augustus want to let Austria use Seista?" Lydia asked. "After all, he is willing to allow Britain to use it."

"Britain does not desire to impinge upon Jura's independence," the princess said shortly.

Lydia looked puzzled but before she could ask another question the countess said, "Well, Lydia. What do you think? Are you interested in becoming a Royal Princess or not?"

"You may tell Papa that I am ready to accept Augustus's offer," Lydia said grandly.

The princess said to her daughter-in-law, "What about Langton? Charity said that Lydia was on the verge of accepting him."

"A marquis is one thing, but a reigning prince is something else," Lady Beaufort said dismissively.

"Langton will have to look elsewhere for a wife." Lydia laughed.

At least she will make Augustus a beautiful wife, the princess thought with resignation. He could do much worse than Lydia. And Beaufort has Castlereagh's ear. He will be able to arrange this treaty, of that I am certain.

"I shall talk to Beaufort tonight," Lady Sophia said.

"Remember," the princess cautioned. "Not a word of this should reach Caterina until Augustus arrives."

The countess shuddered. "I see Caterina as little as I possibly can, ma'am. You don't have to worry about my giving away the secret."

"Why doesn't Augustus want his mother to know about his plan?" Lydia asked.

"Caterina has been plotting for years to marry him to one of her Venetian cousins," the princess said.

"She will be sure to make a scene when she learns he is looking elsewhere."

Lady Beaufort turned to her daughter. "Are you quite certain you wish to do this, Lydia? Once your father begins the political negotiations, your marriage will become a state matter and it will be impossible for you to back out."

"I have never found Langton to be particularly attractive,"

Lydia said coolly. "I rather think I will like Augustus better."

"I am sure you will," her grandmother said. "I have always found Langton to be a bore."

"He is, rather," returned the girl who had been perfectly prepared to marry him for his title. "And, as Mama said, it is far better to be a princess than a mere marchioness." She gave her grandmother her most enchanting smile. "Why, as the wife of the ruling prince, I believe I would even go in to dinner before you, Grandmama."

"So you would, Lydia," the princess replied evenly.

The countess rubbed her hands together, a gesture that the princess found deplorably bourgeois. "Very well," she said. "Tonight I will talk to Beaufort."

Copyright (c) 2001 by Joan Wolf

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Royal Bride 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
My friend lent me this book and I love her for that! It was a little slow at first but it was really good and cute! Had a good plot and was very interesting. I thought that the characters were really cute and interesting. This was a really cute book!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Warner

Mar 2001

With all the intrigue that went on at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to divide the post-Napoleon Europe up among the great victors, outsiders would suspect that the superpowers would ignore the little principality of Jura. Though the final act declared Jura as a free state, the Habsburg Empire wants to annex the small country since the Austrian superpower encircles the tiny independent principality. This distinct possibility already raised by Metternich worries the Jura head of state Prince Augustus Josef Charles. He knows his nation needs a counterweight from another superpower to balance the Austrian threat.

Augustus turns to England, home of his aunt, to forge an alliance. To deepen the binds with England, Augustus, with the help of his septuagenarian Aunt Mariana, seeks an English bride. Mariana arranges for Augustus to marry Lydia Beaufort, who elopes with his cousin as the wedding nears. Augustus turns to Lydia¿s sister Charity who actually has more in common with the Prince. What started as a regal marriage of stately convenience soon turns into a passionate love, but some agents would prefer this relationship end at any cost.

ROYAL BRIDE is at its best when the story line oozes with the intrigue and danger of Post-Napoleonic Europe. The story line is fast paced and the lead couple is quite a dashing and charming duo in a Prince Rainier-Grace Kelly sort of way. Lydia is turned into a spoiled caricature, but since she jilts the hero early that does not slow down a strong historical romance that is Joan Wolf at her royal best.

Harriet Klausner