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Cressica Coutts

"I give my all - I can't give more, though poor the offering be."

0 · 303 views · located in Regency Era 1816

a character in “Duty & Honor Before Love”, as played by Xistinna

Description

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Full Name: Cressica Coutts
Title: Mrs. Coutts
Age: 25
Country of Origin: England

Family Situation: Widow of Jasper Coutts and extremely wealthy.

Housing: Holly Lodge Estate, on Highgate, London, and Townhouse at 78 Picadilly, London.

Family Members:, Mother – Shelly Kingsly (Dead), Father – James Kingsly (Dead), Husband – Jasper Coutts (Dead), Step-daughters - Lady Guildford & Lady Burdett.

Biography:

Early Life: She was christened Cressica Kingsly, born 11 November 1790, was the daughter of Mrs. Shelly Kingsly, an actress in her day upon the local stage, and Lieutenant James Kingsly of the Madras Army. It is said he held a passionate love affair with Shelly and who having married her, on their 10th day as husband and wife, set sailed to India and was never heard of afterwards. It is possible that Lieutenant Kingsly was a noble man in disguise – a mystery constantly alluded to but never cleared up by her mother. When Cressica was four years old her mother took as her second husband a bookish aspiring writer, Mr. Bates. The two were members of a traveling theater company and made the rural circuits from theater to theater. He does not seem to be remarkable in any way as an author or as a man, nor did he contribute to the prospect of his wife or his step-child, but it must be credited that it was he who thought little Cressica to read and write.

Her mother, a woman of quick temper, treated Cressica with great severity and even harshness during childhood. Much credited to the fact that 1794-1795 were years of starvation and misery in consequence of the prolonged war with France. And as a lowly born actress Shelly had to fight her way up from the very lowest rung of the professional ladder. Mr. Bates died in 1802 from the flue, and Mrs. Kingsly died in 1807 from an untreatable infectious disease. Independent in her teen years, Cressica, knew no other world than the sordid and makeshift one which surrounded strolling players, and made very early acquaintances with the hardships of poverty and the struggles and temptations which come from poverty. Cressica took on to the stage to escape the pain of her environment. On stage Cressica flourished and developed an attractive charm, which came from her desired to please, mingled with an unequal awe that marked her presence on the stage. She was emotional, imaginative, and spontaneous and hearty in her humor, and these qualities were exactly suited to the somewhat boisterous comedy in vogue at the time. When she was about 18 she took the advice of an ambitious patron, he urge her to try her fortunes on a more ambitious stage, and promised that he would give her introductions which would ensure her an engagement at Drury Lane. She followed his advice and venture on to London, though she was driven into serious passages for a time in the metropolis, luck came in its own good time, and during the season of 1809 she made her debut on the boards of ‘Old Drury,’ as Lady Languish.

By 1810 Cressica was talked about as one of the best of the rising generation of comic actresses. She won the admiration of Mrs. Sarah Gibsons, the best known tragedienne of the stage, famous for her portrayal of the Shakespearean character, Lady Macbeth. It was Mrs. Gibsons, who brought her forward and in her stately manner introduced her in the first green-room as her “young friend.” Cressica was now 19 years old, a fine grown young woman; incline to be buxom, with a brilliant complexion and dark eyes, which could laugh with good humor or blaze into anger, just as might be necessary. Unlike the majority of the actresses of her day Cressica was not disposed towards flirtation. She had but little sentiment and much common sense, she was prudent. And to young men who look upon her with unrestrained expressions of impatient admiration, she offered nothing less than a smile. But several patrons of the drama and amateur frequenters of the green-room were present on the occasion, and among the number was the gentleman, whose acquaintance would change her life forever, Mr. Jasper Coutts.

Mr. Coutts was well known as a rich septuagenarian, co-owner of Coutts & Co., the royal bank. He was hospitable and benevolent, and he counted amongst his friends some of the literary men and best actors of his day. He saw and genuinely admired Miss Kingsly, and became a frequent visitor at Miss Kingsly’s galas at her villa, in Highgate, London, and introduced his daughters – Lady Guildford and Lady Burdett – to the reigning and accomplished actress. Miss Kingsly was equally constant and acceptable visitor at the great banking house in the Strand, of which Mr. Coutts was the head. It so happened that Mrs. Coutts was an invalid; her mind was perturbed by mental disease, and she rarely appeared at table, and if she did her memory played her lamentable tricks. In the last month of 1814 old Mrs. Coutts died, and Mr. Coutts at once offered his hand, thus released, to the charming Miss Kingsly, who had become his daughters’ friend, and in whom he thought he should himself find a true friend and a kind nurse in his declining years. At first Cressica rejected the offer, on account of the disparity of age, but she yielded to the insistence of Lady Guildford, Mr. Coutts’s eldest daughter, and her marriage was celebrated privately. The union was publicly notified in the Times of 12 of January 1815. Though the papers were not refined in their innuendoes their union was a quick peace of scandal in which Cressica was at once ridiculed upon with great gusto.

Married Life: She retired from the theater and devoted herself to the role of wife. It was no great surprise Mr. Coutts affections for his young wife. He showered her with luxury and provided for each and any want she warranted. They purchased rather small home and enlarged the house and grounds by buying adjacent properties in Highgate, London. The estate was later to be known as The Holly Lodge estate, and many had been the grand galas and festivities within throughout the years that Cressica became worldly known for them. With the support of Mr. Coutts daughters, Lady Frances, Countess of Guildford, Cressica became a figure of great delight among the gentry. They excelled her in the highest qualities of diplomacy, kindness, prudence, and gallantry, and in the very words of the Duchess of St Albans, “She seemed in a manner born to the situation.” But it all stopped upon Mr. Coutts death. On the 25th day of January 1816 Mr. Coutts was found dead, seating at his chair in the private library whilst reading the Times.

Upon reading of the will Mrs. Coutts was named the sole heir of the entire fortune, which Mr. Coutts had carefully placed in a trust fund, so that his widow would have complete control over her wealth. The large sum is rumored to be in the millions elevating Cressica to the status of wealthiest woman in London. Though the daughters of Mr. Coutts were not at all upset as alleged, on the contrary they had already been provided their inheritance upon marriage and were both wealthy themselves, but Cressica’s new wealth was the cause of much envy among the ladies of the gentry – who now whispered ill gossip behind Mrs. Coutts. Cressica showed no concern of what was said about her and under the advice of Lady Guildford departed London for the country side to pass the mourning period alongside her step-daughters. No other person understood Cressica best than Lady Guildford who was a widow herself.

Time pass rather quickly and soon the summer season of 1816 was upon them, many were the invitations received. Lady Guildford decided a change of scenery was needed, and encouraged Cressica to shed herself of the black of her clothes and call an end to the mourning period. Cressica agreed, herself feeling tired of the country living, she missed the excitement of London, and above all craved the theater all the more. Lady Bates return to her home and family in Cambridge and Cressica and the Countess made arrangements to return to London.

So begins...

Cressica Coutts's Story

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It had been a dull trip for Cressica Coutts. She stood by the wall to wall windows of the family room, looking out upon the outer gardens of the Holly Lodge Estate. The grey sky overshadowed the scenery, the walks and groves were wet and deserted, carefully trimmed trees were lustless in the dampness, and the fountains nearby did not flung their slender sheen of silvery water nor did the distant fountains rippled steadily, for they had not been turned on. “When will the rain stop? There is nothing worse than a sunless summer. I’ve a good mind to leave London and join the jolly times in Paris.”

“Nonsense,” replied Frances, “It will stop soon enough, besides we’ve been invited to Devonshire Manor, for a luncheon with the Duchess. We can’t say no. And I’ve planned us a lively summer. Rain or shine, we shall have a proper summer season in London.” She sat at the writing desk going over the invitations, picking the best of the list and setting to the side those that warranted a reply, and discarding those they will not be attending. “People expect us. Besides most will flatter you shamelessly, you will see. You will find even your enemies at your side. They all crave an invitation to your gala, Mrs. Coutts.”

“I was not planning on acting the hostess this summer,” added Cressica, with little interest.

“What! You must…It wouldn’t be a proper summer without your yearly gala, would it?” Cressica smiled amused. Frances understood her dear friend’s mood, it was the rain and being cooked up inside these walls that damper her now. There would indeed be a gala this summer by the young Mrs. Coutts if it meant she had to arrange the preparations herself.

Cressica thought the return to London was the change she needed, and wanted nothing more than to move forward with her life again. But the weather was indeed a great disappointment. She sauntered away from the window toward the rosewood pedestal desk with brass inlaid where the Countess sat. The writing box was opened and inside carelessly scattered were papers and writing materials. She reviewed one of the invitations piled to the side, and then another, and another, they were all address to the Countess. Frances grabbed the invitation from Cressica’s hand.

“I had my correspondent forwarded here. But here, this is the one you want.” She handed Cressica the invitation from the Duchess. She read it thoughtfully — Her Grace Duchess of St Albans requests the pleasure of Mrs. Coutts for a luncheon in Devonshire Manor on (date/time). – Folding the parch paper Cressica stuffed the invitation in the envelope. It was in fact addressed to her. “We must go then, we mustn’t be late.”

She moved toward the large, full length mirror and studied her mirror image as she added the finishing touches to her outfit – her beauty was stamp already on the face. It was all wrought up with her fine bones, the set of her lips, and her lustrous hair. She dressed in a white muslin dress, high in the throat, and topped with a bright green satin spencer; lined with maiden’s blush, with the ends rather low before, terminated with silk tassels. She fixed on the bonnet and feather, of the same colour and materials of her garments –The handmaind standing beside her handed her a set of pink gloves followed by her coinpurse.

“Good,” she boosted, in her old familiar manner, “Our carriage is ready. We must stop by old Mrs. Goldpin’s shop and order new wears upon our return. It shall not drag, I promise. We’ll return in time to change for the theater,” she said, displaying a reassuring smile. Frances’s steps resounded down the decorous hallway as she made her way out the room to the main entry, Cressica followed closely behind.

A four wheel Landau with tall roof, and two side panels in place, was waiting. Two horses sufficed to pull the carriage, but for show additional front pair of high-stepping horses had been requested by the Countess. The carriage was luxurious and polished with German silver. The two figures, under the escort of umbrellas, mounted the carriage seating next to each other. And their merry conversation carried away as the Landau hurried along the road.

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The rain had calmed down to a steady drizzle. The Landau stopped once and turned left, steadily on Piccadilly toward St. James, and trafficking forward it finally stopped along St James Square. The next turn was the grand manor of the Duchess of St Albans. The tall gilded gates were wide open as the carriage crossed the face of the impressive property. The house had come into the possession of the Duchess upon by the marriage to the 4th Duke of St Albans. The large town house was built in typical Palladian fashion, displaying wealth and thus impressively opulent over the smaller houses in the area. It was a summer home for the Duchess and in her possession the house had come to a series of alterations through the years – a new portico had been constructed, allowing formal entrance to the ground floor. An opulent entrance hall and grand crystal staircase with glass handrail convey guests directly to the noble floor. Additionally, a vast heavily gilded ballroom had been added, causing the house to become even more of a place for display and entertaining rather than for living. The sumptuous exteriors housed a large part of the St. Albans art collection, considered one of the finest in the United Kingdom, and a renowned library, housed in a room 40ft long.

Cressica and Frances were attended to by the butler, a tall man of strong chin and sturdy nose, and two housemaids, to whom the ladies handed over their coats, hats, and gloves. From where she stood Cressica could hear a man’s voice, though the conversation was undistinguished the tone carried a tinged of anger in its volume. Curiously, she glanced around for the source of the voice, and blood rushed to her face when her eyes met the butler’s disapproving eyes. He cleared his throat and sternly looked away. Cressica understood that she should mind her own business. The Countess turned and the butler quickly escorted the invitees to the drawing room where the Duchess was waiting.

“Her Ladyship Countess of Guildford and Mrs. Coutts,” announced the butler.

The Duchess sat on a single tall back chair – she was the very image of sophistication and opulence. The aspect of her face was softened with a friendly smile, but her eyes held to them a serious and intimidating posture, which was to a degree her grace’s unrelenting charm. Seated together were Lady Byron Stanford and Lady Byron Beauchamp. Formal greetings were exchanged, and it was the Duchess who spoke first.

“Countess, Mrs. Coutts, I was pleasantly surprised to hear news of your return to London. Just yesterday I held a conversation with Her Ladyship Stanford and Her Ladyship Beauchamp in where Mrs. Coutts’s last gala was the topic. We are looking forward to attending your gala this summer, Mrs. Coutts. The weather has been disagreeable this season, and some of our dear friends have decided to pass their summer elsewhere. My social life has suffered for it. However, knowing you are back in London has changed my plans. I’ve decided to host a gala of my own. I would be eternally grateful if you would assist me with the arrangements Mrs. Coutts,” she said.

“She would be delighted,” said Frances. “Mrs. Coutts has a knack for festivities.”

“I’d be delighted, Your Grace,” added Cressica. The request was unexpected, but she found the idea of assisting the Duchess of St. Albans thrilling.

“Well, it’s settled then,” said the Duchess in utter delight.

“Lunch is served,” announced the butler. The Duchess stood up and the invitees followed her into the next room.

Frances’s wrapped her arm around Cressica’s and spoke softly for their ears alone, “My dear Mrs. Coutts you impress me. Not only have you impressed the Ton, but you had the Duchess herself sealed your place among them.”

“So it seems,” said Cressica.

The luncheon table was set near the open windows with view of three-acres of gardens – even in a sunless day the house gardens were an impressive delightful sight. The woman sat after the Duchess took her seat. It was a round table and dressed with fine white double damask with matching large square white napkins, and in the center was placed a floral centerpiece of blooms from the house gardens, such as purple ornamental cabbage, lime green spider mums, orange and lime roses and velvety celosia. The china was white and pink porcelain with colorful butterfly prints and gold finishing. First was served cold tomato-basil bisque and cheese biscuits, followed by tarragon chicken salad with crunch pecans and apples, red onions and celery, and cranberry-strawberry salad. There were tea sandwiches of curried shrimp – her grace’s favorite – cucumber and strawberry, and orange and cranberry for the picking, and a caramelized onion quiche topped with flat-leaf parsley, chives and mint. Their merry conversation was carried through, polite conversation on topics such as the weather and delicious gossip.

“Of that we can be assured,” said the Duchess. She remained mild, checking her cup for a last drop of tea, pretending to be half listening to Lady Stanford’s tiresome voice. She set the cup down and to change the conversation pointed to the desert cart being wheeled in. “What is it about this rolling relic that delights us so much?”

“Maybe it’s the sound of the squeaky wheels that signifies sweets are coming,” answered the Countess.

“It’s the colorful assortment of confections that makes us feel like a kid in a candy shop,” added Lady Beauchamp.

“Or the irresistible invitation to linger just a little longer over a shared slice of something sinful,” said Cressica. The ladies joyful laughter filled the room.

“Whatever it is, I’ll have the cheesecake,” said the Duchess.

The Duchess was served a slice of banana pudding cheesecake, top with creamy cheesecake and crunchy vanilla wafers. Cressica skipped desert, and Frances picked a vanilla-buttermilk tart garnished with fresh fruits and basil springs.

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Intro: Mrs. Goldpins’s Shop - Cressica & Frances

“Countess!” said the store clerk, which sounded more like an announcement than an exclamation. Other store staff quickly circled the two ladies showcasing the latest fabrics; Frances made some quick selections and continued along behind the store clerk as she lead them into a private room. Inside they were met by the head seamstress, Mrs. Goldpins, a tall elegant Irish woman, of lazy eyes, and with a gayish feminine voice. Several assistants – women of various ages – also enter the room, some carrying several gowns made out of the fabric picked by the Countess.

“Mrs. Goldpins, allow me to introduce you to Mrs. Cressica Coutts,” said Frances, “We would like to see your latest fashion plates, and have some dresses made. Perhaps something low on the neck with the gothic style that seems to be fashionable these days,” she looked at Cressica as if to assure her that what she said was true. Returning her eyes to Mrs. Goldpins, she continued, “Nothing French. I’m sure you are swamp with work and with do right for your workmanship’s supreme in London. But spare no expense for your valuable time, Mrs. Goldpins.”

With the simple gesture of her hand and sturdy stare Mrs. Goldpins had ordered her assistants; one assistant quickly took Cressica’s measurements, another exit the room and quickly returned with a thick book, which she opened to show Cressica the collection of hand drawn gowns within. The others helped the Countess undress and redress with the gown she’d picked. And Mrs. Goldpins wasted no time in sharing the latest gossip:

“It seems we have new money desperately seeking an opportunity to join the Ton this summer. I heard by Lady Beauchamp who heard by Lady Stanford that Sir Edward Mesons is bringing his young daughter to London,” said Mrs. Goldpins, as she added the last pin from her mouth into France’s gown.

“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Sir Mesons and his lovely daughter,” said Frances, her eyes fixed on the wall mirror before her. “I consider them good friends. You will do right to treat them with the same respect as you do me, Mrs Goldpins.”

“Of course, Your Grace,” said and embarrassed Mrs. Goldpins.

“What do you think, Cressica?” asked Frances, she twirled on the spot making her evening gown come to life – it was extravagantly trimmed and decorated with lace, cut low and sported short sleeves, baring her bosoms.

“Looks lovely on you,” said Cressica.

“I’ll take it, Mrs. Goldpins,” ordered Frances, “and have another made in black and add some ribbons with a pair of matching gloves. I’ll be staying with Mrs. Coutts in Highgate…”

“No!” interrupted Cressica “We’ll be staying at 78 Piccadilly.” Cressica looked at Frances, “If I’m to help the Duchess I think best to stay at my townhouse.”

Frances nodded, “At first I was delighted she asked you, but in the end I was completely surprised. You know what this means?”

“Indeed, but don’t you worry I have every intention of surpassing any expectations of me,” said Cressica.

“Oh I don’t doubt that my dear. I only worry that she will take advantage of your goodwill. It’s no secret her Son has lessen their fortune, I really don’t see how she plans to pay for any of it,” said Frances, forgetting where she was. She paused and said, “Mrs. Goldpins would you be so kind to give us a moment of privacy.” But it was not a question so much an order, and Mrs. Goldpins and her assistants bowed and left the room. “Cressica you must be very careful because should this gala be nothing but successful you will be blamed for it entirely. The Duchess will see to that. She is not a woman you want to cross. I’m afraid you’ve no choice but to play her game at whatever expense.”

“Then I was right to presumed she expects me to finance the gala?” asked Cressica.

“I’m afraid you understood correctly. She was very subtle in her approach but quite clear, and each time you reassured her that all would be well. Why she even made it sound like it was your idea in the first place,” said Frances, adjusting her gown around the sleeves. “You must be very careful how you handle the issue because you don’t want to offend.”