For Richer, Not Poorer
‘Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.’
Elizabeth finished 1958 on a high. She hadn’t bagged herself a husband with a title but, she had been bestowed with a fatuous one, Debutante of the Year for 1958, although it was an excellent addition to her marriageable material CV. Now sharing a flat with two other young ladies from the Debutante’s House, she continued to pursue Fergus around London. Initially, he was flattered, then amused when, after only a handful of meetings, she said,
‘I’ve never met anybody quite like you before, Fergus. I think I’m falling in love with you,’ while batting her Lana Turner eyelashes with hypnotic effect.
The first time he invited her back to his flat for a drink after a cocktail party to celebrate the New Year, she took advantage of his inebriated state. He flopped on to the sofa next to her, and she turned toward him, straddling his lap and pinning him down. Covering his mouth with hers, he felt he couldn’t breathe. He was way out of his comfort zone, but being pounced on by an eighteen-year-old siren with the sexual appetite of a tigress, resistance was futile. If he had any doubts about the morality of his seduction, Elizabeth had no intention of giving him any time to think about it.
In the foggy waking moments of his hangover the following day, he dismissed what had happened between them for what it was, drunk sex. It would never happen again. He only had a few weeks left in London, and he would make sure he kept a low profile.
He breathed a sigh of relief when the press started reporting sightings of the glamorous Elizabeth Campbell with the dashing young Duke of Grandborough. Photographs of a smiling Elizabeth, handling the Duke’s twelve bore on the grouse moor at his family’s estate in Yorkshire, their arms linked at a highbrow wedding and ‘a Deux’ during a romantic candlelight dinner. Fergus assumed he was safe, now she had a more high-ranking assignation going on. But, he was wrong. Twenty-four hours before he left London for good, his heart sank when Elizabeth arrived on his doorstep wearing a pair of pussycat sunglasses.
‘Why, Elizabeth, how lovely to see you! A late-night was it last night? The sunglasses I mean… a bit hung-over are we?’
‘I need to speak to you urgently, Fergus,’ she pushed past him and slumped on to the sofa. ‘There’s no easy way of telling you this, but I’m pregnant.’ He sat down next to her, putting a reluctant arm around her shoulders.
‘That’s, err, wonderful news Elizabeth. I’m very pleased for you and… Jeremy. Or, is it His Lordship? Whichever one it is, I’m sure they are falling over themselves to marry you.’
She pushed him away roughly, snatching the sunglasses away from her face.
‘Jeremy? Grandbo? It was you! You idiot, you’re the one I had that ridiculous one-night stand with! You were all over me like a rampant stallion. So there is no question, you’re the father. It’s you who needs to marry me!’
Fergus’s heart accelerated as he pulled away from her.
‘Why me? Why do you automatically assume I’m the father? It’s common knowledge you and Jeremy have been at it like hammer and bloody tongs for months. And what about the Duke? One assumes you’ve banged him as well? Your reputation goes before you, my dear. I’m going back to Gloucestershire to run the family farm and play polo, not tie myself down with the most impossible woman in London!’
He stopped his tirade to pour himself a large whiskey and, realising he was trembling, knocked it back in one.
‘The dates… Fergus. The dates… they simply don’t add up, not with Grandbo anyway. He dumped me as soon as he found out I wasn’t a virgin. He only wants to walk a virgin up the aisle. I really thought he was going to be the one, but he’s not interested in marrying a woman with a desecrated hymen, let alone one carrying a developing foetus. My life is ruined, and I never wanted children.’
A few eyebrows were raised at the time, their friends describing their courtship as a whirlwind romance. They hardly know each other! Fergus Grant, of all people? I don’t believe it! As well as the age-old and uncannily correct assumption: shotgun wedding.
They met and barely scratched the surface of getting to know each other, before marrying at Westminster Register Office and taking up residence at Silkwoods together.