The ennobled throughout Europe were formal in etiquette, grooming, and social gatherings. They attended grand affairs as well as soirees held by other courtiers. Their speech could be profound and sometimes made in jest. The dress of the aristocrats was grand and it was not solely for formal grand affairs. This was a part of their presentation. The mantuas, the over jackets, damask and hard-heeled shoes were part of the daily formality which distinguished them among the royal elite. For some their dress was only the beginning of their daily ritual. They engaged in negotiations to purchase greater lands. Some may have garnered additional wealth through their business dealings from mercantile trade. However, it was likely that the most telling of an aristocrat's status was whom they chose to court. Controversy lied within a maiden's right to inherit property. The laws of intestate for a woman's inheritance varied throughout different European countries. However, a well-bred young maiden who was able to uphold her own name and still properly mingle among the others of the ennobled, was still coveted by many prospective aristocratic suitors. Just as patricians competed for the king's or queen's favour within the king's court, aristocrats vied for the hand of a beautiful maiden. She must be his complement. She must be knowledgeable of her duties as well as her standing once she has been chosen by the courtier as a bride. He is to be respectful. For the suitor to lavish her with a gift or two was to demonstrate his inclination to her. They may steal a moment of their hands brushing against one another while others may have not noticed. The newly announced couple may stroll in the gardens nearby, hoping to gain a moment of privacy. Yet what they were always reminded of was the intended formal nature of their courtship. Not all courtships began in such a manner. Some may have not proceeded in this expected fashion. Many courtships were arranged by the mothers and fathers of their respective families. Perhaps even the queen or king had designated which aristocrat was to take the hand of a maiden. For if he desired to serve the throne, the courtier would adhere to the Crown's directive. The maiden shall find herself pleased. Now that she has a suitor, she has fulfilled one of the social rites she yearned and expected of her being from such noble lineage.
However, not all courtships happened as expected—even in 18th century Milan. Despite formality and expectations, sometimes destiny has opened a path for the proper two to step their feet forward and proceed. They may not have even known they were intended for each other until circumstances guided them. The suitor and his maiden realize that their hearts were always inclined towards one another. It is only their eyes which needed the proper time to see what was properly set before them. This is the story of one such duchessa and duca in 18th century Milan. A necessary protection. A guarded courtship. A fulfillment of a social rite without undue pressure, and the saving of the maidens life by the hand of Providence. This is the story of Duchessa Lilliana.
One clear day Duchessa Lilliana was horseback riding. Both she and her steed heard a loud blasts nearby. Her horse thrust her from its back and onto the property of an esteemed member of the king's court much further away. She opens her eyes to see a handsome courtier standing before her. His name is Duca Alessandro. He directs his
servant to handle her with utmost care as he escorts her into his mansion. Duchessa
Lilliana is unable to remember her how she fell. She suffers moderately from amnesia. Her father, Duca Emmanuele, notices that Duchessa Rosetta displays no maternal concern for their daughter's absence from the House of Montanari. When he searches the Montanari estate in the hopes of finding his daughter, Lilliana's father finds a gold charm. This jewel is part of a bracelet that still adorns the duchessa. During the duchessa's convalescence, she attempts to identify herself. Lilliana examines the furnishings of The House of Marchesi. Some prompt her memory, though not fully. The duca watches over her carefully and fervently. In time, she and the lord of the manor, Duca Alessandro, increase in affection towards one another. He instinctively endeavours to return her to her home. Duca Alessandro is a gentleman. He wishes to pursue a formal courtship with the maiden. Unbeknownst to him, Duchessa Lilliana's return to the House of Montanari would be a grave mistake. Providence intervened. Duca Alessandro was to have his maiden, to have his wife. He would continue to care for her, love her, guide her and have her stand at his side forevermore. Destiny worked through the hands of devoted servants, one of which was a maidservant of the House of Montanari. Noemi witnesses the heavy burden of the duchessa's absence that weighs upon Duca Emmanuele. She silently vows to locate and retrieve the missing duchessa. She recruits her fellow maidservant, Gabriella, to assist. Noemi then leaves the House of Montanari and begins her trek to locate Duchessa Lilliana. The duca and duchessa continue to become acquainted with one another. They do not dance. They do not attend formal affairs. Theirs was the exchange of heartfelt tenderness in the protective confines of the House of Marchesi.
While Noemi continues on her journey, she finds a gold charm that she believes belongs to the duchessa. This is the second charm that has broken from Duchessa Lilliana's bracelet. The maidservant then encounters a proud vendor of pomegranates. He speaks of a tale of a fallen maiden taken into the care of a duca. He guides the maidservant to the House of Marchesi. When Noemi encounters the estate, she meets with a trusted servant of that house, Rinaldi. He is quite a strict and suspicious servant, but eventually warms to Noemi. He, just as the manor's unexpected guest, only seek to protect those whom he serves and by Duca Alessandro's caring, this extended to safeguarding Duchessa Lilliana as well. Rinaldi presents her to the lord of the manor. Duca Alessandro allows for Noemi to see Duchessa Lilliana. The duca remains extremely protective over Lilliana. The duchessa finally recalls her father's identity. The duchessa wishes to learn more of the lord of the manor. Duca Alessandro introduces her to various chambers of the Marchesi mansion. The king and queen hear of a conspiracy against an ennobled one which originated from no other than another member of the king's court. The Crown gathers evidence and secures it in the royal vault regarding a conspiracy to kidnap and harm Duchessa Lilliana. The duchessa and the duca continue their courtship under unusual circumstances. On one occasion, she desires to walk in the Marchesi gardens now that she is able to stand. The gardeners are there, and they would not have a completely private moment. Yet the duca's attention is solely on hers as he upholds her. The duchessa's attention remain with him as she holds onto him. They understand that the unusual nature of the courtship requires for them to hold onto one another. A threat hovers over her. It was Noemi who informed the duca to never return Duchessa Lilliana to the House of Montanari. Lilliana is where she is and always supposed to be—with the duca. Alessandro proposes to Lilliana. She accepts. The Crown decides to proceed with the planned royal ball. Noemi visits the House of Marchesi once more, this time with a Tahitian pearl necklace that Duca Emmanuele secured away from Duchessa Lilliana's mother who intended to steal it. The night of the grand affair arrives. The servants from the House of Marchesi assist Duchessa Lilliana to prepare for the elaborate soiree. Her duca watches over with protective eyes as they continuously drape her in the extravagant pearl necklace. Lilliana believes that the pearls are too heavy but wears them along with a necklace Duca Alessandro gifted to her. She has become the lady of the House of Marchesi. The duchessa still honours her father by wearing her pearl heirloom. During the ball, the servants of the Houses of Montanari and the House of Marchesi work together to ensure that Duca Alessandro and Duchessa Lilliana's future is forever secured. They enter the royal palace with the assistance of a servant. This royal servant heard of these ongoings by word of the king and queen. In his capacity he serves the Crown to rectify the breach in royal authority, to reconcile the damage within the king's court caused by one of their own as well as the two subject houses. Merely by securing the servants entry into the royal palace, he has helped facilitate securing Duchessa Lilliana from the grips of the perpetrator who was closer to her than she ever knew. The royal servant has also assisted the House of Montanari by extension, now that Duca Alessandro can safely wed his fiancé before the Crown. It is in separate royal chambers that the king and queen officiate Duca Alessandro and Duchessa Lilliana's nuptials. Though their courtship was necessarily informal, it led to its proper consummation, marriage for all to behold. All the while, Duca Emmanuele remains concerned for his daughter, for someone has conspired a most wretched plan against the duchessa, but who? Duchessa Lilliana reunites with her father, Duca Emmanuele. Duca Alessandro stands close at his betrothed's side. She reveals the charm bracelet that she pinned as an adornment within her hair. Lilliana had not worn it as she did before. The duchessa explains to her father that she is now a part of The House of Marchesi. The king and queen reveal who sought to harm Duchessa Lilliana before the king's court. The Crown asks for Duca Alessandro and Duchessa Lilliana to stand with them on the platform while the perpetrator is adjudged. Lilliana is at the side of her fiancé laden with the pearl necklace. It is no longer a burden, but her crown in the moment that she witnesses justice.
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About the Author: Patricia M. Muhammad is an American multi-genre fiction author of crossover contemporary romance/science fiction, science fiction/fantasy, mystery/detective and historical romance genres. She has written 20 novels. Patricia is currently based in the United States.
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