Tag Archives: 19th Century

166. A mother, a widow, an heiress

A mother, a widow, an heiress: such was Emily Harding at 17.

Like every woman of her age and lineage Emily had from infancy been carefully groomed to attract the eye of a reputable husband. At age 15 she did exactly that, when Mr. Fillmore bought the Magnusson estate opposite the Harding household.

She was not immediately enamoured with his peculiar American accent, nor was she overtly fond of his brushy moustache. Yet by his gentle gestures and an endless stream of adoring letters, Emily was won over by the time spring graced Devonshire. By Pentecost she and Mr. Fillmore were wed and took permanent residence at the Magnusson estate.

The year that followed was the most jubilant of Emily’s life. Though Mr. Fillmore spent one week a month in the city for business matters, they spent most of the remaining hours in each other’s company and – a year to the day they were married – in that of their son Rutherford.

But Emily was also groomed for disappointment from early age. Not without cause, since mere weeks after the birth of her son a Baltimore woman arrived claiming that Mr. Fillmore had not fled America to explore new business opportunities but to escape an unhappy marriage. In the resulting word feud both Mr. Fillmore and the first Mrs. Fillmore met their demise in a fire that destroyed the entire estate, but saved the Harding family’s reputation.

As the only surviving widow, the vast fortune Mr. Fillmore had amassed in the shipping trade was awarded to Emily, but not until her 21st birthday. Until then she and her son would have to rely on the kindness of her family.

Unless Emily would find a new reputable husband before that day, of course. Most were confident she would.

As was she.



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