A day in Cess's life as...

    Cess formally attired to greet the Queen

Heiress of the Earl of Montacute

Cess wakes at dawn, a habit she will probably never break even though she does not have to get up to work any more. She has become, overnight, part of the ‘gentleman class’ who ‘can live idly and without manual labour’. She stretches luxuriously in the finest linen sheets (imported from Rennes, France) in her four-poster bed on a featherbed – a quilt of fine linen stuffed with feathers, which in turn rests on two mattresses stuffed with wool. She has a bolster stuffed with more feathers instead of a log for her head and four beautifully embroidered pillows. Under her woollen blankets and fur-lined silk coverlet, she feels warm and heavy like a cat in the sun. Everything feels so soft and smooth compared to what she is used to. The sheets alone cost more than she earned in a year as a poultry girl. Heavy embroidered curtains are pulled around the bed to keep out drafts and the bed is on high legs to deter small rodents (even the houses of the rich have infestations of mice). Cess pulls open a curtain to look at her chamber.

Her room is as large as her whole cottage had been. In the fireplace, with its handsome stone surround, a ‘watchlight’ is burning, a single candle from which she can light more if she needs them during the night. It is such a luxury, to have light whenever she wants. What is more, she is given beeswax candles which are bright, clean and smell sweet unlike the stinking, spitting tallow candles she had in the cottage whose light was dim and erratic. Beside the fire she has a ‘farthingale chair’, a wooden chair with a back but no arms so that she can sit while wearing the enormous skirts she is dressed in these days. In the window is a wooden table covered in a fine, richly coloured Turkey carpet, on which is another candle-holder, writing materials (she is being taught to write and read) and a horn book on which are all the letters of the alphabet for her to master.

Click here to learn what Cess's day is like as a
poultry girl