The Duke of Fromagere stood, head bowed, before the monument. The mass of marble and gilt towered before him; chubby cherubs playing lyres and loosing arrows from little bows. To the side and a step behind the Duke the Archbishop droned an interminable liturgy that echoed around the great baroque cathedral.
It had been twelve months to the day since the Duchess had passed and the unveiling of the great memorial would end the year of official mourning that the Duke had deemed appropriate. Appropriate to the rest of Fromagere of course, excluding his favourite mistress, Catherine, and his second favourite Juliana. And the red headed maid that he insisted bring his breakfast on Sunday mornings.
A gentle touch on the arm brought him back from his thoughts. “Errm now a year has passed,” stammered the Archbishop. “It may be time to find Your Grace a new wife. A man ought not retire to an empty bed.”
“Poor deluded fool”, thought the Duke; but he had a point. Perhaps he ought to take a new wife and a large dowry wouldn’t go amiss. Those Parisian bankers did keep sending debt collectors every couple of months.
That evening the Duke summoned the foreign minister to his palace chambers. "I need a new wife Minister Gaperon; any suggestions?"
Ne're an eyebrow twitched on Gaperon's high brow. After a brief pause he said: "The Countess Dolingen of Gratz has been widowed recently,""Again?"
"It's a dangerous world Your Grace."
"She has a nice palace and a lot of land in Styria."
"Bit close to the Emperor."
"Perhaps, I may be so bold. The Countess Wilhelimina may be a perfect choice."
"Have you lost your senses Gaperon," spluttered the Duke. "Apart from the fact that those damned Mittleweins have been our sworn enemies for three hundred years she must be over forty!"
"But still a beauty. Perhaps it's time to make friends with our neighbours. Besides it makes more sense to acquire a bride with land adjacent to Fromagere."
"But her son, the Count. rules Weinpfalz, Gaperon, or had you forgotten?"
"It is a dangerous world, Your Grace. And the Count has no heir."
".... and possibly not too late for the Countess to bear another."
Gaperon was an excellent diplomat and without hesitation answered the seventy year old Duke. "No, Your Grace."