Me: It is a great privilege to be granted some of your valuable time Lady Trevelyan
Lady Trevelyan: (smiles) Please call me Celia. After being wrongly identified as dead following the tragedy of RMS Titanic I have no means to prove my identity or title so I have reverted to my maiden name of Rycroft.
Me: It must have been very difficult for you having to start again in a new country after the Carpathia got you and your fellow survivors to New York?
Lady Trevelyan: Yes it was. I was confronted by the raw pain of widowhood. I miss my husband George, Lord Trevelyan, very much and I am sorry I was not with him at the end but he insisted I went in the lifeboat.
Me: You were quite young when you met and married Lord Trevelyan. How did your family react?
Lady Trevelyan: My sister, Helena, was only ten when I met George but I think she was surprised. My father insisted we waited until I turned sixteen because marrying a lord entailed a lot of responsibilities and he wanted me to be sure; especially since George was twice my age. But I knew I was doing the right thing because I sensed he would love and care for me; something I craved at the time.
I don’t think my mother quite knew what to think especially as I had shown no real interest in men before I met George.
Me: When you met Lord Trevelyan you had recently been through a harrowing rape ordeal. How did that affect you?
Lady Trevelyan: It affected me very deeply. It deprived me of the right to share my first sexual experience with a man I loved and, although I did not realise it at that time, it also robbed me of my chance to be a mother. It destroyed my concept of intimacy although I have long since learnt that there is more to intimacy than sex. It caused me grave doubts as to whether or not I would ever manage to be a wife to George in the true sense of the word but I married him because I loved him and prayed that he would help me. I also found it very difficult to be alone with any man other than my father, Dr Rycroft, for some time afterwards. The bastards who raped me deserved what they got but I wish now I had braved the shame and reported it to Constable Merrick because, if I had done so, then they would not have gone on to murder the woman whose death brought about the end of their misdeeds. I could have saved a life and I chose to keep silent. The guilt of that pains me to this day although I now realise that the rape was not my fault.
Me: How did it feel to be estranged from your sister, Helena?
Lady Trevelyan: I was high minded and wrong in what I said and I certainly should never have said she was dead to me. At the time I believed she chose her husband’s family over her own flesh and blood and that cut deeply, especially when I had just told her about the rape. As time passed though and I thought about trying to make amends it became difficult to back down. My dear George tried hard to persuade me to swallow my pride but regretfully I did not listen to his wisdom. As he had no siblings I reasoned that he did not know what he was talking about.
Helena and I have now made up our differences and she is taking good care of me. We have forgiven past hurts. I don’t think either of us realised just how badly we had hurt the other. To be forgiven is divine. I never realised just how much I loved her until we finally met again and I have a niece and nephew with whom I aim to make up for as much lost time as I can.
Me: How does it feel to be back in England?
Lady Trevelyan: Getting ill with the Spanish flu was not the best of welcomes but these things happen for a reason as they brought me back in contact with my past. On my way to my friend’s house I passed the scene of the rape on purpose. (the morning after it happened I returned home by another route) It holds only sadness for me now; the bitterness and anger have faded with time but I did feel my throat tighten.
Me: How did you feel when you learnt you were a great aunt?
Lady Trevelyan: I was very happy although also sad because I wasted so many years. My nephew, Michael, Lord Lynchcliffe is a fine young man and I am proud to be his aunt. My niece, Sarah, is a strong beautiful young woman and a wonderful mother. My great niece and nephew Celia and Andrew are beautiful, delightful children and I am immensely proud of them.
Me: And what about your adopted daughter, Margaret?
Lady Trevelyan: (Smiles) I thought of Margaret many times over the years and hoped she had married well. You only have to look at her and Franklin to see that she is happy. Margaret has working class resilience that no amount of privilege could dilute and she is a better person for it. She is a wonderful mother and she has also formed a good relationship with her father whom she grew up knowing as Mr Frazer. They are a close family and I am just so proud of her. I love her as well as anyone can love a child who isn’t their flesh and blood.
Me: So I take it you approve of your son-in-law by adoption, Lewis Franklin?
Lady Trevelyan: I told Margaret as she grew up that she must marry only for love and I am glad she heeded my advice. Franklin is a very gentle man with a strong moral backbone and yet he has a steel strength and resilience. My sister’s family hold him in very high esteem and they have the full measure of the man and his undivided loyalty. His children adore him, especially his son, and I have no doubt that the child Margaret is currently expecting will also be well instructed in the ways of love and family loyalty.
Me: Who are your closest friends and confidantes?
Lady Trevelyan: My friend, Amy Dukes, who took care of me after the rape and again when I was sick with Spanish flu.
My maid, Evelyn, was a lovely young girl and she was there when I most needed another female to talk to after I almost died from an ectopic pregnancy. She left my service to get married.
Also Dr Alan Jameson for whom I worked in New York.
Me: What are your future plans?
Lady Trevelyan: Making up for the lost, wasted years and getting to know my niece, nephew, daughter and sister as adults and friends.
Me: Do you think you will ever remarry?
Lady Trevelyan: (Shakes her head). No. George understood me and loved me despite my many faults. He was gentle, loving and compassionate especially when he learnt what had happened to me. He taught me that intimacy was about so much more than sex. I know I could not find another man like him so I will not even try. I sense that my good friend, Dr Jameson, had feelings for me but I did not encourage him and I don’t regret that. I know that Helena has found new love with Dr Hamish but she did not experience what I did. (smiles) I still find it amusing that my sister married a doctor second time round as she would have been one herself had women had the opportunity at that time.
Me: After the rape you became quite religious. Do you still believe?
Lady Trevelyan: It was simply a way of coping. I did not really in my heart believe all that. Yes, I believe God spared me from drowning but why did he not spare everyone else who drowned, including my beloved George? I find that one hard to understand.
However I am where I want to be right now and I have finally made peace with my past which is really the best anyone can hope for in this time or any other.
Me: Thank you very much for your time, Celia. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Lady Trevelyan: (Smiles) You are most welcome. I will get Jenkins to show you out.
Read about Helena & Celia’s childhood and the estrangement that divided them in Divided Loyalties: Lady Lynchcliffe’s Story
FREE on Kindle between 08:00 GMT Saturday 21st April – 08:00 GMT Monday 23rd April
Find out what Helena, Lady Lynchcliffe, had to say about her estranged sister in 1914
Find out what Margaret Franklin has to say about her adoptive mother in 1912