The Last Cavalier Returns
As a typical Cancerian I've always been fascinated by history and historic places. Whenever I visit stately homes, draughty castles or ancient churches I can't help but imagine centuries of previous inhabitants going about their daily business.
Consequently it was on such a visit to a local place of historic significance, Restoration House in Rochester, Kent that the spark for a story was born.
Restoration House is known to Dickens aficionados as the inspiration for Satis House in Great Expectations. But it was the reason for its current name that particularly drew my attention. For according to wide belief, King Charles II stayed the night at the house on his return to London before his triumphant restoration as King of England. My visit came after reading Antonia Fraser's wonderful biography of Charles II, which in turn led to reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and the start of a bit of an obsession with the 17th century period!
The house is a remarkable time capsule which has been lovingly restored with original and period piece furniture to the extent that as one walks around the house, you feel as though the owners may return at any moment—or significantly, they may still be there, lurking behind a curtain.
I started to imagine what it would be like to live for centuries as an observer in a house such as Restoration house, and from that came the invention of Charlie, the ghost boy watching from within his portrait. A reproduction painting of King Charles II's younger brother Henry Stuart who died young that I bought in an antique shop added to the evolution of Charlie, the young cavalier.
I wrote an initial version of the story and drew several illustrations of Charlie, but somehow I couldn't bring my ideas to any conclusion.
But then came The Enchanted Cove and the invention of Great Aunt Alice. I enjoyed writing about the adventures of George, Rose, Alice and Mabel and was sad to leave them. I felt they deserved another story and that was when Charlie resurfaced—Restoration House (or Hardwood House as it became) was just the sort of home a mysterious artist might choose and it gave me an excuse to combine both of my ideas within a new story, the tale of The Last Cavalier.