Miss Persephone Fendlwart
Avington Palace Culinary Minister and Principle Midwife
Miss Persephone Fendlwart was born the first of seven siblings. Her mother Winifred Gray Fendlwart was sister to Sir William Gray’s father Clarence making Persephone and Sir William first cousins. Clarence Fendlwart had been Palace Culinary Minister for Avington Palace for thirty years. Persephone spent most of her childhood either at her father’s elbow in the kitchen or at the barn helping to deliver foals and calves. She grew into an unusually tall and stately woman with powerful shoulders and huge hands and feet. Her prominent nose and overly large ears did not enhance her chances of finding a mate. It didn’t stop her from becoming a woman of great accomplishments. She earned her Upper Levels diploma at age fourteen. She went on to university with the intent of becoming a physician; something unheard of for women of her day and social status. However, university restrictions prevented her from beginning classes until she was seventeen, so she continued to help the veterinarian deliver livestock babies until she could finally start her formal education.
Her plan was interrupted by the deaths of both parents from the same illness that took Queen Grace and Prince Winston. Many household staff perished as well, leaving the palace with no one to run the kitchen. At only twenty-one, she was a force to be reckoned with and took charge of cooks twice her age. Persephone found herself supervising the preparation of hundreds of gallons of chicken soup and baking thousands of soda biscuits and ginger biscuits to feed and treat the desperately ill residents. She assisted palace doctors with medical care while working tirelessly around the clock. In the midst of all the chaos and sickness, she delivered at least ten babies. When the palace doctors found out about her previous medical training, they put her in charge of maternity care. However, the kitchen was still officially unsupervised. Persephone found herself working day and night. When Melania and Henry returned to Avington Palace to take over the throne, the queen recognized Persephone for her heroic service to the crown and asked her to please take the position of Palace Culinary Minister. In honor of her father, she accepted. However, Persephone continued to deliver babies but only those deemed too risky for less experienced midwives. She delivered Princess Maagy and was one of a handful of trusted loyalists who knew of her existence.
Persephone and Lady Jane Periwinkle were and odd couple of friends. While their societal backgrounds were vastly different (Lady Jane was aristocracy and Persephone was of ordinary lineage), their academic achievements at a time when most women did not finish Upper Levels bonded them. However, they could not have been more different from one another. Lady Jane was slender and petite with fine features. She was soft spoken and gentil.
Persephone’s unusual height and substantial frame made her just the opposite. Her need to supervise many workers in a bustling and chaotic kitchen led her develop a booming voice she was not afraid to use. Lady Jane had several suitors before she married the love of her life. Persephone never had a single suitor nor did she seem to want one. No matter, the two shared a sad yet strong connection, as both their parents and some of their siblings were lost to the same epidemic. They worked together to help a young queen manage the palace while still mourning her own parents’ deaths. Then Maagy was born and they rallied around Melania and Henry to keep her safe, bonding their friendship even more. When Melania was murdered, they rallied again for King Henry and vowed they would always be present for the tiny Princess Maagy.
While never having a romantic interest, Persephone always secretly longed to be a mother. Her love of babies, both human and animal, was a clue to her aspirations that escaped most except for Lady Jane. They discussed at length their feeling of being unfulfilled at not having children. That all changed for Persephone the night of the first Queen’s Tree celebration in honor of Queen Melania when Maagy was just an infant. Lady Jane and Persephone were in Montclair for the ceremony. They had stopped by the fabric shop to visit the proprietor, Persephone’s good friend Benson Ward. What they learned was that he had found a tiny freezing girl in the corner outside the shop door. She was frightened, dirty, inadequately dressed, and hungry. He had brought her in by the woodstove and wrapped her in his softest woolen shawl.
From French for gentle; kind; elegantly soft
He fed her soup, scones, and hot chocolate. Mister Ward was perplexed at what to do. He had lost his own wife to the plague and had eight children of his own to feed. He was barely hanging on as it was. He could not possibly take on another mouth. Without a second thought, Persephone volunteered to take in the child, at least until her family or a suitable guardian could be found. Lady Jane, however, felt it was a bad decision, as she knew her friend would never give the little girl up once she took her home. King Henry had attended the tree lighting and gave permission for Persephone to bring her foundling to the palace.
The only thing the dear little girl could tell them was that her name was Samantha Payne and that she was three years old. Persephone was smitten from the moment she saw the tiny face framed with dirty dark curls looking up at her. She felt that the Great Creator had put this child in her life for a reason. No record of a family named Payne was ever found. No one seemed to know anything about the little girl. So, Persephone adopted Samantha as soon as King Henry allowed it. She turned out to be a wonderful mother and raised Samantha to be kind and helpful.
During the war, Miss Fendlwart was a vital part of the medical staff. While she had never had the chance to finish her formal training as a physician, the palace doctors had recognized her extraordinary skill, especially in emergent situations, and had her assist in many surgical procedures to save the lives of countless soldiers. As Palace Culinary Minister, she oversaw every aspect of food service but assigned the day-to-day cooking duties to a host of other workers, while she delivered babies, ministered to new mothers, and raised her daughter. She could not have been more proud than when Samantha married Corporal Harold Ward, the son of her dear friend. Persephone escorted her daughter down the aisle to marry him, as she had no father. King Henry had offered but she felt it was her duty and honor.
A number of years later, a strange turn of events gave Persephone something she never thought she would have; a husband. Benson Ward had lost his wife to the plague and raised eight children alone. They were all grown and on their own. He was a lonely man. Persephone had begun making regular trips to Montclair to cheer him up. Harold and Samantha often brought him up to the palace for visits, especially at holidays and for birthdays, etc. When grandchildren came along, Benson and Persephone found themselves together even more often. They began to enjoy each other’s company and shared a love of animals, good food and family. One thing led to another, and Benson and Persephone fell in love; something neither ever thought would happen, especially for two people in their later years. Persephone relished the role of grandmother when Samantha and Harold had six children.
She got on famously with her step-children and adored their children as well. She taught them all to read very early, encouraged education for all including the girls, and taught all of them to cook including the boys. In total, there were twenty-eight grandchildren and Persephone lived to meet almost thirty great grandchildren. For a woman who never had a suitor and never dreamed she would have even one child, her rewards for her outstanding service, citizenship, and tremendous compassion were well deserved.