Free Protection by Elise de Sallier

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Authors: Elise de Sallier
current system
     of laws.”
    The Queen tutted. “Come now. A Christian nation would never allow such a travesty
     to prevail.”
    “But it does.” Lisa forgot herself, and spread her hands in her enthusiasm for the
     topic. “The age of consent for girls is ten. The punishment for rape when the victim
     is a commoner is a fine paid to the girl’s family. A fine , Your Majesty, one rarely enforced and certainly not if the perpetrator of the crime
     is a member of the gentry.”
    Queen Adelaide didn’t respond straight away, taking a moment to sip her tea from a
     fine bone china cup.
    “It is considered the responsibility of penitent gentlemento make amends for their actions by supporting such causes. Ladies are not supposed
     to be aware of such things, and if we becomeaware, we are to leave it to those in power to deal with.”
    “But they’re notdealing with it,” Lisa said, trying to keep the frustration from her voice. “The system
     weighs too heavily in favour of the men who find enjoyment in bedding young girls.”
    “You go too far, Lady Anneliese.” The Queen eyed her sternly. “This is a matter for
     the Church and, if absolutely necessary, the House of Lords to deal with. What you’re
     advocating is major reform, and one must be careful reform does not lead to revolt.”
    “Surely, revolt is more likely to happen where there is no reform?” Lisa asked. “My
     hope is to bring awareness of this dreadful problem to those with the power to change
     the laws that underpin it.”
    “Young ladies should occupy their time with acquiring a husband, the raising of children,
     and suitable charitable pursuits, not the moral governance of an empire.”
    “But who will speak up for these girls?” Lisa put her teacup down and sat forward.
     “They are powerless to help themselves.”
    “I’m sure there are any number of respectable roles they could choose rather than
     embracing a life of licentiousness.”
    Lisa wanted to argue that a ten- or twelve-year-old girl—or even twenty-year-old woman—forced
     to work in a brothel, or a maid raped and impregnated by her gentleman employer, could
     hardly be accused of embracingtheir tragic circumstances. But she tempered her words with a sigh.
    “Thank you for your counsel, Your Majesty. I will endeavour to be discreet in my efforts
     to assist those girls who have not chosen such a life but had it forced upon them.”
    The Queen eyed her shrewdly. “It would seem your experiences have affected you profoundly,
     Lady Anneliese. If you feel you mustact upon the dictates of your conscience, I recommend you exercise caution. There
     are those members of the upper ton who would delight in seeing you stumble.”
    “But why?” Lisa had heard as much from Rebecca and Margaret, and she found the idea
     perplexing. “They don’t even know me.”
    “I’m afraid when one has beauty, position, and wealth—not to mention the heartof a particularly handsome and eligible young man—envy is unavoidable.”
    Lisa cringed at the knowledge the Queen must know the story behind her betrothal to
    “I thought marrying for love was frowned upon by the ton .”
    “It might appear that way.” The regal lady’s tone was wry. “But while forming an alliance
     that is financially, socially, and politically advantageous is one’s undisputed duty,
     it isn’t possible to completely stifle the desires of the heart. You, my dear, have
     managed something few members of our class or gender ever achieve—a romantic attachment
     with a highly suitable candidate. Although my husband would prefer you aimed a littlehigher.”
    “Becoming a marchioness is more than enough for me, Your Majesty.”
    “Your willingness to forgive is admirable, Lady Anneliese.” The Queen’s expression
     sobered. “A young woman who has been so thoroughly compromised has little choice in
     the matter, but it is good to see you embracing your Christian duty.”
    “My duty to marry

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