A girl’s court appearance causes her parents to act
By Shaun Sunderland
Charlotte Haversham, who is a couple of months away from her nineteenth birthday, has had a privileged upbringing, but when she gets into to trouble with the law, bringing shame onto her family, her parents decide to employ a governess with a strong emphasis on discipline.
“Miss Charlotte Haversham, your behaviour was despicable but, having heard from your counsel, I agree not to impose an immediate a custodial sentence.”
Eighteen-year-old Charlotte breathed a sigh of relief as she heard that statement from the Crown Court judge announcing sentence.
“However, I will be imposing a sentence of twelve months suspended for a period of thirty-six months, and there will be a number of conditions imposed. This includes, you must reside at your family home at Haversham Hall, make no contact with either your victims or co-defendants either in person or through written or electronic communication. I am also imposing a fine of a thousand pounds. For the next 24 months, you will surrender your passport and driving licence.”
Charlotte was less satisfied when she was told of the conditions she would have to abide by. The fine was never going to be a problem. Charlotte was the only daughter of Charles and Octavia Haversham, one of the oldest and wealthiest families in the county.
Charlotte’s parents were also less than happy about what had happened in the courtroom over the preceding days. They were shocked to hear how Charlotte and these friends she had made had bullied a young teenage girl, resulting in the victim attempting suicide. At eighteen, Charlotte should have been going to a prestigious university, or perhaps travelling the world during a gap year, but instead she was a convicted criminal, who had avoided prison by the skin of her teeth.
The court usher opened the door to the dock, and Charlotte walked towards her parents, who were in no mood to embrace their delinquent daughter who had brought shame to the family.
“We are going straight back to the Hall,” her mother said.
“Charlotte, you have brought embarrassment to the family. It was only thanks to that barrister, who cost us a fortune, that you aren’t banged up like your so-called friends. We give you this privileged upbringing, send you to one of the best private schools and then you do this.”
“I am sorry dad, it only started as a laugh,” Charlotte responded, still appearing not fully apologetic about what she had done to her victim.
“I don’t think she found it amusing being put on a lead and made to eat grass,” her father retorted.
Her father was also furious about the fact that her sixth form education had been wasted, as she had been expelled in disgrace from her school and not taken her A-levels where her predicted grades were straight As.
The family rush out of the court room past the crowd, including an array of media people. An angry voice from a member of the crowd outside the courtroom shouts, “That posh bitch gets away free, while her accomplices get three years. One law for the rich!”
The Havershams jump into a Bentley waiting outside that hurries them back to Haversham Hall.
Haversham Hall was an imposing building set in thirty acres of parkland in rolling countryside. The Bentley took the family up the long driveway that had an avenue of trees. Few words were said on the hour-long journey home. The butler, who also served as a footman, was there to greet them.
Bertie, as the butler was known, said nothing as Charles, Octavia his wife, and Charlotte, the disgraced daughter, entered the house.
Octavia turned to her daughter, “Go to your room Charlotte, your father will call you when he is ready.”
“I don’t want to go to my room, I need a stiff drink after that courtroom experience,” Charlotte replied.
“Alcohol has helped get you into this mess, Charlotte, now just do what I have said. Get to your room,” Octavia responded angrily.
Charlotte went upstairs reluctantly, Charles turned to Bertie, his faithful butler. “I really don’t know what to do with that girl. She’s ruining her life.”
Bertie suggested, “What Charlotte needs is some discipline. When I served in the Navy catering services, we had young people with behavioural problems who signed up to the services, and the military discipline made them into good people.”
“I don’t think Charlotte would get accepted by Dartmouth or Sandhurst after this unfortunate episode,” her father replied, “but I do like the idea of military discipline.”
Octavia makes a comment. “What Charlotte needs is a governess like my mother had when she was a girl.”
“But Charlotte is eighteen, she’s hardly a child,” Charles added.
“But she isn’t exactly an adult either. She still hasn’t been formally introduced to society yet. We had to cancel her invitation to the Debentures’ Ball following her arrest, and we have to think about getting Charlotte re-schooled, having got no A-levels,” Octavia stressed.
“A governess to give her moral guidance and get her to do her A levels is probably what Charlotte needs,” Charles said in agreement.
“May I suggest something, sir?” Bertie asked.
“What have you in mind?” Charles replied.
“Well I am in regular contact with my old naval association, and I could ask if there are any retiring military people who could help to put Charlotte back on the straight and narrow.”
“That sounds a good idea, Bertie, but I would prefer a female person in this role,” Charles retorted.
“Absolutely,” Octavia responded.
“Some of those female officers are really tough and assertive, I am sure we could get one,” Bertie added.
“Excellent,” said Charles, “can you make the necessary enquiries? I am not sure the agencies for domestic staff will have someone suitable for Charlotte on their books.”
Charlotte spent most of the rest of the day in her room. At six o’clock she is called to the drawing room.
“Charlotte, your mother and I have discussed your future following today’s dishonour in the court room and made some decisions.”
“What decisions?” Charlotte demanded.
Her father continued, “We are going to employ a governess to look after you.”
“But I don’t need a governess!” Charlotte retorted. “I am eighteen and an adult.”
“Not anymore you’re not. We have decided you won’t be treated as an adult until you are twenty-one,” her mother responded.
“Twenty-one!” a shocked Charlotte exclaimed.
Her father concluded, “The governess will help you through your A-level studies and provide the discipline both your mother and I have failed to provide. Return to your room, Charlotte, and I will get the maid to bring up your supper. Until I have found a suitable lady to be your governess, you will remain in your room.”
Charlotte goes back to her room stunned, perhaps wishing the judge had jailed her after all.
One week later and a visitor has arrived at Haversham Hall.
“I have here recently retired Warrant Officer Lisa Griffiths to meet you, sir and lady,” Bertie introduces the candidate that has been recommended to be Charlotte’s governess.
Charlotte’s parents begin their discussions with Miss Griffiths. She has served in the Navy for twenty-three years, after leaving school at sixteen, and risen to the rank of Warrant Officer. She explains her tough upbringing on a council estate, but how her parents made sure she never got into the sort of trouble some of her peers did.
“When I was in my last year at school, I was caught in the park drinking with my friends. My dad was furious when he found out and grounded me for a month; he gave me a slippering too. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. Parents these days are too soft; no one would punish their children like that today.”
Octavia replies back despairingly, “We tried to do the right thing with Charlotte, we sent her to a good school but then she got into bad company and has gone astray. At the moment I can’t stand being in her presence and I will make her stay in her room until I am ready.”
“I better explain how I see you fit in, if you are interested in being Charlotte’s governess,” Charles says before describing further, “the role would be live-in, I have identified three adjacent rooms in a wing of the house we rarely use. One would be your bedroom and living space, there would be Charlotte’s bedroom and a school room for Charlotte’s education and where meals can be taken.”
“But what about the room Charlotte has now?” Miss Griffiths asks.
“She no longer deserves one of the finest rooms in the Hall, and for practical purposes having her in a separate part of the house where you can keep a close eye on her will help matters.”
“I see,” the potential governess responds.
Charles then talks about the conditions the court imposed on Charlotte. “My barrister had to work really hard in his sentencing plea bargain with the judge. Not only has she a suspended prison sentence hanging over her for the next three years, but for the next two years she can’t drive or leave the country.”
“But better than a prison sentence,” Miss Griffiths remarks.
Charles expands further, “Yes, and Charlotte will notice the implications of those sanctions. She won’t be able to join us on our annual skiing trip to the Alps or stay at our summer French home in Provence. And as a result of the driving ban I am selling the car I bought her for passing her driving test. Just as well, because I don’t want Charlotte leaving the estate grounds unless she is under supervision and the purpose of her being off site isn’t for any recreational activity.”
Just then Charlotte rushes into the room.
“I saw someone arrive here and guessed you were talking about me. How dare you; it’s my life. I didn’t go to prison and I don’t need any governess or matron telling me what to do!” Charlotte angrily declares.
This is Miss Griffiths’ first look at Charlotte. The prospective governess raises her eyebrow.
Octavia then steps in. “Charlotte, get back upstairs at once. We are getting you a governess for your own good!”
But Charlotte remains defiant.
Miss Griffiths then enters the argument. “Charlotte, we haven’t formally met. I am Miss Griffiths and I am here to discuss the governess role. Your parents have decided it is in your best interests, now go to back to your room and we can talk later.”
“I give up, what’s the point to discussing this with you?” Charlotte replies, before storming off back to her room.
Charles and Octavia are impressed how calmly Miss Griffiths handled the situation.
Octavia comments, “Charlotte has been like this for ages, we can’t have a rational conversation with her, and she shows little respect towards us.”
Charles nods his head in agreement.
The conversation then continues discussing practicalities and contractual matters. Charles stresses he wants to see routine and discipline for his troublesome daughter. Miss Griffiths suggests a strict daily routine.
“I am an early riser and get up at six. I like to do at least a two-mile run. I am going to suggest the same for Charlotte to burn off some of that excess anger in her.”
Charles and Octavia nod their heads in agreement.
Miss Griffiths continues. “Then breakfast, have a shower and get dressed. The rest of the day until six pm is taken up with study, with a brief break for lunch including a lunch-time walk. After supper, there’s two hours for useful hobbies such as crafts or further reading, and then bed no later than nine pm.”
“Charlotte won’t like that,” Octavia comments.
“There will need to be some system of carrot and stick to make Charlotte follow this new regime,” Miss Griffiths adds.
“More stick and less carrots,” Charles responds, before pausing and thinking. “Miss Griffiths, you said earlier your father gave you a slippering for being naughty. Did it work? And did you repeat what you did again?”
“I never wanted to be slippered again, I felt so embarrassed,” Miss Griffiths replies.
“If I said you could use a cane or similar implement on Charlotte, would you agree?” Charles asks, with Octavia nodding in agreement.
Miss Griffiths gives a welcome endorsement. “Well yes, it would make handling Charlotte a lot easier.”
“How would you apply it to Charlotte?” Charles asks.
“I would suggest a graduated list of punishments for minor indiscretions; lines or an extended early morning run. For slightly more serious matters, a single stroke of the cane. I suggest on the back of her legs so her hands aren’t sore for all the handwriting she will be doing, and finally for the most serious of offences several strikes across her bottom. That is something I hopefully won’t need to do too often.”
Octavia responds: “My mother used to tell me her governess used the strap if she was naughty. I know in these days it is not practiced, but if these punishments are not in place you will struggle to control Charlotte.”
Octavia then makes a further suggestion. “Charlotte likes to choose her own clothes and dress very fashionably and stylishly, but I believe while she is under the control of a governess it should be up to the governess to decide what she should wear.”
Charles asks Miss Griffiths for her thoughts.
“Well, when I first joined the Navy I was shocked about the amount of time I would be wearing my naval uniform. I only wore civvies on my days off or if we had some leisure time whilst in port, but when you’re in uniform you behave differently because you know you’re part of and representing your service.”
“Well, with your Naval background, how about a sailor dress for Charlotte? I used to love dressing Charlotte in her sailor dress when she was little,” Octavia suggests.
“I would be willing to go along with that proposition,” Miss Griffiths adds.
Charles then said one of his favourite quotations. “As Sir Winston Churchill once said relating to the length of a speech it should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”
His wife and Miss Griffiths looked at Charles’ statement with a shudder.
“You can’t say that, Charles,” Octavia replies, but adds, “but you do have a point, Charlotte will need to dress with a degree of decorum. Just above the knee is probably an appropriate length.”
Charles then added, “I would concur, anything shorter will make her look like a tart, and if you need to give her a quick whack of the cane on the back of her legs it will be more practical than with a longer dress.”
“Yes, Charles,” his slightly bemused wife responds, “and just thinking of that, would it be easier if she wore girls’ white socks instead of tights or stockings, Lisa?”
Miss Griffiths concurs. “Well, from what you have said, an outfit that makes Charlotte feel subservient would be desirable.”
“That’s settled, Charlotte will be wearing knee-length sailor dresses with white socks,” Octavia concludes.
Miss Griffiths shakes hands with Charles and Octavia. From Monday, Charlotte will have a governess.
Charles speaks to his trusted butler. “Bertie, will you get Charlotte to come down from her room. It’s time she was formally introduced to her governess.”
Bertie knocks on Charlotte’s door, “Your father wants you to come down immediately,” he states.
“Well, I don’t want to come down,” Charlotte protests.
“I don’t think disobeying your father is a good idea, you will only make matters worse for yourself,” Bertie advises.
“What could possibly be worse? I am stuck in the house all day and must stay in my room because my parents don’t want to be in my company. I am no longer allowed to drive or even speak to friends; I hate this,” a grumpy Charlotte replies.
Eventually, Charlotte reluctantly goes down the stairs and into the reception hall. Bertie follows on behind her. Waiting next to her father and mother is Miss Griffiths.
“There you are, Charlotte,” her father announces. “I want you meet Miss Griffiths, she is going to be your governess.”
“But I don’t need a governess,” Charlotte retorts.
Her mother then speaks. “I think you do; Miss Griffiths comes highly recommended and from now on you will do what Miss Griffiths tells you. If you don’t, you will learn of the consequences. We have made arrangements for you to be home-schooled so you can complete your original A-level courses and because you will not have the time to get into any mischief. You will take a further two A-levels in subjects of our choosing.”
Charlotte stands there shocked, but there was more to come.
“We are moving you from your current bedroom to a room in the East Wing, which is next to Miss Griffiths’ room so she can ensure you comply with the restrictive rules we agreed that you will follow. A school room has been set up in the East Wing, and this is where you will be spending most of your time from now on.”
“But you can’t make me do this!” Charlotte protests.
“I think you will find we can. The Crown Court Judge said you must reside at Haversham Hall or else it’s prison,” her father replies.
Miss Griffiths then says her first words, “Follow me, Charlotte, we have a lot of issues to sort out.”
Octavia then tells her daughter to go with her governess. “The staff will sort your things in your room and what is suitable will come over to your new room.”
Charlotte follows Miss Griffiths into the East Wing. The rooms are up a staircase not as grand as the one she regularly used to her previous bedroom. She is first introduced to the school room.
“This is your desk, where you will undertake your studies from,” Miss Griffiths declares.
It was an old-fashioned school desk with a hard chair. The governess then points to her desk, which is much bigger with a nice upholstered chair, much more comfortable than the hard-wooden chair at Charlotte’s desk.
Miss Griffiths then points to table in the far corner with two more chairs. “That is where we eat our meals and to use for any hobbies you have in your free time.”
“Free time?” Charlotte asks.
Miss Griffiths describes the timetable Charlotte will now be following.
“No way am I getting up at six am to do a run, and then be in bed by nine. That’s insane!”
“You will, and if you don’t there will be consequences, as your mother said downstairs a few minutes ago. Now I will take you to your bedroom.”
They enter Charlotte’s new bedroom. In comparison to her previous bedroom, this was basic. The windows didn’t look out over the parkland on the estate, but instead onto an enclosed courtyard. The room didn’t even have a bathroom, instead a shared separate bathroom at the other end of the corridor.
“I can’t have this bedroom, it’s horrible and basic,” Charlotte pleads.
“It’s still nicer than a small shared prison cell, sleeping on a bunk bed,” Miss Griffiths responds, before she introduces Charlotte to her next shock.
“Now we need to get you into clothes befitting of a young lady with a lot to learn.”
“What sort of clothes?” Charlotte asks.
Her governess points to a set of clothes. “Put these on now!”
On a hanger was a navy-blue sailor type dress, similar to what the Von Trapp girls wore in ‘The Sound of Music’, a pair of black T-Bar shoes, and white pelerine school socks.
“You’re kidding, I can’t wear these. I am not a child!” Charlotte responds.
Miss Griffiths then grabs Charlotte’s right arm and locks it behind her back. “You will do what I tell you. I am your governess, you are my pupil; do I make myself clear?”
“Yes,” Charlotte grimaces.
“I will see you in two minutes in the school room in your new uniform, and bring what you are currently wearing for me to take away.”
It is five minutes before Charlotte returns to the school room in her new outfit. Her governess is keeping watch on the time.
Firstly, Miss Griffiths takes Charlotte’s clothes, consisting of a pair of jeans, trainers and a sweatshirt, and places them in a large plastic box on her large desk. Then she checks Charlotte.
The dress fits well, falling to just above her knee, just as her governess and parents had agreed. The functional black T-bar shoes appeared the right size. It was the white socks that let her down.
“Pull up those socks properly, you aren’t wearing them scrunched just above your ankles” Miss Griffiths orders.
“But white socks are for little girls. I am eighteen and will be nineteen in a couple of months’ time,” Charlotte protests.
“I don’t care. I will remind you again. Your parents have decided that you will not be regarded as an adult until you reach twenty-one. Now pull those socks up properly!”
Charlotte hesitantly pulls up her socks so they are just below her knees.
“That’s better. Now I am going explain the punishments I will impose when you are disobedient.”
Miss Griffiths reads out the scale of penalties from lines through to a caning on the bottom.
“What? Are you serious? And have my parents really authorised you to do this?” a stunned Charlotte asks.
“Yes, and you have already earned your first punishment. Not pulling your socks up correctly will result in lines,” her governess reveals.
“But why I am being made to wear childish knee socks? Surely, I should be wearing nylons?” Charlotte asks.
“Tights are a privilege that have to be earned. Anyway, I have decided not to give you lines on this occurrence,” Miss Griffiths announces.
Charlotte thinks perhaps her governess isn’t quite as hard, before she declares, “All I had from you today is resistance. You kept us waiting in the reception hall, you kept me waiting when I told you to get changed within two minutes, and then you keep questioning my authority. I have been given absolute authority over you, and I intend to use it. Bend over the desk, Charlotte.”
Miss Griffiths grabs Charlotte and forces her down over the desk. She then lifts her dress, before picking up a cane. Before Charlotte has time to realise, the first stroke has been executed.
“Ow!” Charlotte screams.
“Charlotte, you will…”
Next strike, “Ouch.”
Swish, “Please no!”
“Stand up and stop crying. Charlotte. Now, no more of your impertinence and sit down at your desk. For your first task, I have the A-level exam history paper you should have taken. You are going to do it under exam conditions, which means silence for the next two hours. I don’t want to hear a single sound from you, do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Griffiths.”
“Now get on with it, you will be doing all the A-level papers you missed over the next few days to see how much studying we need from you.”
Charlotte’s backside throbbed as she sat on the hard chair. The governess had already made her presence felt.
Charlotte didn’t sleep particularly well on her first night in her new East Wing bedroom. Her bottom throbbed from the caning she had received, and she could feel the wheals coming out on her buttocks. Her head was spinning, going through what had happened that day. Eventually, she fell into a deep sleep, but suddenly there was a loud bang on her bedroom door.
“It’s six am, Charlotte, and I want you in your running kit,” Miss Griffiths announces.
Charlotte rubs her eyes and changes into the running gear Miss Griffiths has left in her room.
“Quickly,” orders her governess. “We are running two circuits of the lake and back across the orchard.”
It was barely daylight, and Charlotte made her first error of the day when she complained of it being too dark.
“We will run to the summer house as well. By the time you have run that extra half mile, it will be daylight!” Miss Griffiths declares.
Charlotte struggled to keep up with her governess who, although almost forty years old, was incredibly fit.
Back in the East Wing it was a quick shower and then change into her sailor dress uniform. This time, she made sure what she was wearing was in order. Yesterday had taught her not to mess with Miss Griffiths.
Whilst they were running, the maid prepared their breakfast and laid it out on the table in the school room. Charlotte was first in the school room and, as she felt thirsty, poured coffee for herself first and grabbed a Danish pastry.
“What are doing serving yourself first?” Miss Griffiths asked.
“I am thirsty after that run,” she answered.
“You wait until I am here before eating or drinking. It is the height of rudeness; do I make myself clear?” a cross Miss Griffiths said.
“But when I have breakfast with my parents, we just help ourselves, as we arrive at different times,” Charlotte explains.
“I am in charge here, and we eat all meals together, including breakfast. I don’t want a repeat; now get the cane from beside my desk,” the governess orders.
Charlotte goes and picks up the cane and presents it to her governess. The governess lifts the hem at the back of Charlotte’s dress and gives her a firm single stroke across the back of her legs.
Charlotte grimaces as the cane cuts across her bare legs. It leaves a red mark to go alongside her sore bottom.
In less than twenty-four hours, Charlotte had received a full bottom caning, been made to run an additional half mile, and had now suffered the single strike with the cane on the leg, a punishment designed not to inflict significant pain but humiliation, with a couple of hours discomfort and a mark that was visible for a couple of days. She couldn’t hide the mark when she was in her running kit, and even in the dresses she wore the marks were visible when she was walking up the stairs or having to bend.
Having a governess was, though, having a behavioural impact on Charlotte. She was realising she always had to be obedient, and if she started an argument with Miss Griffiths, she would end up suffering a punishment that was likely to be painful. By the end of the first week, Charlotte had completed the exam papers she would have taken if her old school had not expelled her. It was not easy working at an uncomfortable desk and on a couple of occasions during the week she had received the one stroke canings on the back of her legs. Although her misdemeanours were trivial, it was obvious her governess had a zero-tolerance policy.
Miss Griffiths gave her employers Charles and Octavia regular updates on Charlotte’s progress. On the Saturday, it was decided Charlotte would have dinner with her parents accompanied by her governess. Miss Griffiths decided to get Charlotte a new dress for the occasion. The dress wasn’t to Charlotte’s taste.
Charlotte wisely made no comment about the on-the-knee blue pinafore dress with a cream blouse with ruffled collar and cuffs. She did, though, think it was unfair her governess insisted she wore white knee socks, just as she had all week in the school room.
“Why must I wear white socks for this meal?” she asked in a much more conciliatory manner compared to earlier in the week when she had been more confrontational.
“What did I say to you on Monday, Charlotte?” Miss Griffiths responds.
“Tights are a privilege that have to be earned?” Charlotte replies cautiously.
“Yes, you will write out those words a hundred times when we get back from dinner,” her governess replies. Line writing was always done in what little so-called free time Charlotte had.
Any questioning to the governess’s authority, no matter how politely put, resulted in some form of punishment.
At the dinner table, Charlotte behaves like a perfect young lady, probably more out of fear of a full bottom spanking if she made an argument in front of her parents. Charlotte sits through the meal almost biting her tongue when her parents comment on what a positive impact the governess is having on her.
“I am pleased Miss Griffiths is having such a positive impact on you, Charlotte, and how smart you have dressed for dinner,” Octavia comments.
“Yes, mother,” Charlotte grudgingly answers.
“Hopefully, my rules will make Charlotte the young lady you want her to be. She’s beginning to learn that privileges have to be earned,” Miss Griffiths adds.
Charles then says his piece. “Just shows how having the cane as a sanction can bring my troublesome daughter back in line.”
“Quite,” Charlotte’s parents and her governess reply whilst knocking back their wine glasses. Charlotte, only allowed soda water, can see the cane is serving its purpose.
© Shaun Sunderland 2019