If I have a knack, it lies perhaps in observing what others might not.
This, together with a shrewd understanding of human nature, is Lady Fan’s greatest asset. She is renowned for making lightning connections, but this is a skill she decries. Her husband, Lord Francis Fanshawe, is often taken aback by her ability to do this and sometimes has reason to wish he had the same sort of insight.
Ottilia, however, knows well she could not succeed without Francis. As his friend George puts it in The Candlelit Coffin, “Fan is her champion. He shields her and comforts her and does his part as she requests.” Yet Francis is no pushover. He has been known to put his foot down, scold or call a halt when things get sticky. Like any married couple, these two have some lively fights, but their mutual deeply felt affection is never in doubt.
On a practical level in 18th century life, a woman is necessarily restricted in where she can go and what she may do. Although Ottilia flouts many such conventions, she relies heavily on Francis when it comes to male-dominated arenas and strong-arm tactics. An ex-soldier, Fan wields both sword and pistol and can battle his way out of a physical fight.
But when it comes to sorting out who did what and why, it is wholly down to Ottilia’s ability to piece it all together. Justice may not always be served, but in pointing the finger at the guilty party, Lady Fan never fails.