On an English Widow

In the English village of Lyndhurst, the 82 year widow of Reginald Hargreaves died in 1934. As per her wishes, her body was cremated, and her ashes buried in the graveyard of the church of St. Michael and All Angels in the village. Her burial plaque reads, “Mrs. Reginald Hargreaves.”

Mrs. Hargreaves lived a fairly typical life for an upper-middle class English woman of her time. During her lifespan, she saw the British Empire reach its zenith and then begin its decline after World War 1. Her husband, Reginald, was a cricket player by profession. The pair married in 1880 when she was 28. Because her future husband had a goodly inheritance, the couple married in Westminster Abby. Reginald eventually became a local magistrate in Lyndhurst. The couple had three sons, two of which died in action during the Great War. The only surviving son produced a granddaughter for the Hargreaves.

As befitting her place in English society, Mrs. Hargreaves became a hostess of various social events in the village. She became the first president of a local women’s organization and even began referring to herself as “Lady Hargreaves” even though there was no reason for her to do so. But no one seemed to mind. She was active in local society up until her death. Reginald had passed away in 1926, and his wife said until the end that he was the true love of her life.

In her dotage, people asked her about her childhood, asked her what it was like to have grown up in the height of the Victorian Age. Mrs. Hargreaves would talk at length of her upbringing in Oxford, how her father, the ecclesiastical dean of Christ Church, had raised his brood of ten children with love and laughter. Family legend says that the youngest son of Queen Victoria, Prince Leopold, was so taken with her when he went to college in Oxford that he made serious attempts to court her, although there is little to substantiate this story. Like most young well to do women of her day, she traveled to Europe and received a good education.

However, what most people who came to her door to speak to her wanted to know from Mrs. Hargreaves were the tales of a young scholar and teacher from Oxford, a Mr. Charles Dodgson. Mr. Dodgson had befriended her father and the family because of his association with Christ Church. The people who queried Mrs. Hargreaves wanted to know what he was like, what he talked about, what stories he shared with her and her siblings. Mrs. Hargreaves would always tell them all they wanted to know. She told them of the tales Mr. Dodgson spun, the fantastic worlds his imagination created for her and her siblings. And she knew all the stories by heart, even into her 80s.

After all, she should know them. After all, she was the main character of most of Mr. Dodgson’s stories. When he finally wrote them in book form, Mr. Dodgson wrote them under the penname Lewis Carroll.

And now you know that Alice Liddell Hargreaves was the heroine of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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