"The Duchess is a woman of independent inclinations. Her opinions do not always align with those of the great and the good."
"A lady of style, grace and refinement, whose salons may be the best-attended in Fallen London. Just don't ask about her peculiar diet. Or her name. Or her association with the city's cats. Or her past. Actually, best not to say anything, just nod and drink her lovely tea. It is very lovely tea."
The Duchess is a survivor of the fall of the Second City - in fact, she orchestrated its fall to save her lover. She's a typical crazy cat lady, though she is also very intelligent and appreciates scholarly endeavors. And she has secrets...
|Investigating a murder mystery at the University|
This storyline uncovers the backstory of the Duchess. Well, most of it.
She was a princess of the Second City (El-Amarna in Egypt), and that's why she loves her (talking!) cats so much - Egyptians worshipped their cats. She arranged the fall of the city to save her lover, who eventually became the Cantigaster after he lost favor with the Masters. And why does she look British? Consider this snippet from the storyline...
"Lights appear from behind you. You duck behind a firkin of madeira and observe. A woman passes you. She is dressed in a simple white linen shift and about twenty pounds of gold jewellery. She is dark-skinned: African, perhaps. There's something familiar about her, though. Good God! It's the Duchess! Freed from her paints and powders, she is much darker. And younger! She looks barely thirty. It's definitely her, though, cat-earrings and all.
The Duchess uses a great bronze key to open the door that defeated you. She slips inside. You peer past the hinges. The room beyond contains the Cantigaster.
You can see immediately that the Cantigaster was once a man. Now he is a living, shuddering sac of poison. His flesh swells green and soft like rotting fruit. Foul venoms ooze beneath his skin. The Duchess kisses him fondly and they embrace. You watch as the Duchess... as she milks the poison from his skin. The Cantigaster sighs with relief as his venoms trickle into a stone bucket. The Duchess looks up. Has she seen you? You flee the cellar."
|The Calendar Code [Exceptional Story Spoilers]|
This story essentially confirms that the Duchess' real name is Ankhesenamun, and she was the sister/wife of King Tutankhamun.
The Duchess may or may not have murdered her brother-husband Tut; it seems she wanted to be in the Neath, so she faked being in love with a scribe and used her brother as space bat bait, which is what pissed off the Masters so much. Since death is weird in the Neath, this act or the Masters' displeasure presumably transformed him into the Cantigaster.
|The Court of Cats [Exceptional Story Spoilers]|
|The Duchess's cats form an entire royal hierarchy, both in the Neath and Parabola. The story is an investigation into a feline marriage and divorce, and the distribution of Parabolan property.|