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Literature / Lady Clare

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"Lady Clare" is a narrative poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The eponymous woman, the day before her wedding, discovers a long-kept secret about herself and resolves to reveal it to her bridegroom. Is her nurse correct to fear the young lord's response, or will true love conquer all?

This poem includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Big Secret: "Lady Clare" isn't. She's actually the nurse's daughter, swapped in when the real Lady Clare died. Despite the pleading of her birth mother, she says she can't lie, especially to her betrothed. However, when she tells Lord Ronald, he doesn't care; heiress or not, she's still the woman he means to marry.
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  • Death of a Child: Briefly alluded to; the real Lady Clare died as an infant.
  • Happily Ever After: The heroine tells Lord Ronald that she was never really Lady Clare, meaning that all the lands she "owns" rightfully should have come to him years ago. He just laughs and kisses her when he hears, saying he'll marry her anyway, making her Lady Clare by marriage if not by birth.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: As the poem opens, Lord Ronald gives his betrothed, Lady Clare, a white doe. When she casts off her royal finery and goes to tell him the truth, it follows her the entire way.
  • Kissing Cousins: Subverted; the titular earl's daughter is engaged to her cousin, Lord Ronald. The news of their marriage delights her nursemaid, because Clare is actually her own daughter. The real Lady Clare died in infancy. Ronald, as the next male-line heir, ought to be inheriting everything that Clare's father left to her. Clare, horrified that Ronald would be "kept from his due" and married to a peasant, goes to explain everything to Ronald. He shrugs it off and says they'll marry anyway, "and you will still be Lady Clare."
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  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Clare is all ready to marry her cousin, Lord Ronald. She finds out that she was Switched at Birth, and that she's truly her nurse's daughter—the real Lady Clare is dead, and Ronald was next in line to inherit everything. Against her birth mother's advice, she casts off her position and dresses like a beggar, thinking that Ronald has been deprived of his right. It turns out that he still wants to marry her.
  • Switched at Birth: The titular noblewoman discovers that her nursemaid Alice is actually her biological mother, who had been the nursemaid of the real Lady Clare. When the earl's daughter died, Alice switched the infants and claimed the dead baby as her own so as not to deprive the noble family of their only child.