If you have read these previous posts, you will know that Peg was my spiritual mentor and close friend, and her spirit guide, with whom she spoke daily, was named Ursula. Not long after the events described in my previous post, I got another excited call from Peg:
“Ursula just told me about a past life you and I shared together! This is so cool!” she exclaimed.
Peg has always been a little excitable and back then (the mid-1980s), I was still very doubtful of her so-called communications from Ursula. You just have to know her, I guess; she is a tiny blonde with waist-length hair, and so flighty you have the feeling she has invisible fairy wings attached to each shoulder. It always seems as if she might flutter off into the ethers at any moment, and it was hard for me to take the things she said seriously.
I immediately dismissed all of this as a load of rubbish, although I certainly did not hurt Peg’s feelings by saying so aloud. I knew Peg loved the BBC mini-series Upstairs, Downstairs (the 1970s version of Downton Abbey), movies about Victorian England, exhibits of Victorian clothing, and so on. She and I had even traveled to England with our husbands a few years earlier, and her obsession with the Victorian era was very plain to see. It seemed logical to me that her fevered imagination was simply running away with her.
I, on the other hand, had zero interest in anything Victorian. In fact, the sight of a Victorian drawing room actually nauseated me. I thought the furniture was ugly, the clothes were ridiculous, and the stringent mores of the time were beyond contempt. I even personally despised Queen Victoria (and frankly, still do). Any contact I had with the Victorian period in Britain (or the US, for that matter) made me feel horribly depressed.
It’s true that my mother had been an antiques collector and a lover of historic homes who, having been born in the 1930s and frequently surrounded by her grandmother’s Victorian furnishings, was very contemptuous of all things Victorian. In the 1960s, when I was in elementary school, most Victoriana was not old enough to be truly antique (i.e., over 100 years old), and she thought it was all hideous stuff compared to the clean lines of the 18th century American furniture she adored. She basically thought it was ugly old trash. I tended to agree. Even a Victorian side table picked up cheaply at an estate sale for my bedroom, probably from the 1880s, made me feel a little ill when I looked at it closely. I covered it with a cloth and put my record player on it.
What I did not realize then was that both Peg’s loving attachment and my serious dislike of that period were too strong to be simply coincidental. The best test of a past-life association is the intensity of the emotions it arouses within you. You know you have never lived in a certain place or era if you have no feelings about it whatsoever. Love or excitement, hatred or fear or depression – any strong emotion – is an important clue to a significant past life connection.
Interestingly, while I hated Victorian England, I adored anything associated with the Edwardian period – something worth noting much later in this story. Another detail worth noting for later in this tale are my extremely strong opinions regarding World War I. (I’m a history buff in general, but absolutely nothing gets my engine going more than a disagreement regarding the roles of England and Germany in that conflict.)
To get back to the 1980s: Peg continued to bubble over with information while I listened doubtfully. Then she dropped an even bigger bombshell – she was positive she knew exactly who she had been during that time. She had tried to get information about my Victorian persona, too, but all she had been able to get from Ursula was the name Rachel and the aforementioned generalities.
Suddenly, something stirred in me, and I experienced a flashback to my early childhood. I have extremely clear memories stretching all the way back to 24 months old, and the name Rachel brought an early memory to the surface. Somehow, I had encountered that name when I was 3 or 4 – I had probably run into a Rachel at nursery school – and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I used to love to spin in place until I was dizzy, and as I did that in our dining room, I experienced a sudden “knowing” that MY name was supposed to be Rachel. I had an intense desire to beg my mother to change my name – because Rachel was ME, not that other girl. I was already reading and writing at that age, and I practiced trying to write the name Rachel, wondering if I could convince everyone to call me that instead of Lora. The incident raised very deep emotions and I had no trouble remembering it now, 20+ years later.
So, that was odd, but I still wasn’t buying any of this. It was all too “Cleopatra” – everyone always wants to believe they were Cleopatra and no one ever thinks they were a slave, according to the doubters – and her second bombshell increased my doubts even more.
“Lora, Ursula says I was Patsy Cornwallis-West. I have a TV show about Lillie Langtry I recorded that you have to watch – Patsy is in it. I just know that this is true – I’ve thought so for years! Do you remember how crazy I went when we stayed at that bed and breakfast in a building from the old Cornwallis estate?”
I did remember – and that settled it for me. Peg had completely gone off the deep end. Of course her imaginary writings were going to confirm something of which she had already convinced herself! The fact that my own guides clearly existed and could hear me did not change my perception – maybe my guides were watching over me, but that didn’t mean every word I wrote came from them. It was all too easy to confuse my thoughts and their words, and I was sure Peg was having the same problem.
Discovering Patsy Cornwallis-West
I dutifully agreed to watch the Lillie Langtry mini-series with Peg – yet another BBC production – and I was mostly just bored. It was a drawing room drama and I have never liked such things. Patsy only appeared very briefly, and while I found myself interested in Lillie Langtry’s life story, the rest of it meant nothing to me. I am not a patient movie-watcher in any event – I love books, not videos. Peg, on the other hand, spent the time exclaiming over the fine clothes and fancy furniture while I smothered yawns.
Nonetheless, since Peg was working full time and I was an at-home mom, I decided it wouldn’t hurt if I attempted some research. This was long before the internet, and I lived in a working class part of the state, so my only resource was a library in the city of Waterbury, often referred to as the armpit of Connecticut. Library budgets were hardly a priority there, but my own town being even poorer and smaller, I packed up a diaper bag, loaded my infant son in his car seat and headed to Waterbury, determined to see what I could find.
I tracked down a few books of interest and checked them out, but close perusals of the indexes disclosed no one called Rachel whatsoever. However, Patsy appeared in a number of places, and I read as much as I could about her.
Patsy was considered both astonishingly lovely and an infamous flirt, rumored to have had numerous affairs with many well-known aristocrats, including the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, when he was a young man. Bertie, as he was called, was certainly her lifelong friend, and her flightiness and flirtatiousness were both legendary and completely beyond the pale, according to all and sundry. In a period with strict mores, her outlandish behavior attracted a great deal of attention, and only as a marquis’ granddaughter with the full support of the Prince of Wales was she able to get away with these escapades without being completely expelled from fine society (although her more old-fashioned mother-in-law forbade her the house for some time).
This was interesting, since no one was flightier, or more flirtatious, than Peg. In fact, my first husband, a grumpy, authoritarian sort, forbade me from having anything to do with Peg at one point, convinced she was having affairs with half a dozen men and fearing she would somehow influence me. It was certainly quite a coincidence that Patsy was so similar in personality to Peg, especially since Peg knew so little about her – only what she had gleaned from the BBC show, where Patsy comes across as a fairly normal member of the aristocracy. Peg’s convictions regarding this past-life identity revolved solely around the BBC mini-series, in which Patsy was mostly a walk-on, the woman who famously lent the impoverished but ambitious Lillie Langtry her one little black dress in an era when other women aspiring to meet princes and dukes had trunks full of dresses they rarely wore twice in a season.
Peg knew nothing of Patsy’s propensity for riding a tea tray down the stairs, throwing herself assiduously at every man in the room, and her general reputation for wild behavior. The wholly unsubstantiated, yet oft-repeated, rumored affair with Prince Bertie would have occurred when she was merely 16, a scandal that is difficult to measure in modern terms, since unmarried young women were strictly off limits to the otherwise philandering aristocracy and royals. It is difficult to believe in its truth primarily because Bertie was known to have adhered strictly to the rule that one never seduced an unmarried girl, as to do so meant literally ruining her entire life. Nonetheless, her wildly flirtatious behavior toward the prince could easily have been the origin of this still-persistent rumor.
My friend Peg was, in her own way, equally wild, especially when it came to throwing herself at every man in the room. Everyone felt dreadfully sorry and embarrassed for her shy, quiet, tolerant husband, who did eventually divorce her after 20 years but only, it seems, because he wanted to have children and she did not. Patsy had less choice regarding motherhood, having had three children at a very young age, but she seems to have been an unsympathetic and inattentive mother, and it was easy to see why someone who might have been Patsy in a past life would quickly choose not to have offspring at all.