This last of Trollope’s Palliser novels begins with the unexpected death of the Duchess of Omnium, Glencora Palliser. This event begins a series of incidents that makes the Duke even more unhappy.
First, he learns that his daughter Mary has fallen in love with his son’s friend Frank Tregear while Mary and Glencora were traveling in Italy. Apparently, Glencora approved of the situation even though Tregear has neither position nor fortune. The Duke feels that Tregear does not have a position fit for his daughter, so he refuses permission but is upset that Mary is so unhappy.
Then Lord Silverbridge, his oldest son, tells him he has decided to run for Parliament—on the Conservative side, when the Pallisers have been prominent Liberals for generations. This despite the fact that Silverbridge doesn’t seem to have any strong political beliefs at all. However, the Duke is very pleased when Silverbridge tells him he would like to marry Lady Mabel Grex.
Lady Mabel has known Tregear for years, and they pledged to love each other. But neither of them has any money, so Mabel recently released him, only a few months before he met Mary. Although she has had several proposals of marriage, she cannot bear the idea of being married to any of those men until she meets Silverbridge, whom she sees is kind. However, when he proposes to her, she doesn’t want to be too hasty, so she turns him down.
Much to her later regret, Silverbridge, who thinks Mabel has been unkind, meets Miss Isabel Boncassen, the daughter of a prominent American of inferior roots. After a series of misunderstandings, Silverbridge decides he prefers Isabel.
The Duke remembers how his Glencora had been in love with another man when she was talked into marrying him, and that had worked out well. But Mary isn’t yielding, and soon he has two children of whose choices he disapproves.
I found this novel a fitting end to the series, although I was sorry Glencora died. The Duke seems to become closer to his children as a result, though. The interchanges between him and his two sons, Silverbridge and Gerald, are well handled, and it is nice to see all behaving affectionately. I have to admit that I preferred Lady Mabel to Isabel, who doesn’t have much of a personality until the end. However, I enjoyed this series very much.