Quorndon, as our play begins, is a place not at all unlike Brighton, England in the mid 1920s. It is ruled by Rupert, the Duke, who took control of the Duchy when his brother Justin drowned in a shipwreck some 15 years earlier. He’s a reluctant ruler and is hoping to hand over the reigns of power to the man who marries his daughter, Vesta, and so suitors have come from all over to win the lady’s hand. Amongst these suiters are Bartholomew, Earl of Hastings, a wealthy fool, County Ludovico, the cousin of the ruling Countess of Florence, and Sir Hugo de Malmanche, steward of the Duke’s estates who survived the shipwreck that claimed his master.

Another survivor is Felicity, who has been adopted by the Duke’s nanny, and acts as Lady Vesta’s companion. Felicity and her brother Claude, who is acting as Ludovico’s secretary a member of the local amateur dramatic society, directed by Jane, sister of Bartholomew. As we open, the troupe are being commissioned to develop a play to celebrate Vesta’s nuptials.

Other characters at the court in Quorndon include Margaret, a rather less than virtuous woman, an extremely virtuous Doctor, and Zephyr, a spirit who is invisible to everyone except Felicity. Across the sea, in Florence, are Venetia, the Contessa, who seeks an alliance with Quorndon through the marriage of Ludovico and Vesta, and her shadowy counsellor, Adolphus, a prodigious scholar, but a man of mystery, having been discovered wandering in the woods near Florence, robbed of all memory of who he was.