Charlotte Campbell: The Broodmare of Lethal White?

It would not be a J.K. Rowling–or Robert Galbraith–novel without doppelgangers, echos and inversions. With horses popping up all over Lethal White, we should expect multiple equine connections to characters. And we see plenty, overwhelmingly female: Ilsa, delighted over her Olympic dressage tickets, Robin, the former pony-rider who knows the nuances of equine coat color terminology, Tegan. the stablehand turned racecourse worker.

But the most obvious horsewoman in the text is Kinvara, who, after the tragic stillbirth of her own baby, seems to have thrown herself into breeding the finest horses possible. Despite owning at least two stallions herself–which she unwisely keeps in the same field–she apparently has repeatedly begged her husband to spend money he can ill afford on stud fees to impregnate her favorite mare, Lady. Unfortunately, Lady’s death from laminitis ended that plan, even if Jasper had been persuaded to cough up the funds.

But there is another “Lady” in the text who appears to have been successfully “put in foal”– Strike’s ex-fiance, Charlotte Campbell. I’ll examine Charlotte’s pregnancy, and argue that her condition echos and inverts that of Kinvara’s broodmare, after the jump.

Charlotte’s connection to horses is nothing new. She has been described as “overbred” and yearning for Strike’s “carthorse blood” since The Cuckoo’s Calling. But, by Lethal White, she has married Jago Ross, future Viscount, meaning she will eventually be “Lady Charlotte,” if she is not already. Eighteen months after her marriage, she is, much to her regret, pregnant with fraternal twins. Jago has been married before, and has kids, almost certainly girls. The Ross family is reportedly delighted that one of Charlotte’s babies is a boy, presumably because he is a much-needed heir to the title.

Keep in mind that Charlotte is close to Cormoran’s age, at least 38, an age at which a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant are declining precipitously. Statistically, her chances of conceiving are about 20-30% lower than they were even two years earlier, when she was possibly pregnant with either Strike’s or Ross’s baby.

Her age, plus the fact that she is carrying twins, points to the distinct possibility that she underwent fertility treatments such as Clomid injections or IVF –  both of which greatly increase the chances for multiple births: note the near-doubling of twin and triplet rates since those technologies became available in the 1980’s. Given that Charlotte is on the record as not wanting children at all, if she took such steps to become pregnant, it must have been under intense pressure from her husband and in-laws. Thus, while Kinvara Chiswell was unable to purchase prize semen for her Lady, the Ross family seems to have succeeded in purchasing an expensive broodmare for themselves, in the form of the future Lady Campbell-Ross.

At the end of Lethal White, we learn that Jago returned from the US, “hit the roof” when the press reported Charlotte lunching with Strike, and that Charlotte wound up in the hospital, on bed rest, leaking amniotic fluid. Although there are many reasons for such a complication–carrying twins, for instance, increases the risk– it could also be caused by trauma. Thus, it is at least possible that Jago was angered enough by Charlotte’s indiscretions to assault her, and endanger the very heir he had been so pleased about. Perhaps her “broken, bereft, haunted” wedding photo was a foreshadowing for the realities of her marriage, rather than just a act to torment Strike?

If, as Rowling has implied in her tweets, the fifth book will include Robin’s 29th birthday, we are looking at another year’s jump ahead in time, meaning Charlotte’s babies will be born by then. We will see if she follows through with her promise to leave her husband and children after giving birth. And, if the “battered broodmare” hypothesis is correct, the implications for Cormoran could be interesting. Though Charlotte continues to occupy a lot of his head space, the Doom Bar Detective has been in remarkable control of his behavior, when it comes to resisting Charlotte’s taunts and enticements, and he has every reason to be less tempted by Charlotte now that Robin has rid herself of Matthew the Flobberworm. But could a revelation–or a lie, given this is Charlotte we are talking about– that she was a victim of domestic violence trigger his “saving-people thing?” That might be the one way Charlotte could lure him back into her clutches.


  1. Interesting thoughts!
    Charlotte’s horse connection becomes even more evident in her husband’s name that she adopted by marriage, as the word “Ross” is used in German to refer to a horse. (The most accurate translation to English would be “steed”, I guess, as the word is associated with poetic speech and it sounds a bit old-fashioned.)

  2. Louise Freeman says

    Thank you, Sebastian! Five semesters of German and I never learned that word.

  3. Bonni Crawford says

    Great piece Dr Freeman!
    Just a tiny correction – it was Brandy that Kinvara wanted to breed from, not Lady, according to Tegan.

  4. Louise Freeman says

    Thank you for the correction, Bonni!

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