England, 1912. The Winslow family arrives home from church in time for a carefully orchestrated meeting between Arthur Winslow, the proud patriarch, and John Watherstone, the young man set to marry Arthur's daughter Catherine, an ardent suffragette. As plans are made for their lives together, Arthur, his wife Grace, Catherine, her eldest brother Dickie, John, and Desmond Curry, the family lawyer and Catherine's admirer, drink Madeira in celebration of the union. Just after the family toasts, Arthur discovers that his youngest son, Ronnie, is back early from the Naval College at Osbourne--dismissed for stealing a five shilling postal note. Arthur asks his son if he is guilty, explaining "If you tell me a lie, I shall know it, because a lie between you and me can't be hidden." Ronnie swears that he is innocent. Arthur dedicates himself to clearing his son of the charges. After obtaining no satisfaction from the school, he decides to retain the well known attorney, Sir Robert Morton. Since he is a conservative opposed to women's suffrage, Catherine is opposed to hiring Morton. In Sir Robert's chambers Desmond explains their predicament: the legal assumption is that the Admiralty and the Crown can do no wrong and cannot be sued. However, by a matter of grace, such a petition can be granted by the Attorney General, allowing the case to come to court.