Austen-Homage Literature and the Mystery Genre

Mystery Puzzle Pieces Hole Unknown Uncertainty Guessing Solved S

Although publishers long ago labeled Jane Austen-inspired pieces as “niche” literature, they erred. Austen’s touch can be found in a variety of pieces: women’s literature, romance, variations, historical fiction, paranormal, fantasy, and mystery. Over the years, I have written several cozy mysteries using Austen’s characters. It is easy to concoct a mystery story around her plots. Miss Austen provides us with a variety of starting points.

For example, without good reason, General Tilney sends Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. He has no care for her safety upon the road alone. Meanwhile, his eldest son seduces Isabella Thorpe and then abandons her. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Wickham produces a multitude of lies that mislead Elizabeth Bennet and others in Meryton. He seduces innocents. He plots with Mrs. Younge. Frank Churchill pursues one woman while claiming a secret betrothal with another. Mr. Willoughby leads Marianne on. He abandons his pregnant mistress. Both actions occur because he must marry for money. Henry Crawford blatantly flirts with an engaged woman and then elopes with her. Tom Bertram is responsible for many of the major plot points that dominate the start of Mansfield Park. His gambling debts are part of the reason why his father, Sir Thomas, must go to Antigua to take care of his financial problems. Tom’s debts also mean that Edmund will not be able to move into the Parsonage at Mansfield Park when he is ordained. Mr. Elliot abused Mrs. Smith’s trust and later attempted to claim Anne to wife so he might prevent Sir Walter from remarrying and producing an heir to replace him. Austen offers her readers a “secret,” perhaps not a major crime, but one that can be employed be a skilled contemporary writer. 

As the lady anticipated the modern romance, Austen also added to the mystery genre. The mystery/suspense plot requires the ending to be a restoring of order. Does not each of Austen’s heroines solve a “mystery” of sorts to bring her world to order? And is it not “love” that brings those involved together again and allows them to heal?

So how does one transform an Austen story to a mystery? P. D. James did as such in Death Comes to Pemberley. According to  W. H. Auden  in “The Guilty Vicarage” found in Harper’s Magazine (from a 1948 article), a mystery/detective story requires ” (1) A closed society so that the possibility of an outside murderer (and hence of the society being totally innocent) is excluded; and a closely related society so that all its members are potentially suspect (cf. the thriller, which requires an open society in which any stranger may be a friend or enemy in disguise). Such conditions are met by: (a) the group of blood relatives (the Christmas dinner in the country house); (b) the closely knit geographical group (the old world village); (c) the occupational group (the theatrical company); (d) the group isolated by the neutral place (the Pullman car).

“In this last type the concealment-manifestation formula applies not only to the murder but also to the relations between the members of the group who first appear to be strangers to each other, but are later found to be related. (2) It must appear to be an innocent society in a state of grace, i.e., a society where there is no need of the law, no contradiction between the aesthetic individual and the ethical universal, and where murder, therefore, is the unheard-of act which precipitates a crisis (for it reveals that some member has fallen and is no longer in a state of grace). The law becomes a reality and for a time all must live in its shadow, till the fallen one is identified. With his arrest, innocence is restored, and the law retires forever.The characters in a detective story should, therefore, be eccentric (aesthetically interesting individuals) and good (instinctively ethical) — good, that is, either in appearance, later shown to be false, or in reality, first concealed by an appearance of bad.”

Let us check off the requirements as they relate to Austen’s books: a closed society (✓); a closely related society, that of a village (✓); the appearance of an innocent society (✓); and a society where there is no need of the law (✓). Auden goes on to explain how “rituals” characterize the closed society and that the perpetrator of the “crimes” uses his knowledge of the rituals to take advantage of the community. Auden also suggests that the plot must include an individual of superior intelligence to solve the mystery and reset the harmony within the society. Look at Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. He uses his knowledge of the more lax care of innocents at seaside resorts so he might attempt to seduce Georgiana Darcy (at Ramsgate) and successfully compromise Lydia Bennet (at Brighton). It is only with Fitzwilliam Darcy’s knowledge of Mr. Wickham’s propensity for debauchery and the man’s cohorts that the Bennets’ world is restored. 


Auden, W. H. “The Guilty Vicarage.” 1948. Detective Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays. Robin W. Winks, Editor. Woodstock Foul Play, 1980. 15-24.

Check out my mysteries based around Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice 

41K5KR61S8L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg The Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery

HAPPILY MARRIED for over a year and more in love than ever, Darcy and Elizabeth can’t imagine anything interrupting their bliss-filled days. Then an intense snowstorm strands a group of travelers at Pemberley, and terrifying accidents and mysterious deaths begin to plague the manor. Everyone seems convinced that it is the work of a phantom-a Shadow Man who is haunting the Darcy family’s grand estate.

Darcy and Elizabeth believe the truth is much more menacing and that someone is trying to murder them. But Pemberley is filled with family guests as well as the unexpected travelers-any one of whom could be the culprit-so unraveling the mystery of the murderer’s identity forces the newlyweds to trust each other’s strengths and work together.

Written in the style of the era and including Austen’s romantic playfulness and sardonic humor, this suspense-packed sequel to Pride and Prejudice recasts Darcy and Elizabeth as a husband-and-wife detective team who must solve the mystery at Pemberley and catch the murderer-before it’s too late.

51fjq16cNoL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery


SHACKLED IN THE DUNGEON of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor-the estate’s master. Trusting him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe.

Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and Elizabeth set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors.

How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced- finding Georgiana before it’s too late.

 The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery


Fitzwilliam Darcy is devastated. The joy of his recent wedding has been cut short by the news of the sudden death of his father’s beloved cousin, Samuel Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to Dorset, a popular Regency resort area, to pay their respects to the well-traveled and eccentric Samuel. But this is no summer holiday. Danger bubbles beneath Dorset’s peaceful surface as strange and foreboding events begin to occur. Several of Samuel’s ancient treasures go missing, and then his body itself disappears. As Darcy and Elizabeth investigate this mystery and unravel its tangled ties to the haunting legends of Dark Dorset, the legendary couple’s love is put to the test when sinister forces strike close to home. Some secrets should remain secrets, but Darcy will do all he can to find answers-even if it means meeting his own end in the damp depths of a newly dug grave.

With malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy will keep Austen fans turning the pages right up until its dramatic conclusion.

51zxcx1ka8l-_sx331_bo1204203200_ The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery (Mystery/Suspense/Thriller; Fiction/Historical Fiction)

Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying his marital bliss. His wife, the former Elizabeth Bennet, presented him two sons and a world of contentment. All is well until Darcy receives a note of urgency from his sister Georgiana. In truth, Darcy never fully approved of Georgiana’s joining with their cousin. Major General Edward Fitzwilliam for Darcy assumed the major general held Georgiana at arm’s length, dooming Darcy’s sister to a life of unhappiness.

Forced to seek his cousin in the slews of London’s underbelly, at length, Darcy discovers the major general and returns Fitzwilliam to his family. Even so, the Darcy’s troubles are far from over. During the major general’s absence from home, witnesses note Fitzwilliam’s presence in the area of two horrific murders. When Edward Fitzwilliam is arrested for the crimes, Darcy must discover the real culprit before his cousin is hanged for the crimes and the Fitzwilliam name is marked by shame.


Posted in books, Jane Austen, literature, mystery, Regency era, Regency romance, romance, suspense | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Latest Release “Daring Lords and Ladies” Available Now for $0.99 + a Giveaway

My latest venture is a new anthology entitled Daring Lords and Ladies, which features SEVEN full-length novels for only $0.99. That is 1428 pages of reading. The anthology features…

LOST WITH A LORD by Emily Murdoch
A man in search of a courtesan, and a woman in search of a ship – will they find what they are looking for?

Lord George Northmere is tired of his lonely existence, and makes the radical decision to go against the ton and society’s rules, and seek out comfort in the arms of a courtesan. But in all his thirty years, he has never met anyone quite like the fiery Italian Miss Florence Capria.

She is no courtesan, but she inflames Lord George’s curiosity – and his spirits – nonetheless.

A man torn between two worlds. Both need him… neither wants him.

Groomed for a life amongst the English aristocracy, Lord Erroll Rushton is unexpectedly thrust back into his father’s Scottish world when the Englishwoman he compromises refuses to marry him.

No gentleman breaks into a lady’s bedchamber…but then, no lady sleeps with a pistol under her pillow.

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart.

THE DARING MRS. KENT by Michelle Morrison
She was not always daring…Josephine Kent risked everything to escape an abusive husband: a perilous sea voyage, a new life in the Caribbean, and the constant worry that Mr. Kent would find her. She settles into a safe new life in her brother’s house, content to avoid society and serve as her brother’s housekeeper…until her identity is discovered by one of her husband’s henchmen.

Seventeen years ago, after losing his mother and brothers in a horrific tragedy, Endymion de Waryn left his memories, his past, and the childhood friend he’d been forced to marry behind in Cornwall, vowing never to return. Now, as the Duke of Pendeen, he lives a very ordered life, just as he prefers. Having scheduled the months of August and September to conceive an heir, he summons his wife to London to do just that. When her answer is an emphatic No! he is left no choice but to break his vow and go to Cornwall to fetch her. However, a duchess who meets her husband at the door with one of Manton’s finest firearms needs more than a ducal command to be fetched.

BALLAD OF DISCORD by Summer Hanford and Tarah Scott
If the man you love won’t trust you with the truth, how can you ever again trust him?

The pieces of Elizbeth McKinley’s world scatter when her father, in an act of pure madness, joins forces with a mysterious Frenchman in an attempt to claim the Scottish crown. Now, pawns in a game far vaster than they can imagine, Elizbeth and her sister must flee or be shipped off to France to wed strangers. To make matters worse, the one man who should most wish to help her, the man Elizbeth loves, refuses to believe she’s in danger. His betrayal will cut deeper than any sword.

A Scottish legacy… A political rebellion… Two hearts destined to meet…

Raised in his father’s image, the Earl of Stanfeld is practical and disciplined. There are no gray lines interrupting the Gideon’s black and white world. Until his mother has a dream and begs to return to her Highland home.

Alisabeth was betrothed from the cradle. At seventeen, she marries her best friend and finds happiness if not passion. In less than a year, a political rebellion makes her a widow. The handsome English earl arrives a month later and rouses her desire and a terrible guilt.


Kindle Unlimited 


Posted in book release, British history, eBooks, Georgian England, Georgian Era, giveaway, Regency era, Regency romance, romance, Scarsdale Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Something in the Air: Two Regency Romances

I have combined two of my 2019 long novellas in one volume. Something in the Air features “Courting Lord Whitmire: A May-December Romance” from the Regency Summer Escape anthology with “Last Woman Standing” from the A Regency Christmas Proposal anthology. Both stories can be purchased individually or you may find them combined in this volume. Something in the Air can also be purchased in print format for those of you who still prefer to hold a book in your hands. 

The stories are available on Kindle, Amazon (print version) or they may be read for FREE on Kindle Unlimited. 



Kindle Unlimited

Courting Lord Whitmire: A Regency May-December Romance

At the bend of the path, an unexpected meeting.

She is all May.

He is December. But loves knows not time.

Colonel Lord Andrew Whitmire has returned to England after spending fifteen years in service to his country. In truth, he would prefer to be anywhere but home. Before he departed England, his late wife, from an arranged marriage, had cuckolded him in a scandal that had set Society’s tongues wagging. His daughter, Matilda, who was reared by his father, enjoys calling him “Father” in the most annoying ways. Unfortunately, his future is the viscountcy, and Andrew knows his duty to both the title and his child. He imagines himself the last of his line until he encounters Miss Verity Coopersmith, the niece of his dearest friend, the man who had saved Andrew’s life at Waterloo. Miss Coopersmith sets Whitmire’s world spinning out of control. She is truly everything he did not know he required in his life. However, she is twenty-two years his junior, young enough to be his daughter, but all he can think is she is absolute perfection.

Last Woman Standing: A Clean Regency Romance

She is simply his grandmother’s companion.

However, when the Christmas ball ends, the last woman standing wins the marquess.

JACKSON SHAW, the Marquess of Rivens, never considered the “gypsy blessing” presented to his family during the time of Henry VIII truly a blessing. He viewed it more as a curse. According to the “blessing,” in his thirtieth year, at the Christmas ball hosted by his family, he was to choose a wife among the women attending. The catch was he possessed no choice in the matter. His wife was to be the one who proved herself to be his perfect match, according to the gypsy’s provisions: a woman who would bring prosperity to his land by her love of nature and her generous heart. In his opinion, none of the women vying for his hand appeared to care for anything but themselves.

EVELYN HAWTHORNE comes to River’s End to serve as the companion to the Marchioness of Rivens, his lordship’s grandmother. However, Lady Rivens has more than companionship in mind when she employs the girl, whose late father was a renown horticulturalist. The marchioness means to gather Gerald Hawthorne’s rare specimens to prevent those with less scrupulous ideas from purchasing Hawthorne’s conservatory, and, thereby, stealing away what little choice her grandson has in naming a wife, for all the potential brides must present the Rivenses with a rare flower to demonstrate the lady’s love of nature. Little does the marchioness know Hawthorne’s daughter might not only know something of nature, but be the person to fulfill the gypsy’s blessing.

Posted in book release, British history, Dreamstone Publishing, Georgian England, Georgian Era, historical fiction, Living in the Regency, marriage, publishing, reading habits, Regency era, Regency romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Carriages, Coaches, Landaus, Gigs, Phaetons, and More – How to Write Regency Accident Scenes

This is a repeat from a 2019 post by request of two of my author friends. Enjoy!

There are many fine posts on the internet regarding the various types of coaches available to those of the Regency, but such is not the purpose of my piece today. This one has more to do with writing scenes in which these vehicles break down and the aftermath.

One of the many plot devices available to us as writers is a coach breaking down. When this happens, what are some of the realities of such an accident. I know I have had my fair share of disabled vehicles in my stories. In truth, in some of my earlier ones, I was not as accurate as I am now, nor as accurate as I hope to be in the future. Historical facts are a steep learning curve, and, as I have little to no personal experience with these types of transportation, I am constantly learning. Therefore, I am including a variety of facts I hope will help others struggling with these scenes.

One thing each writer must keep in mind, the speed at which the characters are traveling and the stamina of both the horses and the occupants of the vehicle are equally as important as is the size of the carriage. Pay attention to that fact as I include some facts on each type.


Miss de Bourgh drove by in her phaeton, which he never failed coming to inform them of, though it happened almost every day. (Chapter 29, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice).

Miss De Bourgh’s phaeton and ponies is an extravagant display of her family’s wealth. To be able to afford a specialized carriage for only one person’s use demonstrates the family’s affluence. In comparison, the Bennets, who are less wealthy than Lady Catherine, have one set of horses for the whole family. Therefore, when the horses are needed to work on the farm, the carriage cannot be used and the family must walk to their destination.

Likely Miss de Bourgh’s phaeton was of the low-slung variety, especially as it is being pulled by ponies. It would have a lower center of gravity and be very safe and secure, and the ponies easy for a woman to control and unlikely to run away with the vehicle.In Georgette Heyer novels, we often read of the more dashing heroines driving a high-perch phaeton, which also has four wheels, but the box is suspended high over the front axle. It is a fast and fun vehicle to drive, but like a modern SUV, has a higher center of gravity, making it more likely to overturn, especially when pulled by the high-couraged cattle that would make such a sporty vehicle worth owning. (Austen Blog)

A phaeton did not have a place for a “tiger” to ride on the back of the carriage.


One morning, about a week after Bingley’s engagement with Jane had been formed, as he and the females of the family were sitting together in the dining room, their attention was suddenly drawn to the window, by the sound of a carriage; and they perceived a chaise and four driving up the lawn. It was too early in the morning for visitors, and besides, the equipage did not answer to that of any of their neighbours. The horses were post; and neither the carriage, nor the livery of the servant who preceded it, were familiar to them. (Chapter 56, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice)


A traveling carriage would customarily be drawn by a team of four horses. This would be true for managing a country road, but not in the city. While in London or any city of prominence, the coach would typically employ only two horses.

If the coach is drawn by a team of four, the outriders or any gentlemen riding beside the coach would be positioned by the pair closest to the carriage’s wheels. These horse, known as wheelers, were generally larger and stronger than the lead horses. If the lead horses were spooked, the rider could possibly keep the wheelers calm and prevent a ride-away carriage accident.

The Bennets keep a carriage; we aren’t told what kind, but we can probably assume it is a closed vehicle that can seat six to eight people—quite proper for a large family like the Bennets. Mr. Bennet does not keep horses solely to pull the carriage; he borrows working animals from the home farm for carriage duty. That detail not only shows that the Bennets are not extremely rich, but allows for the plot twist of Jane Bennet riding horseback to Netherfield, getting caught in the rain, and catching a cold that allows Jane and her sister Elizabeth to get to know Messrs. Bingley and Darcy a little better—and vice-versa. (AustenBlog)

Often we read where a coach is turned on its side. I have written more than one such scene in my career. Again, the writer must remember that newer coaches were lighter than those carried over from the previous century, and a broken axle would not necessarily cause the coach to end up on its side. It would likely be tilted. If you turn it on its side, you require more than the broken axle to send it over. The writer could add a nearby ditch (been there, done that) or have the coach traveling at a greater rate of speed than normal (runaway leaders on a carriage team, right?). Remember that when a closed carriage ends up on its side, the people must climb out the door. They will be slammed against each other (no seat belts) and likely piled upon one another. It is also NOT likely that a couple of men could right it. In addition to the weight of the people inside, a traveling coach would be loaded down with trunks, etc. Naturally, we all have read stories of petite women right a car when her child is trapped under it, but that would be the exception, not the rule. Now, if a friendly farmer comes along with a team of mules, the men + the mules = the possibility of an upright carriage.

I, also, would not suggest that people fall out the door of a carriage being knocked over. Rocks. Paving stones. Stone walls. All spell a hard landing. Moreover, if the carriage is turning onto its side, they could be easily crushed by the weight of it.

This link has several photos of coaches with a broken axle (It has been purposely broken to fit the space, but it still works by clicking on the first line).



Regency writers must remember, there was no brake that could be set from the seat. For heavier stagecoaches and coaches, one of the coachmen had to get down from the box and set the “drag” to slow the carriage when it was going down a steep hill. Harold Esdale Malet, Nimrod in Annals of the Road: Or, Notes on Mail and Stage Coaching in Great Britain, provides us with an anecdote regarding the drag not being properly set: “‘Some few years past I was travelling to Brighton, I think by the ” Alert,” at the time driven by a coachman named Pattenden. On pulling up at the extreme point of Reigate Hill, and being anxious to get the drag on, he did not do it securely. On starting rather brisk, whether it came in contact with a stone, or from what cause I know not, but it flew from the wheel it was placed on to the opposite one, and fixed as properly and securely as if placed by hand, in which manner we proceeded down the hill, in my opinion, a providential and singular circumstance, which perhaps, prevented a serious accident.”

Meanwhile, Mueller’s Lane Farm in NW Illinois tells us a bit about the history of brakes, which, although not Regency era specific, will provide you an overview of the issue: “When large and heavy loads were being transported to towns, ranches, homes and mining camps, etc., the steep, winding grades were scary to even the most hardened of teamsters. Costly and deadly would not be overstating the situation. In these circumstances, the standard brakes were woefully inadequate to keep from pushing the team out of control and wrecking the whole shooting match. There were three basic methods to ease the loaded wagon safely down to the bottom.

The first was to use the “pole brake”. This is done by placing a long pole about 4’ to 6’ long into the two steel bands on the roller bar at the rear of the wagon. The roller bar is the heavy steel arm that is suspended slightly ahead of the rear axle. The bar is bent at a right angle that rises up between the wheel and the box on the right side of the wagon. The ‘arm’ has two steel bands attached. The stout pole is placed into the bands and extends up into the air. A rope is then securely tied to the upper end and is run down to the front of the wagon where the teamster can pull it with his hand or push with his foot by way of a loop in the rope. This pulls the pole forward thus adding greater leverage to the brake shoes against the rear wheels and applying the braking pressure.

“Another way to create drag to control the load was by using ‘skid shoes.’ These are small steel sleds of a sort, that the teamster would place, one in front of each rear wheel. The wagon was then rolled into the skid shoe and by way of a chain or heavy leather straps and the shoes secured to the bottom of the wheels. A chain at the nose of the shoe was fastened forward to the body of the wagon. As the wagon was drawn forward, the rear wheel s were kept from turning and the wagon drug down the hill.

“The last method was very similar to the skid shoe method in that a long pole was run between the spokes of the real wheels. As the wagon was moved forward, the rear wheels were blocked from moving. This way of skidding the loaded wagon was quick to implement but hard on the wheel spokes and the wagon itself. It was called ‘rough locking the wheels’.”

Another major error when creating a carriage wreck is that the harness cannot be simply switched to another type of coach, for the harness is specific to the carriage. As most coaches were custom made, the harness would be created for that particular coach, not easily interchangeable. The “wrecked” carriage would have to be a common type of carriage, and the harness could only be used on the same type, i.e., phaeton to another phaeton, curricle to another curricle, etc. Moreover, if the carriage is overturned, those who survived would most likely need to cut the harness to free the horses. Doing so would leave but a bridle and bits of the reins, not something to be used on another carriage. In addition to the harness, the coach’s axle, middle post, etc., must match to make repairs.

Those who drove for the Royal Mail would cut one of the horses free and ride with the mail pouch to the next station, leaving the passengers and the coach behind to wait for assistance.


“He meant, I believe,” replied Jane, “to go to Epsom, the place where they last changed horses, see the postilions, and try if any thing could be made out from them. His principal object must be to discover the number of the hackney coach which took them from Clapham.” (Chapter 46, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice)

“Everyone says he is eat up with pride, and I dare say he had heard somehow that Mrs. Long does not keep a carriage, and had come to the ball in a hack chaise.” (Chapter 5, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice).

A hackney-coach is the equivalent of a modern-day taxi: a horse and carriage for hire to take a person a short distance to his or her destination; thus Mr. Bennet could guess that the eloping couple had completed their journey in London. The coach itself would likely have been an old vehicle, castoff by its original owner, and could be any type of vehicle that has a box for a driver, who was known as a jarvey. Hackney coaches within London were licensed and assigned registration numbers, which would allow Mr. Bennet to trace the driver and, in the case described above, hopefully learn where he had set down, or delivered, Lydia and Wickham. (AustenBlog)

By, 1823, the lighter horse cabs began to replace cumbersome hackney coaches in great quantity, and by the mid 1830’s, the hansom cab set the new standard for modern horse cabs. Aloysius Hansom, an architect, designed the first carriage. When Hansom went bankrupt through poor investments, John Chapman took over, designing an even lighter, more efficient cab, one whose framework did not strike the horses on their backs or sides whenever a carriage ran over an obstacle in the road.


“And if you will stay another month complete, it will be in my power to take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early in June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the Barouche box, there will be very good room for one of you — and indeed, if the weather should happen to be cool, I should not object to taking you both, as you are neither of you large.” (Chapter 37, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice)

“and that will be our time for exploring. While they are with us, we shall explore a great deal, I dare say. They will have their barouche-landau, of course, which holds four perfectly; and therefore, without saying any thing of our carriage, we should be able to explore the different beauties extremely well. They would hardly come in their chaise, I think, at that season of the year. Indeed, when the time draws on, I shall decidedly recommend their bringing the barouche-landau; it will be so very much preferable. When people come into a beautiful country of this sort, you know, Miss Woodhouse, one naturally wishes them to see as much as possible; and Mr. Suckling is extremely fond of exploring. We explored to King’s-Weston twice last summer, in that way, most delightfully, just after their first having the barouche-landau. You have many parties of that kind here, I suppose, Miss Woodhouse, every summer?” (Chapter 32, Jane Austen’s Emma)

A barouche is an open vehicle that seats four people and has a top that folds back like a convertible automobile. Lady Catherine offers to take Elizabeth Bennet and Maria Lucas to London in her barouche when she goes there. A barouche-landau has two seats facing each other, and a top that opens in the middle and folds back. (In P&P95, we think Elizabeth and the Gardiners arrive at Pemberley in a barouche-landau, which attentive readers of Emma will know is just the thing to use for summer sightseeing in the countryside! (AustenBlog)

A landau, drawn by a pair or four-in-hand, is one of several kinds of social carriages with facing seats over a dropped footwell, which was perfected by the mid-19th century in the form of a swept base that flowed in a single curve. The soft folding top is divided into two sections, front and rear, latched at the center. These usually lie perfectly flat, but the back section can be let down or thrown back while the front section can be removed or left stationary. When fully opened, the top can completely cover the passengers, with some loss of the graceful line.

The landau’s center section might contain a fixed full-height glazed door, or more usually a low half-door. There would usually be a separate raised open coachman’s upholstered bench-seat, but a landau could be postilion-driven, and there was usually a separate groom’s seat, sprung above and behind the rear axle, saving the groom from having to stand on a running board.

Shannon Donnelly’s Fresh Ink, in an article called “Horse Sense” tells us, “Chandros Leigh, a distant cousin of Jane Austen, obtained an estimate for a fashionable laundau in 1829. The price of the basic carriage was 250 pounds, which included: ‘plate glass and mahogany shutters to the lights, and plated or brass bead to the leather, lined with best second cloth, cloth squabs, and worsted lace….’ The ‘extras’ ordered including footman’s cushions, morocco sleeping cushions, steps, silk spring curtains, his crest on the door, embossed door handles and full plated lamps. These brought the cost to 417 pounds, 11 shillings and 6 pence, but he was given 60 pounds in exchange for his old carriage.”

Ms. Donnelly, who is quite knowledgeable on horses, also warns Regency writers that a wreck with an open carriage would cause more injuries. An open carriage turned upon its side would mean the passengers were ejected because of the carriage’s high center of gravity. As the horses would remained spooked by the carriage, the animals will, more than likely, not accept being hitched again to the carriage, even if it can be turned upright.

The act of overturning any vehicle, but especially the larger ones meant for traveling, would break the harness. 


“Curricle-hung, you see; seat, trunk, sword-case, splashing-board, lamps, silver moulding, all you see complete; the iron-work as good as new, or better. He asked fifty guineas; I closed with him directly, threw down the money, and the carriage was mine.” (Chapter 7, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey)

Younger gentlemen’s personal vehicles were usually either a gig or a curricle. These fast, sporty carriages were similar in being open vehicles with two wheels, seating two comfortably, and driven by one of the passengers; the main difference being that a gig was equipped to be pulled by one horse and a curricle by two, thereby doubling the horsepower—a Trans Am to the gig’s Firebird, if you will. Mr. Collins, predictably, owns a gig, in which he takes Sir William driving while he is visiting Hunsford. Mr. Darcy, also predictably, owns a curricle, which he uses to drive Georgiana to visit Elizabeth at the inn in Lambton. (Austen Blog)

A gentleman could also have a tiger ride on the back of a curricle, but not a gig. If one of these carriages overturns, a person could possibly jump free of the vehicle, and the writer could have them only experience bumps, bruises and scrapes. Fatal injures are not guaranteed. Hopefully, when the person jumps he calculates his chances of not slamming his head into a stone wall or catching his coattail and being dragged along by the frightened team. (Just saying a stone wall would be my luck!)

Like all modes of transportation mentioned previously, curricles and gigs were custom made for the owner. Some curricles had a step on the back, while others had a seat for the tiger. If no tiger was employed, a box of scrap metal was secured to the back to assist with balance and to keep the harness from weighing too heavily on the horse/horses.

Check out some of these disasters found on “Curricle Crashes and Dennet Disasters—The Dangers of the Regency Road” on Jane Austen’s London, in which Miss Austen describes her own misadventures.

Additional References Not Cited in the Post:

Adams, William B. English Pleasure Carriages: Their Origin, History, Varieties, Materials, Construction, Defects, Improvements, And Capabilities (1837). London: Kessinger, LLC, 2008. Print.

Georgian Index

“Nineteenth Century Carriages: Descriptions of Different Types of Horse-Drawn Transportation |” Historical Resources | Web. 28 Oct. 2009.

“Queensland Museum – Cobb & Co.” Cobb Co Museum. Web. 28 Oct. 2009.

“Transportation in the 19th Century.” Literary Liaisons, Ltd. Web. 28 Oct. 2009.

Walking-Through Shire Blogspot

Posted in British history, commerce, customs and tradiitons, England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, real life tales, Regency era, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

24 July 1817: The Burial of Jane Austen at Winchester Cathedral, a Guest Post from Collins Hemingway

 Today, I have chosen to repeat one of Collins Hemingway’s beautiful pieces speaking to the burial of Jane Austen at Winchester Cathedral. 

July 18, 2017, marked the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen. With that date, the official commemoration begins. Tributes will flow through any number of activities, readings, evensongs, and events, leading to July 24, the date of her funeral. In the UK, public benches are being dedicated to Austen, and the “Rain Jane” program will have Austen’s words appear in public places throughout Hampshire whenever there is precipitation. These are just a few of the
many events scheduled throughout the year.

Winchester Cathedral, where she is interred, will be the focus of many of the activities. One of these will be the unveiling of the £10 note graced with her face (above). As she is also on the £2 coin, Austen will be the first person, other than a monarch, to appear on more than one form of British currency at the same time. Cathedral bells will toll 41 times to mark each of her years on this earth.

Her burial raises an interesting question: Why, when this comparatively obscure spinster died in 1817, was she buried in a cathedral which houses the bones of Saxon kings and saints? This, in fact, is the subject of a talk scheduled by Professor Michael Wheeler at the cathedral on July 21.

King Cnut (Canute) is one of the ancient kings and bishops interred at Winchester Cathedral, along with Jane Austen.

It seems highly unusual for an ordinary citizen to be buried in a place normally reserved for secular and religious leaders. According to Jo Bartholomew, curator and librarian at the cathedral, the mortuary chests hold such dignitaries as: Cynigils and Cenwalh, two Christian kings from the seventh century; Kings Egbert and Ethelwulf (grandfather and father of King Alfred); King Cnut (Canute) and his Queen Emma; two bishops, Alwyn and Stigand; and king William Rufus. Most had been originally buried in Old Minster, the predecessor to Winchester Cathedral, which was just to the north and partially beneath it.

Was it common for an ordinary citizen to be buried there in 1817, or was this an extraordinary honor? In those days, not so extraordinary after all. Indeed, Jane was the third and last person buried there that year. Cost, rather than rank, may have been the limiting factor for a cathedral interment. Jane’s funeral expenses came to £92, a significant amount for someone of her means. Clearly, she or her family was determined to make a statement—after all, none of her brothers, including Frank, who died the highest-ranking naval officer in England, received such a burial.

Elizabeth Proudman, vice chairman of the Jane Austen Society and an expert on Jane Austen, said in a letter that the location was likely Austen’s choice: “I believe that she is buried there, because she wanted to be. It was up to the Dean in those days to decide who could and who could not be buried in the Cathedral. Usually it was enough to be respectable and ‘gentry.’ This, of course, she was as her late father and two of her brothers were in the church.”

Jane’s father, George, had been the rector at Steventon, fourteen miles away, until he retired in 1801. He was succeeded by James, his oldest son, who still held that position in 1817. Henry, who had taken up the cloth after his bank collapsed in the recession of 1816, also had a clerical position nearby. It probably did not hurt that Jane’s brother Edward was the wealthy inheritor of the Knight estate, with extensive holdings in Steventon and Chawton, which was sixteen miles away. From his recent ordination, Henry knew the Bishop, according to Claire Tomalin; and the Dean, Thomas Rennell, was a friend of the important Chute family who were relatives of the Austens.

Having lived at Chawton for nine years, where she wrote or significantly revised her oeuvre, Jane was taken to Winchester for unsuccessful medical treatment. “She had been ill in Winchester for about two months, and I think her burial must have been discussed,” Proudman says. “I like to think that her family would have talked about it with her, and that they followed her wishes. … It may be that she had no particular attachment to the village [of Chawton]. We know that she admired Winchester Cathedral, and she knew several of the clergy. When she died she had some money from her writing, and her funeral expenses were paid from her estate. It was a tiny funeral, only 3 brothers and a nephew attended, and it had to be over before the daily business of the Cathedral began at 10.00 am.”

In fact, most funerals were relatively small in those days, and women did not attend. Cassandra, with their friend Martha Lloyd (James’ sister-in-law), “watched the little mournful procession the length of the street & when it turned from my sight I had lost her for ever.” In a letter to their niece Fanny in the days after Jane’s death, Cass added: “I have lost a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as can never be surpassed,—She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, & it is as if I have lost a part of myself. … Never was [a] human being more sincerely mourned … than was this dear creature.”

Edward, Francis, and Henry were the brothers who attended. Charles was too far away to come. James was ill (he died two years later), but his son, James Edward, rode from Steventon to Winchester for the service. Thomas Watkins, the Precentor (a member of a church who facilitates worship), read the service. Jane was interred in a brick-lined vault on the north side of the nave.

While Jane is interred at a grand cathedral, her mother (left) and sister are buried in the churchyard at Chawton, close to where all three women lived.

Tomalin believes it was Henry who “surely sought permission for their sister to be buried in the cathedral; splendid as it is, she might have preferred the open churchyard at Steventon or Chawton.” One suspects it was Henry who pushed for the cathedral, and Jane would have been happy to be at rest anywhere. Yet, modest as she was in many ways, she understood the worth of her writing. She may have made the decision with a view to posterity. In any event, Cassandra was pleased with the decision. “It is a satisfaction to me,” she said, that Jane’s remains were “to lie in a building she admired so much—her precious soul I presume to hope reposes in a far superior mansion.”

Henry arranged for a plaque to be installed in the cathedral to commemorate Jane’s benevolence, sweetness, and intellect—but curiously enough, not her writing. As the popularity of her novels grew over time, officials were baffled by the pilgrims coming to visit the crypt of a woman the church knew not as a brilliant novelist but only as the daughter of a rural clergyman.

Meet Collins Hemingway: Whether his subject is literature, history, or science, Collins Hemingway has a passion for the art of creative investigation. Hemingway’s fiction is shaped by the language of the heart and an abiding regard for courage in the face of adversity.

For him, the most compelling fiction deeply explores the heart and soul of its characters, while also engaging them in the complex and often dangerous world in which they have a stake. He wants to explore all that goes into people’s lives, to creatively investigate everything that makes them what they are as complete but fallible human beings.

His approach is to dive as deeply into a character’s heart and soul as possible, to address the root causes of their behavior rather than to describe superficial attitudes and beliefs. This treatment, he believes, is at the heart of all good fiction, for it provides the only way to draw a complete, complex portrait of a human being that is rewarding to readers.

As a nonfiction book author, Hemingway has investigated topics as diverse as corporate culture and ethics; the Internet and mobile technology; the ins and outs of the retail trade; and the cognitive potential of the brain. Best known for the #1 best-selling book on business and technology, Business @ the Speed of Thought, which he coauthored with Bill Gates, he has earned a reputation for tackling challenging topics with clarity and insight, writing for the nontechnical but intelligent reader. His shorter nonfiction has won awards for topics ranging from general interest to business to computer technology to medicine.



Posted in British currency, British history, Georgian England, Guest Post, Jane Austen, kings and queens, Regency era, Regency personalities, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Blessing or a Curse? The Release of “Last Woman Standing” + an Excerpt

Last Woman Standing first made its appearance in October 2019 as part of the Christmas anthology, A Regency Christmas Proposal. It is now a stand alone short romance available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. 

Kindle eBook:

Read for FREE on Kindle Unlimited:

JACKSON SHAW, the Marquess of Rivens, never considered the “gypsy blessing” presented to his family during the time of Henry VIII truly a blessing. He viewed it more as a curse. According to the “blessing,” in his thirtieth year, at the Christmas ball hosted by his family, he was to choose a wife among the women attending. The catch was he possessed no choice in the matter. His wife was to be the one who proved herself to be his perfect match, according to the gypsy’s provisions: a woman who would bring prosperity to his land by her love of nature and her generous heart. In his opinion, none of the women vying for his hand appeared to care for anything but themselves.

EVELYN HAWTHORNE comes to River’s End to serve as the companion to the Marchioness of Rivens, his lordship’s grandmother. However, Lady Rivens has more than companionship in mind when she employs the girl, whose late father was a renown horticulturalist. The marchioness means to gather Gerald Hawthorne’s rare specimens to prevent those with less scrupulous ideas from purchasing Hawthorne’s conservatory, and, thereby, stealing away what little choice her grandson has in naming a wife, for all the potential brides must present the Rivenses with a rare flower to demonstrate the lady’s love of nature. Little does the marchioness know Hawthorne’s daughter might not only know something of nature, but be the person to fulfill the gypsy’s blessing.

Excerpt from “Last Woman Standing” 


Battle of Guinegate

16 August 1513

“What shall it be, my Lord Rivens?” His Majesty King Henry VIII asked. “My gift of an earldom or the blessing offered by this gypsy hag?”

Hollister Rivens knew he should claim the earldom and forget the promises of the gypsy witch, but he had witnessed firsthand the apparent power the gypsy held, for it had been the Roma who had instructed the English to build five bridges overnight over the river Lys, thus allowing the English army free passage to the other side. With the bridges in place, Henry had moved his camp to Guinegate on 14 August, displacing a company of French horsemen who guarded the Tower of Guinegate, which led to the English victory at Guinegate. “May I not claim both, my King?” Rivens bravely asked.

Thankfully, Henry found the humor in Hollister’s bravado. “You are an odd one, Rivens, but I am thankful you have served me well today.” Hollister had been part of the Earl of Essex’s forces when Essex ordered the English men-at-arms and the heavy cavalry to charge. They had caught the French just as French army thought to execute a retreat, sending them into disorder. Hollister’s men had held the town of Thérouanne by driving off the French with cannon fire. “You will be from this day forward known as the Earl of Rivens, and you may choose to listen to the gypsy’s tale of woe.”

“Of blessing, my king,” Rivens said. “The gypsy promised me a blessing.”

“A blessing, then, it is, Rivens. Go hear what the hag has to offer you.”

Hollister quickly made his bows and crossed to the small hut where the gypsy had been given refuge. She bade him enter at his knock.

“I see a new man before me,” she said cryptically.

“I have been presented a new title by the King,” he explained.

“More land?” she asked in a mix of heavily-accented English and French.

“I did not ask. I am satisfied with the lands I hold,” he explained, “but a barony does not hold the same power as an earldom.”

“A man of reason,” she said. “Most men want both.”

“I chose both,” Hollister explained. “I chose the earldom and your blessing.”

She smiled then, and Hollister knew she understood his reason for coming. “You wish to know your fate.”

“I wish to know my fate and that of my descendants,” he corrected.

“An ambitious man, but one looking forward, not to the rear.”

“You can tell me this?”

“I can tell you what I see,” she cautioned. “I cannot tell you what to do with the message.”

“How do we go about this? Cards? Gold coins?” he asked in excitement.

“Just stand and close your eyes. I shall circle about you and tell you what I see.”

Feeling a bit foolish, Hollister closed his eyes tightly and stood in place. He could hear her steps drawing closer. She hummed an enchanting tune, one he had not heard previously. Finally, she began to speak. “Another step will be taken when the time comes, but it shall not be yours to take, but, rather, the steps of the relations of your great-greatson.”

“Then I will have an heir?” He asked opening his eyes.

She did not answer. Instead, she kept circling him and humming that delightful tune until he closed his eyes again. At length, she spoke again. “To know the blessings of love and prosperity, choose among those who nourish the earth to scent the air—find one who manipulates the light to comfort the planted seed and who blesses the sweet, soft rain that washes clean a troubled spirit, turning it into the blue of heaven.

“Blessings also come from those minding the cattle and the sheep and all the creatures of the earth. Blessings fall upon the roof and the chimney tall and the hearth blazing within. Blessings come from the one who is kind to both friend and foe, who opens wide the door to strangers and kin.

“Lying beside such a person brings a man dreams, possibilities, and promises at dawn and shelter to calm his soul at night. Love guides a person when his steps stray from the path.”

He heard her walk away from where he stood. Slowly opening his eyes, Hollister asked, “What does all that mean? Is Lady Rosalind my future or not?”

The gypsy smiled in amusement. “The only way to know for certain is to ask Lady Rosalind to bring you a flower.”



Posted in book excerpts, British history, Dreamstone Publishing, Georgian England, Georgian Era, giveaway, historical fiction, history, holidays, Living in the Regency, medieval, reading habits, Regency era, Regency romance, research, royalty, titles of aristocracy, war, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Playing Cards at Balls and Gaming Hells During the Regency

Many books dealing with the Regency Era mention card playing going in designated rooms at balls, but what type of cards were the gentlemen (and a few ladies) playing? Would they be gambling and playing games for money like 21 (apparently one of the most popular games of the day, even among families, what we would nowadays call “Blackjack”) or would they stick to games such as Whist, which can also be played for stakes, but could be played for an evening’s entertainment. At balls, would there be a person who would play the bank, as there was at the various clubs or hells? Who might we discover as reputable citizens, but deeply in debt?

Charles James Fox, for example, was a Whip MP and leader of the Opposition to William Pitt, the Younger’s Tory Party. He was a great friend of the Prince Regent, later George IV, and of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Author Rachel Knowles on her Regency History website tells us: “Fox had a reputation for dissolute behaviour. He was a member of White’s and Brooks’ and of the Dilettanti Society. He drank too much and was an inveterate gambler, winning and losing huge amounts of money, betting on horse races and at the gaming tables. His father paid out more than £120,000 for his son’s gambling habit, but his debts continued to amass. After his father’s death, he was twice declared bankrupt between 1781 and 1784.”

Reportedly, Fox and his brother lost even at supposedly staid places like Almack’s, but we must be careful in thinking Almack’s where young ladies and gentlemen were under the watchful eyes of the Patronesses, who were known to present unsuspecting guests who had been presented a voucher a thumbs up or a thumbs down. 

However, more likely the reports of Fox gambling at Almack’s were referring to the gentlemen’s club Brooks’s, not the Almack’s found in many of a Regency romance.  Brooks’s was called Almack’s, in the late 18th century.  (Yes, I know, hopelessly confusing!)  So the place Fox lost masses of money was the gentlemen’s club. However, I will say our assembly room Almack’s was not as staid as Georgette Heyer and most Regency romances made out:  it was not just a “marriage mart” (I think that was more the Victorian view of the place), but rather a club where the wheelers and dealers of Parliament wheeled their deals (and dealt their wheels?), and where you would meet everyone of importance on a Wednesday night.  So I expect there was some significant money lost and won at our Almack’s, too, on occasion.

Almacks’ was a gambling house that rented  out rooms for private events and the assembly.

The Games They Played

Vingt-un – similar to blackjack, where players attempt to obtain a hand totalling close to but no more than twenty-one. Vingt-un is a “round game” (with unlimited number of players) and is a favorite of Bingley.

Commerce – players trade cards in an attempt to score the best hand of three – ideally, three of a kind.  Commerce is also a “round game”.

Quadrille – a common gambling game restricted to four players at a time.

Loo – a “round game” that can be played with hands of three or five cards.

Cassino – players gamble on cards in hopes of scoring with a ten of diamongs or a two of spades.

Whist – similar to bridge, four players pair up in teams of two and gamble in a complex circuit of ‘trumps’.

Additional Terms:

fish – gambling chips

In Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter, the family has a gambling house where Faro was played. It was a game with a bank that people played against the house. They had a bouncer and usually had people by word of mouth because it was illegal to have a Faro bank.

The caricaturists of the day had a field day with a couple of high class women who were arrested for running a gambling house playing Faro. The news prints show them being whipped at the back side of a cart, which, obviously, did not happened, but the authors and artists advocated it.

The clubs and gambling hells had games with dealers and held the bank. People bet against the  house, which won more than 50% of the time. Private games were between two or more people. and they set their own terms and limits. In clubs one had to buy cards. In private parties cards were provided.

If you’re interested in a quick overview of games in Jane Austen, with quotes from her works, plus the rules of casino translated for modern players (that is, the rules are period, but rewritten to be clearer), you can find one on my very-out-of-date website at:

Jane Austen Summer Program provides a great overview of the card games played during the Regency, as mentioned by Miss Austen in her tales. You can find that information HERE.

Other Resources: 











Posted in British history, commerce, Living in the Regency | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

18 July 1817: The Death of Jane Austen, a Guest Post by Kyra Kramer

This is a repeat of a post from 2017 from Kyra Kramer. It speaks so poignantly of the loss of Jane Austen that I thought it appropriate to share here with you on the 202nd Anniversary of Jane Austen’s passing. 

The Death of a Great Author, and Greater Woman

Jane Austen passed away on 18 July 1817, at the age of only 41. She didn’t just deprive the future of English literature by her death; she left behind a devastated and grieving family. Her mother, and her seven beloved siblings, all survived her. Moreover, her nieces and nephews were bereft at losing the aunt who had so entertained, encouraged, and embraced them.

Before her death, Jane had been ailing for some time. There is intense speculation regarding what diseased ended her life, with the three main contenders being Addison’s disease of the adrenal glands, a type of cancer termed Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or a commonplace illness of the time period, disseminated bovine tuberculosis, contracted from contaminated milk. Because of the continued mental perspicacity marking Jane’s last days, the hypothesis of disseminated bovine tuberculosis appears more likely than either Addison’s disease or Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but without disinterring her and testing her remains, we can never know for certain what killed her. We can only know that it was physically distressing, chronic, and lingering. In March of 1816 she wrote to her niece, Fanny Austen-Knight, about her reoccurring illness:

“I am got tolerably well again, quite equal to walking about and enjoying the air, and by sitting down and resting a good while between my walks, I get exercise enough … Many thanks for your kind care for my health; I certainly have not been well for many weeks, and about a week ago I was very poorly. I have had a good deal of fever at times, and indifferent nights; but I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough — black and white, and every wrong colour. I must not depend upon being ever very blooming again. Sickness is a dangerous indulgence at my time of life … I was languid and dull and very bad company … I do not venture to church … I took my first ride yesterday, and liked it very much. I went up Mounter’s Lane and round by where the new cottages are to be, and found the exercise and everything very pleasant; and I had the advantage of agreeable companions, as [Aunt] Cass. and Edward walked by my side. [Aunt] Cass. is such an excellent nurse, so assiduous and unwearied!” 

Although Jane made light of her sickness in her cheerful letters, stressing her sporadic episodes of good health, by the next spring she was rapidly losing strength and mobility. One of life’s self-proclaimed “desperate walkers”, Jane could no longer enjoy long rambles around the Hampshire countryside by 1817, and was forced to remain bedridden or housebound with increasing frequency and duration. On 18 March her deteriorating health even made the master of “two-inches of ivory” put down her pen and give up work on her last, lamentably uncompleted novel, The Brothers (eventually retitled Sanditon). Jane wrote to her closest non-familial friend, governess and aspiring playwright Anne Sharp, on 22 May to explain that:

“In spite of my hopes & promises when I wrote to you I have since been very ill indeed. An attack of my sad complaint seized me within a few days afterwards – the most severe I ever had – & coming upon me after weeks of indisposition, it reduced me very low. I have kept my bed since 13. of April, with only removals to a Sopha. Now, I am getting well again, & indeed have been gradually tho’ slowly recovering my strength for the last three weeks. I can sit up in my bed & employ myself, as I am proving to you at this present moment, & really am equal to being out of bed, but that the posture is thought good for me.  … My head was always clear, & I had scarcely any pain; my cheif sufferings were from feverish nights, weakness and Languor”  [Further Reading: Jane Austen’s Dearest Friendship with Miss Sharp Still Resonates Today]

Although she made the best of things in her letters to friends and family, Jane was aware her illness was dire. She had written a will on 27 April, leaving the bulk of her worldly goods to her sister Cassandra, and had given her sister private information on whom she wished to leave very personal mementoes, such as a bodkin or some of Jane’s hair with which to make jewelry, as a mark of her affection. Her siblings and mother, however, stubbornly held out hope of Jane’s recovery, writing to one another with the good news whenever she felt the tiniest bit better, displaying a perfectly natural form of denial regarding their impending loss.

Throughout her decline, Jane was attended by the local apothecary, Mr William Curtis, who had cared for her with every consideration. Nonetheless, he was aware her amendment was beyond his skills, so Mr Curtis advised Jane’s family sometime in mid-May to take her to Winchester to see a physician attached to the Hampshire County Hospital, Dr Giles King Lyford. It was hoped that the esteemed Dr Lyford could restore Jane’s health with what would have been cutting-edge medical technology at the time. The Austens, of course, were willing to leave no stone unturned in the search for a cure, and immediately made plans to move Jane to Winchester. To this end they turned to close friends who were living there, Mrs Heathcote and Miss Bigg, (they were the older sisters of Jane’s fiancé of less than a day, Harris Bigg-Wither; they clearly held no grudge against her deciding against the union) to help them find lodgings for Jane and Cassandra. Mrs Heathcote and Miss Bigg were equal to their task, and they quickly secured a house at 8 College Street, near to their own home, for the Austens’ use. 

Public Domain ~ via Wikipedia ~ Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester. Rear view of the original Victorian pile on Romsey Road, with modern buildings clothing the hill to the south. A telephoto view from Whiteshute Ridge

Jane left Chawton Cottage for Winchester on 24 May under the care of her siblings, Cassandra and Henry Austen, and a nephew, William Austen-Knight. She wrote to her eldest brother’s son, James Edward Austen (known as Edward to the family, and the nephew would eventually adopt the surname Austen-Leigh and write the first biography of Jane’s life), to assure him her removal to Winchester went as smoothly as possible:

“Thanks to the kindness of your father and mother [Rev James Austen and Mary Lloyd Austen] in sending me their carriage, my journey hither on Saturday was performed with very little fatigue, and had it been a fine day, I think I should have felt none; but it distressed me to see uncle Henry and Wm. Knight [the fourth son of Jane’s brother, Edward Austen-Knight], who kindly attended us on horseback, riding in the rain almost all the way.”

Initially, the move to Winchester seemed to bring Jane a marked return to health. She promised her nephew Edward that, “neither that nor my face have yet recovered their proper beauty, but in other respects I am gaining strength very fast. I am now out of bed from 9 in the morning to 10 at night: upon the sopha, ’tis true, but I eat my meals with aunt Cass in a rational way, and can employ myself, and walk from one room to another.” She also joked with him that, “Mr. Lyford says he will cure me, and if he fails, I shall draw up a memorial and lay it before the Dean and Chapter, and have no doubt of redress from that pious, learned, and disinterested body.”

Jane likewise wrote to Mrs Frances Tilson (the wife of Henry Austen’s London banking partner) on 29 May that Dr Lyford was “encouraging, and talks of making me quite well. I live chiefly on the sopha, but am allowed to walk from one room to the other. I have been out once in a Sedan-chair, and am to repeat it, and be promoted to a wheel-chair as the weather serves. On this subject I will only say further that my dearest sister, my tender, watchful, indefatigable nurse, has not been made ill by her exertions.”

These cheerful letters may have brought those who cared about her some comfort, but it was sadly a false comfort. In private, Dr Lyford had warned family members that even though Jane was feeling a little better, “he must still consider her in a precarious state”. When James Austen went to Winchester to see Jane for himself in early June, he could not echo Jane’s determinedly upbeat reports. Instead, James was forced to tell his teenage son:

“I grieve to write what you will grieve to read; but I must tell you that we can no longer flatter ourselves with the least hope of having your dear valuable Aunt Jane restored to us. The symptoms which returned after the first four or five days at Winchester, have never subsided, and Mr. Lyford has candidly told us that her case is desperate. I need not say what a melancholy gloom this has cast over us all. Your Grandmamma has suffered much, but her affliction can be nothing to Cassandra’s. She will indeed be to be pitied. It is some consolation to know that our poor invalid has hitherto felt no very severe pain–which is rather an extraordinary circumstance in her complaint. I saw her on Tuesday and found her much altered, but composed and cheerful. She is well aware of her situation. Your Mother has been there ever since Friday and returns not till all is over–how soon that may be we cannot say–Lyford said he saw no signs of immediate dissolution, but added that with such a pulse it was impossible for any person to last long, and indeed no one can wish it–an easy departure from this to a better world is all that we can pray for. I am going to Winchester again to-morrow; you may depend upon early information, when any change takes place, and should then prepare yourself for what the next letter may announce.”

Jane was resigned to her death, but she did her utmost to relieve the emotional burdens of those who loved her. She even continued to jest playfully with her caregivers when she could, and made a point of thanking them all repeatedly. She was particularly careful to thank Mary Austen, the sister-in-law who came to stay with the Austen sisters for the final month of Jane’s life in order to share some of the burden of round-the-clock nursing with Cassandra. Jane had never been overly fond of Mary, who was snobbish and whom Jane felt had not made her dearest brother James very happy in marriage, and Jane was eager to make unspoken peace with Mary near the end, as is encouraged by the Anglican religion. 

There is also every indication that she was well enough to still enjoy being with friends and family. Not only did her sister Cassandra remain by Jane’s side almost without cessation, 8 College Street boasted numerous visitors to comfort and distract the patient. Mrs Heathcote and Miss Bigg were there nearly every day, and Mrs Heathcote in particular “was the greatest possible comfort to them all”. Regrettably, two of Jane’s best friends, Anne Sharp and Martha Lloyd, had neither the funds nor the ability to visit Winchester, but were faithful correspondents. Jane’s brother Henry made a frequent appearance in the neat little drawing room with its bow-window overlooking the headmaster of Winchester College’s garden, as did her nephew Charles Austen, who was attending the college at the time. Her brother’s James, Frank, and Charles were all able to come to her as well. However, no one seems to have thought that her brother George, whom may have had mental disabilities, would like to say farewell.

Jane’s mother missed the opportunity to see Jane in the final weeks of her existence, due to a combination of semi-hypochondrial bad heath and bone-deep denial that her youngest daughter was truly dying. When Jane passed way, her mother, in spite of having every forewarning that Jane’s death was imminent, was shocked by her youngest daughter’s death. She wrote to her granddaughter, Anne Austen Lefroy, “I am certainly in a good deal of affliction … I was not prepared for the Blow, for though it in a manner hung over us I had reason to think it at a distance, & was not quite without the hope that she might in part recover”.

Nor were there arrangements made for two of Jane’s most attached nieces, Fanny Austen-Knight and Anna Austen Lefroy, to come to Winchester. Neveretheless, they frequently wrote to their aunts, giving Jane a great deal of pleasure. Cassandra assured Fanny Austen-Knight that Jane “did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment. Even your last letter afforded pleasure. I merely cut the seal and gave it to her; she opened it and read it herself, afterwards she gave it to me to read, and then talked to me a little and not uncheerfully of its contents, but there was then a languor about her which prevented her taking the same interest in anything she had been used to do.”

As further evidence that Jane remained (at least outwardly, for her loved ones) brave and merry in the face of death, her brother Henry would later write that his sister, “retained her faculties, her memory, her fancy, her temper, her affections, warm, clear and unimpaired, to the last. Neither her love of God, nor of her fellow creatures flagged for a moment. She made a point of receiving the sacrament before excessive bodily weakness might have rendered her perception unequal to her wished. She wrote whilst she could hold a pen, and with a pencil when a pen became too laborious. The day before her death she composed some stanzas replete with fancy and vigour.”

This poem, entitled Venta, was a humorous verse about the rainy weather that occurred on St Swithun’s Day, July 15. Venta Belgarumhad been the Roman name for the city [the Latinized form of the Brittonic words meaning City of the Belgae] and erudite scholars of the local college loved to show off their knowledge by calling Winchester by its old appellation. Jane, with her usual wit and acerbic skewing of sociocultural absurdity, mocked everything about the pretentious nomenclature and the races that were held to celebrate St Swithun. 


When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of St. Swithin
And that William of Wykham’s approval was faint.

The races however were fix’d and determined
The company met & the weather was charming
The Lords & the Ladies were sattin’d & ermin’d
And nobody saw any future alarming.

But when the old Saint was inform’d of these doings
He made but one spring from his shrine to the roof
Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins
And thus he address’d them all standing aloof.

Oh subject rebellious, Oh Venta depraved!
When once we are buried you think we are dead
But behold me Immortal. — By vice you’re enslaved
You have sinn’d and must suffer. — Then further he said

These races & revels & dissolute measures
With which you’re debasing a neighbourly Plain
Let them stand — you shall meet with a curse in your pleasures
Set off for your course, I’ll pursue with my rain.

Ye cannot but know my command in July.
Henceforward I’ll triumph in shewing my powers,
Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry
The curse upon Venta is July in showers.

Having made this last sally into the written word, Jane Austen slipped off her mortal shell a little more than 48 hours later, dying in the wee hours of Friday, 18 July, with her head pillowed on her sister Cassandra’s lap. Cassandra sent a letter to Fanny Austen-Knight recounting Jane’s final moments:

“She felt herself to be dying about half an hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: ‘God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!’ Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible … he was seized again with the same faintness, which was followed by the sufferings she could not describe; but Mr. Lyford had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease, and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o’clock at the latest. [According to Henry Austen, Jane’s “last voluntary speech conveyed thanks to her medical attendant”.] From that time till half-past four, when she ceased to breathe, she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think, with gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her head, which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a half, when I took it again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last. I was able to close her eyes myself, and it was a great gratification to me to render her those last services. There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head, she gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now, in her coffin, there is such a sweet, serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate.”

Austen’s family and friends were profoundly grieved. Cassandra wrote, “I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well … I do think of her in every variety of circumstance. In our happy hours of confidential intercourse, in the cheerful family party which she so ornamented, in her sick room, on her death-bed, and as (I hope) an inhabitant of heaven. Oh, if I may one day be re-united to her there!” Fanny Austen-Knight also suffered “severely”, recording in her diary that she “had the misery of losing my dear Aunt Jane after a lingering illness”, and wrote several times to her Aunt Cassandra and her grandmother regarding the extent of their loss. Anne Austen Lefroy also felt the loss of Aunt Jane keenly, constantly eager to tell Jane some news or though, only to recall that she was no longer alive to receive the information. Anna’s young half-sister, 12 year old Caroline Austen, lamented that her sorrow made her feel as though she “had never loved and valued” her Aunt Jane as much as she should. Her brother James was so moved he composed a poem as an elegy for his sister, praising her multitudinous virtues. These effusions of sorrow are all proofs of a family in deepest mourning.   

Jane Austen was laid to rest in Winchester Cathedral on 24 July. As was customary, it was a small family affair, attended by her kinsmen because a funeral was considered too much for the deceased female relatives to bear. Jane’s brothers Frank and Henry were there, but Edward Austen came as his father’s surrogate (James’s was in ill health and they feared the grief might harm him constitutionally) and Charles Austen was unable to come away from his naval post in time. Cassandra wrote of the funeral, “Never was human being more sincerely mourned … than was this dear creature. May the sorrow with which she is parted with on earth be a prognostic of the joy with which she is hailed in heaven!”

A simple memorial stone covered Jane’s grave, saying:

In Memory of JANE AUSTEN youngest daughter of the late Rev GEORGE AUSTEN formerly Rector of Steventon in this County she departed this Life on the 18th July, 1817 aged 41, after a long illness supported with the patience and the hopes of a Christian. The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temperament the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections. Their grief is in proportion to their affection they know their loss to be irreparable but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER

There was no mention of her novels, or her success as a writer. For the Austen family, even her overwhelming abilities with the pen were overshadowed by the intense personal nature of her loss. Their dismay was for the absence of a sister and friend, not for the fact her career as an author was so sadly cut short. Not even works of Jane Austen’s magnitude could surpass her worth as a sibling and companion in their eyes.

This is not to say that they were unaware of her extraordinary literary gifts. Her grave may have borne no reference to her writing, but her brother Henry was lavish in his praise of her the obituary he submitted to the newspapers, listing all of her novels with great pride. He furthermore declared that “the whole catalogue of the mighty dead” buried at Winchester Cathedral did “not contain the ashes of a brighter genius”.

Although we probably can all agree with Henry’s assessment of his sister’s talents, we can none of us understand the depths of the Austen family’s pain at losing one of their own. As Austen herself wrote in Mansfield Park, the sibling bond is “a strengthener of love, in which even the conjugal tie is beneath the fraternal. Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connexions can supply”. In a way it is a blessing that Jane was the first to go; she alone was spared the anguish of losing a brother or sister. English literature has suffered for her early demise, but Jane herself did not.

In our regrets for the loss of such a magnificent author, we sometimes neglect the fact she was a wonderful person, as well.

Meet Kyra Kramer: Kyra Cornelius Kramer is a freelance academic with BS degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. She has written essays on the agency of the Female Gothic heroine and women’s bodies as feminist texts in the works of Jennifer Crusie. She has also co-authored two works; one with Dr. Laura Vivanco on the way in which the bodies of romance heroes and heroines act as the sites of reinforcement of, and resistance to, enculturated sexualities and gender ideologies, and another with Dr. Catrina Banks Whitley on Henry VIII.

Ms. Kramer lives in Bloomington, IN with her husband, three young daughters, assorted pets, and occasionally her mother, who journeys northward from Kentucky in order to care for her grandchildren while her daughter feverishly types away on the computer. [Amazon Author Page]


















When her widowed uncle made her home untenable, Mary made the best of things by going to live with her elder sister, Mrs Grant, in a parson’s house the country. Mansfield Parsonage was more than Mary had expected and better than she could have hoped. Gregarious and personable, Mary also embraced the inhabitants of the nearby Mansfield Park, watching the ladies set their caps for her dashing brother, Henry Crawford, and developing an attachment to Edmund Bertram and a profound affection for his cousin, Fanny Price.

Mansfield Parsonage retells the story of Mansfield Park from the perspective of Mary Crawford’s hopes and aspirations and shows how Fanny Price’s happily-ever-after came at Mary’s expense.

Posted in book release, British history, buildings and structures, Georgian England, Guest Post, Jane Austen, literature, Living in the Regency, Regency era, Regency personalities, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Jane Austen and the Romance Novel

File:Romance.png - Wikimedia Commons

File:Romance.png – Wikimedia Commons

According to the Romance Writers of America, “the main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters’ romantic love. Furthermore, a romance novel must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”

Wikipedia says, “The romance novel is a literary genre developed in Western culture, mainly in English-speaking countries. Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Separate from their type, a romance novel can exist within one of many subgenres, including contemporary, historical, science fiction and paranormal. One of the earliest romance novels was Samuel Richardson’s popular 1740 novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, which was revolutionary on two counts: it focused almost entirely on courtship and did so entirely from the perspective of a female protagonist. In the next century, Jane Austen expanded the genre, and her Pride and Prejudice is often considered the epitome of the genre. Austen inspired Georgette Heyer, who introduced historical romances in 1921.”

 "Romance (Word)" Stock photo and royalty-free images on - Pic 17800826

“Romance (Word)” Stock photo and royalty-free images on – Pic 17800826

Chick Lit (according to the Metropolitan Library System in Illinois), on the other hand, explores the personal, professional, and romantic lives of young, single, working women. Quirky protagonists and humor distinguish the genre as these women look for love and deal with often less than desirable jobs. Some general characteristics of chick lit:

Written by women for women

First person-personal voice (confiding to reader)

Humor is important

Discuss life issues (love, marriage, dating, relationships, friendships, jobs, weight)

Circle of friends for support

Dead end jobs they usually hate, often with bad bosses

Unsuitable boyfriends or a lack of one

Urban-but no real sense of place

Outrageous situations

Main character drifting through life

May have overbearing/interfering mother, family

Obsessed with fashion, weight, shopping

romance-novel-facts-ftr.jpgSo, does Jane Austen fit into any of these categories? Specifically, can Pride and Prejudice serve as a model for the modern romance or chick lit novel? Let us make some assumptions.

Pride and Prejudice is the story of an intelligent, sassy young woman. “‘Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!’ cried Elizabeth. ‘That is an uncommon advantage and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be a great loss to me to have many such acquaintances. I dearly love to laugh.'”

Elizabeth Bennet has an unpredictable family, especially her mother. “’An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.’”

The book has a “relatable” heroine, a sympathetic and believable creation. We all see ourselves as Elizabeth Bennet, a woman demanding that a man choose her for something other than her looks or her position in society. Can you not see your reaction if Mr. Darcy called you not “tolerable”? “Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained, with no very cordial feelings toward him. She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.”

Elizabeth Bennet takes pleasure in observing the faults of others, as well as the quirks of society. She claims to be a student of humanity. As a woman possessing an ironic sense of humor, I most definitely enjoy Elizabeth’s quips. “They were, in fact, very fine ladies; not deficient in good humor when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable when they chose it; but proud and conceited.”

Yet, Elizabeth is equally critical of herself and her apparent flaws. This is something with which many people experience difficulty. It is extremely hard to own up to our own faults.  “She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes.”

Elizabeth Bennet’s female relationships are as important, if not more important, than her relationship with Mr. Darcy. We view her as a loyal sister, especially to Jane Bennet. She is also a devoted friend to Charlotte Lucas, even tolerating Mr. Collins in order to visit with her friend. “Indeed, jane, you ought to believe me. No one who has ever seen you together can doubt his affection; Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot; she is not such a simpleton.”

Pride and Prejudice is a female-centered book, not just in the main character’s point of view, but also many of the minor characters. I always say Mr. Darcy is a major-minor character. He actually holds a minor role in the book. Think upon how many passages  are devoted to Elizabeth’s interaction with Mr. Darcy. Then think of the multiple conversations between Elizabeth and Jane, Elizabeth and Aunt Gardiner, and Elizabeth and Charlotte. Like modern women, Austen’s characters discuss the men they encounter; they analyze every word or action. “Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.”

Elizabeth is coming to terms with her family complications, Charlotte’s irresponsible choices, and her own prejudices throughout the novel. This assists her in coming to a decision as to whether an alliance with Mr. Darcy is what she really wants in life. “We will not quarrel for the greater share of blame annexed to that evening,” said Elizabeth. “The conduct of neither, if strictly examined, will be irreproachable, but since then we have both, I hope, improved in civility.”

She changes dramatically throughout the book. Elizabeth admits that Mr. Darcy does not change. “’How despicably have I acted!’ she cried. ‘I, who have prided myself on my discernment!’”

Do you not adore the way Elizabeth reacts when Charlotte Lucas marries Mr. Collins? Have you not had a friend marry someone you thought was so “WRONG”? Or what about that awkward situation when all your friends are married, and you are not? “She had always felt that Charlotte’s opinion of matrimony was not exactly like her own; but she could no have supposed it possible that, when called into action, she would have sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage.”

What of all those bad boys you encountered? Elizabeth meets a “womanizer” in the form of Mr. Wickham, a man whose only genuine quality is his handsome face. Wickham appears to be the perfect romantic hero, but “first impressions” are faulty. In reality, he’s a pathological liar and a scoundrel. “Wickham was not at all more distressed than herself; but his manners were always so pleasing, that had his character and his marriage been exactly what they ought, his smiles and easy address, while he claimed their relationship. would have delighted them all.”

Although Mr. Darcy is the romantic hero of the Pride and Prejudice (and assuming you have no images of Colin Firth emerging from a placid lake in a wet shirt or of Matthew Macfadyen walking through the morning mist with an open shirt and lots of chest hair), you probably do not care for the man. In fact, Austen manipulates the reader before revealing Darcy’s true worth. Quite frankly, he’s a “prat.”  “‘That is very true,’ replied Elizabeth, ‘and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.'”

177050__feelings-love-romance-life-recognition-speech-daisy-heart_p.jpgSo, do you see similar themes and plot points in modern romance novels (whether they be contemporary, westerns, paranormal, or historical)? I do every time I read a romance. Add comments below if you agree, or even if you disagree. 

Posted in books, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Regency era, romance | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

When Might the Heir Style Himself With His New Title in Regency Romances?

First, for legal purposes, the man must present himself to the House of Lords to claim the title officially. After the will has been read and its stipulations executed, the new peer must petition the Lord Chancellor for a writ of summon to the House of Lords to be seated in the current or in the next session of Parliament. The new peer will be expected to prove that his parents were legally married, and he is the legal son and heir produced by that marriage. He must prove he has reached his majority (twenty-one years or older) and a member of the Church of England. No matter, whether the man is the heir apparent or the heir presumptive, he must prove how he is related to the deceased and prove that his father and all others with a claim to the peerage who preceded him are deceased and were legitimate children of the marriage of their parents.

If the proofs are accepted the new peer is issued a writ of summons to appear before the House of Lords, where he participates in an elaborate ceremony before accepting his seat in the Lords. 

However, all this pomp and ceremony is not necessary before the man is styled (addressed as) by his new title. In reality, this “tradition” is a matter of how the man chooses to style himself until the title is officially conferred. In romance novels, it often can be used to address the person’s true character. If he possesses a solid claim to the peerage, and everyone knows it, he might well assume the title at once as a form of address. He could do so to secure another’s security or protect the peerage from an unscrupulous outside force. Naturally, he would not have access to any of the estate or funds or rights of the title until it is legally confirmed, but he can conduct business in the name of the peerage. If his claim is a bit shaky, he or others might want to avoid that until it is proven.

For more on the ceremony, fees, etc., check out Nancy Regency Researcher

If he is a stickler for legal protocols, he might not assume it at once–but others might. And, naturally, one must keep in mind the author should avoid confusing the reader with references to both the title and his surname, which might seem like two different characters, so that becomes a bit tricky.

When a father dies, the transfer of power and title happens automatically.  The father’s will might require some wait for probate of some items, but usually the executor and a solicitor see to all of it. 

Notice of the death of the previous peer is customarily sent to the College of Arms and the name of the new peer recorded by them. All is straightforward and usually goes without a hitch.

Sometimes the process is excessively easy. For example, when Lord Byron succeeded to his great uncle’s peerage at age 10, he did nothing, and all simply assumed he  was entitled to the peerage. He was not brought up in aristocratic circles so he became very angry when he was told that in order to take his seat in the House of Lords he had to prove he was the rightful successor. This meant he had to show his father’s relationship to the previous peer and that his father was born of a valid marriage and that he was born in a valid marriage and that his great uncle’s sons were dead and without issue. As one might expect that process involved fees. Fortunately Byron only had to show proof of a couple of generations Sometimes the proofs had proof must go back six generations.

Wyllie, William Morrison; The House of Lords; Parliamentary Art Collection;

When the Frederick Berkeley, 5th Earl of Berkley died, his oldest son applied for a Writ of Summons to the House of Lords. Berkeley and Mary Cole (who also passed under the name of Tudor), the daughter of a local publican and butcher, had seven sons and five daughters, but the disputed date of their marriage prevented their elder sons from succeeding as Earl of Berkeley and Baron Berkeley. The pair asserted their marriage had taken place on 30 March 1785, but the earliest ceremony of which there is incontrovertible proof was a wedding in Lambeth Church, Surrey, on 16 May 1796, at which date Mary was pregnant with their seventh child. Berkeley settled Berkeley Castle upon their eldest son, William FitzHardinge Berkeley, but William’s attempt to assume his father’s honours were disallowed by the House of Lords, who considered him illegitimate.

Therefore, the Committee on Privilege turned down the eldest’s request, saying he and the other brothers born before 1795 were illegitimate, and the earldom had fallen to the 16-year-old born in 1796. Berkeley’s titles devolved as a matter of law upon his fifth but first legitimate son, Thomas Morton Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1796–1882), but were never used by him and he did not take his seat in the House of Lords. Per his father’s will, he would have lost his small inheritance had he disputed his eldest brother’s claim to the titles. The boy was too young, for he had not reached his majority, to do anything about the matter, and his oldest brother and mother ran things. When he came of age, he still never put forth a claim to the earldom. However, he was, by right and law, the earl, so anything requiring the signature of the earl had to be signed by him. He signed responsibility over to his oldest brother, but the title itself went dormant until he died. The title was dormant for most of the  century. The oldest son was created a peer by William IV who also created his own eldest son a peer.

Other Sources: 

The Skinny on Abdicating a Title During the Regency Era 

What is the Difference Between a Peerage that is Dormant, Extinct or in Abeyance?



Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, buildings and structures, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, peerage, titles of aristocracy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , ,