Life Below Stairs: English Servants Emigrating to Australia, Part II

Previously, we looked at how some servants chose to emigrate to Australia rather than to remain in England. You may find that discussion HERE: 

Life Below Stairs: English Servants Emigrating to Australia, Part I

Family-group-SLV-H2005.34103.jpg An article entitled “Mistress and Maid” from The Victorian Magazine (Vol. XXVI, 1876, London, page 509) tells us “Australia offers to the young woman of the working class, high wages, a splendid climate, and greater liberty than she could enjoy at home, either in service or in a workshop, and these high wages can be earned without further qualification than strong health, strong arms, a willing mind and a good character.” The girls who emigrated found a much freer society than they had left behind in England. In Australia, they found a “fairer” situation, one removed from the petty aspirations and gross exploitations they met in set structure of household servants in England. They also found higher wages and better working conditions, as well as the possibility of an advantageous marriage. 

Although they were expected to clean their own rooms and wash their own clothes, servants in Australia in the 1870s made between £20 and £26 per year. Women cooks earned as high as £40. Governesses, especially in the rural areas of Australia, were considered a prize servant. They could earn between £80 and £100. 


Jane Resture’s Oceania Page Girls of Australia learning the domestic arts.

One of the biggest differences was the ability of the servants to find a suitable marriage. The women received multiple marriage proposals, not always from gentlemen (for those high and in demand household servants), but at least from hard-working men who were looking for a woman to help build their land. These women could look forward to a handsome and comfortable house. The only “danger” was accepting a bushman who had yet to earn the fortune they claimed to possess. Multiple offers of marriage were not uncommon. Emigration could change a maid into a mistress. 

Posted in British history, servant life, Victorian era | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Literary Origins and April Fool’s Day

April Fools’ Day (alternatively April Fool’s Day, sometimes All Fools’ Day) is celebrated on 1 April every year. 1 April is not a national holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated in various countries as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other called April fools.

In parts of Europe, children and adults tack paper fishes on each other’s back as a trick and shout “April fish!” These late 19th to early 20th Century postcards reflect this tradition. 

Transparent Language tells us, “It is thought that April Fool’s Day is the result of the Ancient Roman festival Hilaria and the Medieval festival known as the Feast of Fools. The Feast of Fools, also known as festum fatuorum,( feast of fools) festum stultorum (feast of the silly or simple), was celebrated during the months of December or January. The Medieval festival,  Feast of Fools, finds its roots within the Roman festival known as Saturnalia. You can learn more about the Saturnalia here. So like the Saturnalia, the Feast of Fool sought to overturn the societal norms of status and class.

” Feast of Fools and the Church ~ In the festival, young people would chose to play a mock pope, archbishop, bishop, or abbot to reign as Lord of Misrule.  Participants of the festival would then “consecrate” him with many ridiculous ceremonies in the nearest main church, giving names such as Archbishop of DoltsAbbot of Unreason, or Pope of Fools.  This consecration ceremony often mocked the performance of the highest offices of the church. While other participants dressed a sundry of masks and disguises, engaged in songs and dances and practiced all manner of revelry within the church building. The Feast of Fools was eventually discontinued and forbidden 1431 for its blasphemous manner.

 “April Fool’s Day and Hilaria ~ The ancient festival known as Hilaria (Latin for cheerful, merry, joyful) was celebrated on the vernal (spring) equinox in honor of the goddess Cybele. The goddess Cybele has a long and extended history from Anatolia to Rome. The Romans celebrated Hilaria, as a feria stativa (a set free day [i.e no work]), on March 25 in honor of Cybele, the mother of the gods. The days of the festival were devoted to general rejoicings and public sacrifices (hence its name), and no one was allowed to show any symptoms of grief or sorrow( unless it was the “Day of Mourning”).

“According to the historian Herodian, there was a procession and a statue of the goddess was carried. Before this statue, the most costly works of art belonging either to wealthy Romans or to the emperors themselves proceeded. All kinds of games and amusements were allowed on this day; masquerades were the most prominent among them, and everyone might, in his disguise, imitate whomsoever he liked, and even magistrates.”

The earliest recorded association between 1 April and foolishness is an ambiguous reference in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392). Many writers suggest that the restoration of 1 January by Pope Gregory XIII as New Year’s Day of the Gregorian Calendar in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, sometimes questioned for earlier references.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. Thus, the passage originally meant 32 days after April, i.e. 2 May, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “March 32,” i.e. 1 April. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

In the late 17th Century, Francis Osborne mentions the “impertinent errands, as the Dutch youth do fools on the second of April,” in his Deductions from the History of the Earl of Essex (1659). In 1686, John Aubrey mentions a “Fooles holy day. We observe it on ye first of April. And so it is kept in Germany everywhere” in his Remains of Gentilism and Judaism tells us, “The French term for ‘April Fool’ is ‘poisson d’Avril.’ It translates literally as ‘April Fish.’ The term appears in several late-medieval French poems — first in the work of Pierre Michault (1466) and next in La Livre de la Deablerie (1508), by Eloy d’Amerval. This has led some to suggest, quite reasonably, that these may be early April Fool’s Day references. However, etymologists believe that the phrase ‘poisson d’Avril’ originally referred to a matchmaker, or to someone who delivered messages between two lovers. It was only in the late 17th century that the phrase acquired its modern association with April Fool’s Day. And if we examine these late-medieval poems, we see that this is the case. For example, Michault’s poem describes the advice being given to a page, who is being told how to deliver messages between a lord and lady to further their illicit affair, and how to do this to his own advantage. Michault writes:

Now you should say to the Lord, ah, sir, I know of a fine and pleasing advantage, by which for a doublet I shall bring you together; truthfully, carnal love is a proper desire, and thus there is no danger or peril, but still, I shall be your ‘poisson d’avril’.

“There’s no indication that this has anything to do with April Fool’s Day. Likewise, d’Amerval wrote, “le chief des ruffyens, Houlier, putier, macquereau infame De maint homme et de mainte fame, Poisson d’Apvril.” Loosely translated, this means something like, “chief ruffian, whore-monger, pimp of many a man and many a woman, panderer (April fish).” The way d’Amerval is using the phrase doesn’t suggest any connection with April Fool’s Day.

” Therefore, these early uses of the phrase ‘poisson d’Avril,’ although intriguing, do not appear to be references to April Fool’s Day. [Meanwhile, there is] Verzenderkensdag. In 1561, the Flemish poet Eduard De Dene, who lived in the city of Bruges, published his Testament Rhetoricael. The book consisted of a large collection of poems and songs, and ‘published’ is perhaps not the right word to describe its debut, since it was entirely handwritten. But on page 358, the book included a poem titled “Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach.” This is late-medieval Dutch meaning (approximately) “Refrain on fool’s errand-day / which is the first of April.” The poem described a nobleman who sent his servant back and forth on various absurd errands on April 1st, ostensibly to help prepare for a wedding feast.

De Dene’s Testament Rhetoricael, page 358.
The ‘April Fool’ poem begins on the bottom of the right-hand page. (Detail below)

“There’s no doubt that the poem is about April Fool’s Day. In fact, in Belgium April 1 is still referred to as “Verzenderkensdag”. So this poem is the earliest unambiguous reference to April Fool’s Day that we currently know of. Its existence establishes that the Dutch have been playing pranks on April 1 since at least the mid-sixteenth century. Given that De Dene assumes his readers are familiar with “verzendekens dach,” it’s probable that the custom is much older than the 1560s. But exactly how much older, we don’t know.

Many writers suggest that April Fools Day began because those who celebrated the beginning of the year on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated it on 1 April. Unfortunately, this simple explanation does not take into account of the spread of the holiday in parts of Europe. The Gregorian calendar was not adopted in England until 1752, but a “Fools” day held roots dating back to Medieval times. 

An 1857 ticket to "Washing the Lions" at the Tower of London in London. No such event ever took place.

An 1857 ticket to “Washing the Lions” at the Tower of London in London. No such event ever took place.

There is also no historical evidence, only conjecture as to how the change from the Julian to the Georgian calendar affected this holiday’s origin.

The use of 1 January as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

A study in the 1950s, by folklorists Iona and Peter Opie, found that in the UK, and in countries whose traditions derived from the UK, the joking ceased at midday. A person playing a joke after midday is the “April fool” themselves. But this practice appears to have lapsed in more recent years.

In Scotland, April Fools’ Day is traditionally called Hunt-the-Gowk Day (“gowk” is Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person), although this name has fallen into disuse. The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message requesting help of some sort. In fact, the message reads “Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile.” The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this person with an identical message, with the same result.

The 1 April tradition in France, Romandy and French-speaking Canada includes poisson d’avril (literally “April’s fish”), attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being noticed. This is also widespread in other nations, such as Italy, where the term Pesce d’aprile (literally “April’s fish”) is also used to refer to any jokes done during the day. This custom also exists in certain areas of Belgium, including the province of Antwerp. The Flemish tradition is for children to lock out their parents or teachers, only letting them in if they promise to bring treats the same evening or the next day.

In Poland, prima aprilis (“April 1” in Latin) is a day full of jokes; various hoaxes are prepared by people, media (which sometimes cooperate to make the “information” more credible) and even public institutions. Serious activities are usually avoided. This conviction is so strong that the anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I signed on 1 April 1683, was backdated to 31 March.

The Official April Fool’s Day FAQ

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Jane Austen, Contagions, & the Danger of Doubling, a Guest Post from Collins Hemingway

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 19 March 2020. I thought it appropriate to repeat here. 

It has been so long since a disastrous contagion swept through the Western world that most of us have forgotten how deadly contagious diseases are. The scariest in my lifetime was polio, because the disease could cripple as well as kill. I remember lining up at the local high school with all the other kids to get the first polio vaccine.

In 1969, the Hong Kong flu swept through my college, leaving me and many others—all healthy young people—bedridden for more than a week. The Spanish flu in 1918 killed between 25 and 50 million people—more than all the deaths caused by the violence of World War I.

Historically, things were worse. Yellow fever took nearly half of all the British who went to the West Indies. The disease killed Tom Fowle, the fiancé of Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra, on a military ship cruising in the Indies. So many white men died in the region of “yellow jack” that the British military purchased 13,400 enslaved blacks to fill out their ranks. The men were promised freedom at the end of their service.

Jane and Cassandra nearly died from typhus as children. The mother of their cousin did die from it when she came to care for the two girls and her own daughter, who was also infected. Jane also contracted whooping cough (pertussis), and probably other diseases. None of Austen’s novels deal with a major epidemic, though they would have broken out regularly. Emma (above, by headline), would have been in particular danger because of her regular visits to villagers suffering “sickness and poverty together.”

Jane Austen survived typhus, whooping cough (pertussis), and likely other serious contagious illnesses in her life.

People should be aware that Native Americans were largely wiped out by pestilence brought to the New World by Europeans. The only reason the New World could be settled en masse is that upwards of ninety percent of its original inhabitants had died since the first Spanish explorations. Smallpox was one of the most devastating. Native Americans had no resistance. In England, it could kill 30 percent of a village. In America, it could kill almost everyone.

Smallpox vaccinations began to occur in England after Edward Jenner’s proof that the method worked. Mrs. Lefroy, one of Austen’s mentors, led a campaign to vaccinate children in Hampshire in the late 1790s. The practice remained controversial, though. Jane’s brother Edward did not have his family vaccinated until 1810.

Some diseases no longer frighten us because vaccines have largely eliminated them. During Jane Austen’s day, measles killed as many people as smallpox or typhus, or it weakened individuals enough that they succumbed to others. In the early 1500s, measles in Cuba killed two-thirds of the people who had survived smallpox and killed half the people in Honduras.

Despite the development of modern vaccines, the high contagion rate by measles makes it a continued scourge. Measles, which is twice as infectious as the flu and covid-19, caused 134,200 deaths in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

In avoiding vaccines, people have counted on “herd immunity” protecting them—because the rest of us were vaccinated, the risk of measles spreading was close to nil. Now, however, so many people have used the same ploy that gaps have opened in herd immunity. Refusal to vaccinate has led to a return of the disease in the U.S.; deaths rose from 37 people in 2004 to 667 people in 2014, the last year for which reliable numbers are available. Seven children died of pertussis in 2016, despite the availability of a vaccine.

Children under the age of five have always been the most likely to become infected and to die from measles and pertussis. Older people are more likely to die of the flu and related infections. People beyond the age of sixty have weaker immune systems and are more likely to have developed other conditions that render them more susceptible.

This recapitulation brings us to the current covid-19 pandemic. Health authorities have urged serious action, including shutting down all but the most critical activities and self-isolating to avoid the spread. Some people are claiming that these actions are too extreme. If the pandemic peters out, no doubt a few naysayers will claim the whole thing was an overreaction.

Truth is, if we do all the right things, the naysayers to be right: the pandemic will fade away. They’ll be wrong, however, about the reason. It’s not that fears of the disease were overblown. It’s that we took the steps to break the power of doubling.

Contagions spread in predictable ways. Worldwide, covid-19 cases are doubling every five days as one person infects several more. In Italy, cases are doubling every three days, which is why they have been overwhelmed. That’s why we’ve seen diseases in the past that have killed large parts of the population.

But if you have only 20 or 30 cases, you figure the crisis will be far down the road. That’s what the naysayers assume. They don’t recognize the danger of doubling. If you put one grain of sand in the first square of a chessboard, and double it to two in the next square, and double that to four in the next, and so on across the board … by the time you’ve gotten to the last square, you’ll have more grains of sand than exist on the earth!

If the U.S. has 4,000 cases today, and the cases double every five days through a normal spread through the population without any preventive measures, we’ll have 32,000 cases by the end of the month, 256,000 on April 15, a million cases by April 25, and 16 million cases by May 15. (The official U.S. number jumped from 3,400 to 5,200 overnight. I’m using 4,000 as a convenient base.)

At 16 million cases, one to two million people will require hospitalization. That number overwhelms our hospital beds, ventilators, and other infrastructure. Ventilators are the critical device for compromised lungs. The load also overwhelms doctors, nurses, and other care providers. (See Italy.)

Very likely, the current number of U.S. cases is much higher. One county in California just reported its first two deaths. With a mortality rate of 2-3 percent, this means about 100 people are infected. Yet the official county number is only 20. If this is typical countrywide, then the current U.S. number is closer to 20,000 than 4,000-5,000. This means 80 people could be wandering around in the one county, unknowingly infecting others, while 15,000 people are doing the same nationwide.

We don’t have good numbers because, for inexplicable reasons, the government did not authorize private labs to create testing kits all the way back in January. We’re only just now getting a fair number in the field to know what the correct caseload might be. We could be hitting the “knee of the curve,” when the numbers shoot up into the millions, even sooner than mid-May.

The pandemic affects more than people with the disease. People needing treatment for other serious diseases, including the flu, may have no care available. If you need emergency surgery, an acquaintance pointed out, your doctor likely will have been working round the clock for weeks. Your surgical station might be a tent on the front lawn. The hospital might be low on antibiotics or other meds. And, of course, you’ll be surrounded by people carrying a deadly disease.

There’s only one way to break the power of doubling: end the physical connections between people that enable the disease to spread. Doubling once every five days results in a number 64 times as large as doubling once a month. By separating ourselves, we can flatten the curve, spread out and reduce the number of cases, keep the peak below the level of “hospital collapse,” benefit from a possible  summer falloff, and hang on until a vaccine arrives in 12 to 18 months.

If we do bring the pandemic to a halt, let’s be wise enough to know why it stopped. Not because fears were overblown but because we acted aggressively when the numbers were still low. Now is when we can make a difference. Let’s do the right thing—which is to remain as far as we can from as many people as we can until we have a handle on this thing.

Anyone for reading a great Austen novel in isolation under a tree?

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, which traces love from a charming courtship through the richness and complexity of marriage and concludes with a test of the heroine’s courage and moral convictions, is now complete and available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books.


Posted in American History, Austen Authors, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, medicine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Life Below Stairs: English Servants Emigrating to Australia, Part I

Liverpoo.gifIn the mid to late 1840s, many girls in service decided to make the arduous journey from England to Australian ports. One must remember that the journey took three to four months to complete, depending upon the weather and the winds. Clipper ships were still being used for such journeys for they were more economical than steam-driven ships. The clippers would export their “live lumber” and bring back a much needed import to English shores. Many died during the journey. Illness and harsh treatment was commonplace. It was not unusual to have 50 to 100 to die during the journey. Many of those deaths were babies of women who hoped for a better way for them and theirs. 

Some of the agents hired to gather candidates for the servant class presented the girls free passage. They also were not opposed to giving free passage to prostitutes. The girls were not promised protection on the journey, and many found themselves debauched by the men aboard ship. 

janilye-4794-full.gifIn 1846, South Australia appointed matrons to oversee the girls in hopes of securing more appropriate candidates. This became a common practice. As many as fifty to sixty employers met with each of the “acceptable” girls. It cost about £20 per girl (train fare to Portsmouth, bedding, and fare) to bring a woman from England to Australia. Queensland and South Australia groups often absorbed the cost of the girls’ voyages to bring reliable help to their homes. These schemes were abandoned when governmental economic issues interfered with the practice. Even so, thousands of servant girls arrived in Australia thanks to these programs. 

“In the decade from 1878 to 1888, over 21,000 female servants went out to Queensland alone, a total surpassed only by the number of farm workers who emigrated to the same colony. Nevertheless, the demand remained so high, that is could never be wholly satisfied. Some girls elected to stop off even before they reached Australia, as there was always an eager queue of would-be employers waiting at Colombo, Batavia, and Thursday Island and, after the Suez Canal had been opened in 1869, at Malta, Port Said, and Aden, too. One young woman servant, who disembarked at Thursday Island, off the northern tip of Queensland, eventually amassed a fortune of £15,000 by becoming the owner of five pearl-fishing boats and of the island’s best hotel. For those who completed the voyage, adequate provision had been made for them to obtain suitable situations. In the early days, some girls had drifted into prostitution through the great temptations which prevailed in the pioneer towns with their great excess of single men. In 1841, Mrs. Caroline Chisholm, the wife of an Indian Army officer, established a home and registry office in Sydney and, later, at her own expense, took her first party of girls, who had been frightened by ‘foolish stories about blacks and robbers in the bush,’ up river on a steamer to a district called Hunters River, where all sixty girls soon found situations at double the wages they could have obtained in Sydney. She went on to establish four more homes and sent many servants out to famers in the bush. By the 1850s, New South Wales had also set up its own official depot, where servant girls could live in charge of a matron until they were hired. (Both publican and lodging house keepers were prohibited from hiring single girls for obvious reasons.)” (Frank E. Huggett, Life Below Stairs, Book Club Associates London. pages 139 -141) 

Posted in British history, business, commerce, servant life, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Celebrating the Release of “Courting Lord Whitmire: A May-December Regency Romance” + a Giveaway

The hero of my latest Regency tale has spent fifteen years of his life is service to the Crown, first upon the Continent in the Napoleonic Wars and then upon the Canadian front, in what was known as Rupert’s Land, which was a large part of Canada that was under the control of the Hudson Bay Company. 

At Waterloo, Lord Andrew Whitmire witnessed the death of his best friend, Mr. Robert Coopersmith, an act of war that has haunted him for five years. In this scene from “Courting Lord Whitmire,” the reader learns something of what it was like for the survivors. 

Courting Lord Whitmire: A May-December Regency 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.


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Excerpt from Chapter 4 

Before Andrew could respond to such a wild assertion, the unthinkable arrived. From somewhere off to his right, an explosion occurred, and, instinctively, he dived for the hard floor of the balcony, taking Miss Coopersmith down with him. For a few brief seconds he relived the horrors of war. Covering her with his body, he clasped his hands on the back of his head to protect it and waited for the debris to rain down upon them. However, nothing happened. The ground did not tremble beneath him, nor did another round of explosions follow closely after the first. He attempted to remind himself to breathe, but his mind searched for an end to the nightmare passing before his eyes.

He held his breath, fearing even to inhale or exhale. At length, a soft hand caressed his cheek. An angel’s touch permitting him a taste of heaven. “My lord? Whitmire? My lord, do you hear me?”

Slowly, he opened his eyes to discover the concerned expression upon the face of the woman who had executed havoc upon his dreams of late. “Forgive me, Miss Coopersmith,” he murmured in embarrassment. What had he done? The lady would certainly despise him after his most unbecoming of actions. Moreover, if it were Matilda beneath him, instead of Miss Coopersmith, he would have frightened his daughter to complete distraction. Was he any better off than Robert Coopersmith? Robert would have been embarrassed by his learned behaviors, while he, Andrew Whitmire, would be the laughing stock of the shire for ducking his head at each loud noise he encountered.

Again, the lady’s fingers stroked his cheek providing him comfort. “Forgive you, my lord? Should I forgive you for placing yourself between me and what you perceived as danger?”

Andrew attempted to make sense of what had taken place, but his heart still raced in anticipation. “There was an explosion,” he said without satisfaction.

“I know.” She continued to speak in quiet tones. “You were very brave.”

How could she think so? Miss Coopersmith held no idea of the savagery of war. “Perhaps today,” he spoke in sorrowful tones. “But I was not always brave. I was not the brave one at Waterloo,” he confessed. Odd that he would tell another—someone who was essentially a complete stranger what he had never spoken to anyone. Was not confession a weakness? And he had never considered himself weak. He had always thought to suffer his punishments in silence, but he spoke to the one person his heart said would not betray him, “I sidestepped a French officer charging at me, pulling him from his horse and dispatching him to his God. Then, I turned to view my end. I froze in place.”

Despite his best effort, tears formed in his eyes, knowing the final scene before the action began, while praying for a different outcome. “Robert was close by, as he always was when we were in battle, literally, fighting all comers, back-to-back, and he knocked me from the way. A cannonball.” His breath caught painfully in his chest. “Hit him, not me.” Again, he had no idea what had driven him to speak so intimately to her—of all people—of that fateful day. Without knowing the reason of it, he had accepted the fact she would not judge him. Looking into her eyes, he could do nothing less than to confess the secrets of his soul. “I should not have burdened you with the truth of your cousin’s death.”

“Oh, my darling,” she whispered, before tugging him into a loose embrace. “Listening to your story does not mean you have placed a burden upon my shoulders, for I know we share the load together.” She rested on the base of the balcony with him now bent over her. “You were not to blame,” she continued. “You simply did not recognize the vagaries of Robert’s personality. It is said within the family that Robert was excessively merry, followed by periods of equally imprudent unhappiness.”

Andrew lifted his head a few inches, so he might look more fully upon her. “Are you saying Robert meant to die that day?” This was a new realization for him, one he had never considered. An image of Robert on that fateful day flashed before Andrew’s eyes. In reality, his friend had taken more than the usual number of chances during the battle. However, Andrew had always thought Robert was as sick of the fighting as had been he and fought with such ferociousness because his friend wished to return home as much as had Andrew, but Miss Coopersmith was suggesting something he had never considered. Part of him wished to permit himself absolution, while part of him rebuked the idea.

The lady presented him a faint shrug. “No one will ever know, but even Uncle Spenser has considered the possibilities aloud. We all knew Robert did not wish to return to England. As the battle turned toward a British victory, perhaps he made his decision to end it all in glory benefitting his family. My brother would be next in line: The title would not suffer. Then again, it might simply have been Fate, or his faithfulness to you, but my cousin’s death was not your fault.”

A stunned silence fell between them as Andrew considered her words. “I wish I could be so certain,” he murmured. He might have returned home after Waterloo if he had not set himself a penitence to pay for what had happened on the battlefield. How could he claim both his title and happiness if he was the reason Robert Coopersmith was dead? Yet, if he had permitted himself some forgiveness, he may have been able to salvage a relationship with Matilda and nurse his father during the former viscount’s last days. The idea was too preposterous! He did not deserve forgiveness, especially one so easily handed to him. He could not allow himself to assume a normal life when the world, as he knew it, was no longer normal.

“If it is exoneration you seek, you will find it among those gathered at Cooper Hall,” she assured.

Unfortunately, before he could claim the lady’s hand in forgiveness and possibly steal the kiss he had been craving since he took the woman’s acquaintance, the sound of voices approaching from the distance had Andrew scrambling to his feet. Spotting Mr. Spenser Coopersmith leading a group of visitors toward the house restored his sensibilities. When Coopersmith waved, Andrew warned the lady, “Do not move until your uncle and his guests pass. It would not do for you to be seen in a disheveled state.”

“Am I disheveled?” she asked in that now familiar tone that said he was acting his age, which he most assuredly was. Did she not understand he was only attempting to keep her reputation intact?

He studied her and, for a brief moment, wished to see her thusly arranged beneath him. Nevertheless, he said, “You know my opinion of your comely face. Now, be silent until they pass below us.”

Assuming a casual stance, he returned his attention to the party crossing the side lawn. From her place stretched out on the balcony floor, she said, “During his lectures, Uncle Spenser enjoys setting off one of the small cannons he secured from the days of Charles II. He says the house’s visitors love to feel the earth rumble.”

Andrew did not turn to look at her for fear of drawing the notice of those approaching the house; yet, he smiled. “I managed to draw that conclusion,” he said from the corner of his mouth. “Your uncle still carries the rammer.”

Miss Coopersmith giggled, a sound he found delightfully uplifting. He anticipated her tease before she spoke it. “At least, my uncle only uses the small cannon for his lectures. He owns one of the large ones that some say required sixteen horses to move into place, but it remains at the smaller estate outside of Manchester. Can you imagine your reaction if he possessed cannonballs for such a weapon? I might never convince you to leave my person again.” Another giggle accented her words.

Andrew waited until the last of the visitors were from view before he answered. Turning in her direction, he extended his hand to assist Miss Coopersmith to her feet. “I would have responded the same, except a man of my ‘advanced years’ might not have survived the shock of large guns being fired once again in Worcestershire.”

The lady brushed off her dress and moved a few curls into place. At length, she looked upon him, directing the full impact of her charm his way, and Andrew knew, no matter how long he lived, he would never know another woman so magnificent. He was beginning to regret the idea that when her brother became the new baron, he would often be in her company; yet, no longer possess the right to converse with her as they had today.

She pronounced in a voice of reason, “I would never wish you to know troubles, my lord, but I would be proud to accept your protection any time you care to extend it.”



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In “Courting Lord Whitmire,” there is a lengthy scene where Andrew Whitmire claims his viscountcy before the House of Lords.

Although there were some exceptions to a peerage passing to the eldest son, the majority of those written about in Regency novels follow that pattern. The manner in which a peerage passed from one generation to the next was laid out in the original grant and was strictly followed. No peer could sign away his peerage to another person (gaming debts, dislike of the one who will inherit, etc.)

The heir apparent is the only son (or) eldest son of the holder of the peerage. The only exception would be the holder’s grandson would become the heir apparent if the holder’s son is deceased. Only an heir apparent’s death can remove him from the line of succession.

All newly created peers are introduce to the House of Lords by a distinctive ceremony of introduction that dates back to 1621. Although some changes have occurred over the years, the present day ceremony, as described by Publications.Parliament.UK, reflects the pomp and circumstance of the event. The elements of the present ceremony are…

(1)  there is a procession into the Chamber, in which Black Rod and Garter King of Arms lead the new peer, who is accompanied by two supporters, all three wearing parliamentary robes with special hats; at the Woolsack the new peer kneels and presents his or her Writ of Summons to the Lord Chancellor, while Garter presents the new peer’s Letters Patent of Creation;

(2)  at the Table of the House the Reading Clerk reads the Patent and Writ and the new peer takes the Oath of allegiance (or makes the solemn affirmation) and signs the Test Roll;
(3)  Garter “places” the new peer by conducting the peer, with the supporters, to the bench appropriate to their degree in the peerage; there, three times in succession, they sit, put on their hats, rise, doff their hats and bow to the Lord Chancellor; all involved then proceed out of the Chamber, the new peer shaking hands with the Lord Chancellor on the way out.  

Also see “Introduction of a New Peer to the House of Lords” for more details on the ceremony. 

The Regency Researcher site shares with us the cost of becoming a peer. 

The coronation robes and coronets of a baroness and baron ~

“We think of a man being created a peer as having received an honor, and seldom think of his having to pay for it. However, whether a man was created a peer for merit or succeeded to a peerage of his father or other relative, he had to pay a fee. He also had to pay a fee if he were made a bishop and an additional one if he was translated from one see to a better one. 

“These fees are called homage fees, and some sources think the fees were a substitute for knight’s service. There are also fees to have the creation or the succession published in the Gazette.

“When the peer makes his first appearance at the House of Lords, he participates in an old age ceremony for which a fee also must be paid.

These fees were paid to the Receiver of Fees, who was a clerk in the House of Peers. In 1812 this was a Mr. Charles Sutherland.

Prince of Wales: upon creation – £703 6 8 Upon his first introduction to the House he paid £30.

A Duke paid £350 3 4 upon creation and £27 on first introduction

A Marquis paid £272 10 8 , then £19 6 8 upon introduction.

An Earl paid £203 3 4 upon creation, and £14 on first introduction.

A Viscount paid £159 7 4 upon creation, then £12 upon introduction.

A baron paid £150 upon creation and £ 9 upon introduction.

If a peer advanced in title, (If a baron was made a viscount or an earl) he was required to pay the appropriate fee, etc.)

Every bishop was required to pay upon his first Consecration and upon future promotions.

Promotion £14. The Archbishop paid £27 upon introduction.

This information is from the Royal Kalendar and annual Register for 1812.”


Releasing Today: 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.


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Excerpt from Chapter Five:

When they learned at Lady Stephenson’s gathering that the Countess of Savidge had taken a fall earlier in the day and had cancelled her entertainment, Verity had convinced Matilda that they should return to Parliament and plead to be admitted to the gallery to view Lord Whitmire’s introduction to the House of Lords.

“What if they turn us away?” Matilda had protested, the girl’s earlier bravado fading quickly before the pudding was set.

“Then we will discover a tea room nearby and wait,” Verity had said without the exasperation she felt. All afternoon, Matilda had bemoaned not being able to join Robinson in the gallery, but now that Verity had suggested their doing so, Matilda wished Verity to beg or to insist, so she would not bear any of the blame, if Lord Whitmire disapproved. It was the girl’s wish not to upset the delicate balance Matilda and Lord Whitmire had achieved, but, on this particular day, Verity had no time, or desire, to coddle the girl. “Do you not wish to view your father’s elevation?”

“Most assuredly, I would wish to observe the proceedings,” Matilda said softly. Her gaze remained steady, although her tone held unrelenting curiosity. “But I have heard it said only those women who hold exalted positions dare enter the gallery. Father may not be happy with our presence.”

“Miss Ridenour again?” Verity questioned. She should have known the chit would say something to discourage Matilda from her desire to sit with Robinson in the gallery.

She did not wait for the girl’s response; instead, Verity decided for them. She had considered Lord Whitmire’s possible disapproval before she had made her suggestion, but she refused to think of his lordship’s disdain when she had the opportunity to look upon him again, especially in such a life-defining moment. She could not consider not being a part of this event, even if it were from a distance. Although he did not recognize her total devotion to him, she wished to share the experiencewished to have the memory to cherish in her old age. Unfortunately for her badly bruised heart, her fascination with the man had not waned; rather, it had intensified the longer she remained in his company. “We shall ask, and, if refused, accept the tradition in which the ceremony is imbued.”

And so, with heavy reprimands delivered toward them by a clerk for even asking for permission to enter the gallery, along with a generous donation to the man’s purse, she and Matilda had been hidden behind a heavy drape, where they might peer down upon the floor of the House of Lords. After what felt like forever, the House was called to order by the Lord Chancellor. A prayer followed, and Verity’s anticipation rose. She tugged Matilda closer, placing the girl before her, so they could share the small space.

She explained in Matilda’s ear. “Black Rod, an officer of the Order of the Garter, has already escorted Lord Whitmire and your father’s two retinues to the King of Arms, who will lead the trio into the main chamber. Just wait a minute, and they will appear where we can see them.” True to her narration, his lordship and the others showed themselves, but, for Verity, the thrill was in watching Andrew Whitmire. Looking upon him, she had never known a prouder moment. His countenance remained stern and respectful of the majesty of the ceremony, while also holding a hint of contentment. He was a man meant for the aristocracy—noble and strong.

“Who is with Father?” Matilda asked softly, destroying the moment for Verity.

Swallowing the sigh of vexation rushing to her lips, Verity leaned closer to whisper once again. “According to tradition, his lordship must be escorted by two of his fellow viscounts. When Robinson goes through the ceremony, my brother will be accompanied by two barons. Lord Whitmire asked two of his former soldiers to serve him. Black Rod leads, followed by the Garter King. The peer in front of your father is the junior peer, Lord Franklin. The one behind Whitmire is Lord Lexford.”

“How did you learn all this?” Matilda asked with what sounded to be a nervous giggle.

Verity smiled easily, enjoying her confession before she spoke it. “I have the habit of overhearing what I should not. I listened as your father explained the process to Robinson.” Her smile grew. “Some day you will learn that men often think women have no brains to understand of what they speak. They sometimes treat the women in their lives as if they were a silent servant.”

“They enjoy strutting their colors as much as would an actor upon a stage,” Matilda observed in hushed tones. Verity realized the girl meant the goings on in the Lords, but Matilda’s words fit many situations where men gathered.

“Or as much as a diamond of the first water in a ballroom,” Verity said with another smile. She pointed over Matilda’s shoulder to the area below. “Notice each peer wears a robe designed to indicate his rank. Also notice that the Garter King of Arms carries a silver gilt scepter in his right hand. In his left is the patent of creation for your father.”

Matilda rose up on her toes and whispered, “Thank you for arranging this. I shall never forget your kindness. I did not think I would enjoy the spectacle of all this, but it is quite remarkable, is it not?”

“Very remarkable, and it is my pleasure to share this with you,” Verity replied in all seriousness.

She wished she could resist the pull and the push that always rested between her and Lord Whitmire. She was both perplexed and fascinated by the man. Her heart knew the deepest compassion when his long-time suffering, at no fault of his own, mind you, marked the lines about his mouth and his eyes. The manner of the conversations in which he partook displayed his quick wit and keen intellect. He was accustomed to giving orders and having them obeyed, but he was also one of the most reasonable men she had ever encountered. His lordship had a firm, stubborn nature, and Verity imagined they would have a regular stream of quarrels, followed by a round of passion, the type she had only read of in Minerva novels. She suspected he held the ability to sweep her off her feet, both, figuratively, and, literally, but he kept his desires rigidly under control. She both admired and despised him at the same time.

Carrying their cocked black hats in their left hands, the lords in the procession below reached the Bar of the House. Lord Whitmire carried his Writ of Summons in his right hand. They walked up the temporal side of the House. They bowed first to where the Sovereign would sit, if present, then to the table where the clerks sat, followed by a third bow to the Judges.

“What now?” Matilda asked. Her excitement showed upon the girl’s face.

“Your father will next approach the Lord Chancellor.” Verity waited, holding her breath until the Lord Chancellor raised his hat to acknowledge Lord Whitmire. “His lordship will kneel on one knee and present the letters patent of his creation to the Lord Chancellor. Once the Lord Chancellor accepts the patent on behalf of the King, he will hand it to the Reading Clerk to be read aloud to all the peers present.”

Along with Matilda, Verity held her breath as she listened to the formalities and to his lordship’s resonant, distinct voice. Then, the oddest thought caught her by surprise: She did not simply admire Lord Andrew Whitmire; she loved him. She could not remove her eyes from where the man stood, tall and proud, even when she felt Matilda shift before her. She could no more control the sense of longing in her chest than she could stop the world from spinning on its axis. The air, what there was to be had in their hiding place, thickened. Her breathing grew short.

“Verity?” Matilda’s voice held the girl’s concern. “Are you unwell? You are so pale. We should leave.”

Verity quickly shook off the idea. “In a moment,” she assured. “The ceremony nears its conclusion.” She returned her attention to what she could view of the proceedings. When the Reading Clerk finished reading the Summons, Lord Whitmire read the Oath of Allegiance. His full-bodied orotund voice carried to the rafters. “Now your father will sign the Test Rolls.”

As his lordship bent over the document to add his signature to a list that went back one hundred twenty-five years, Verity caught Matilda’s hand. “We should go. It is essentially over. Next, your father will change out of the ceremonial constraints and assume his seat in the Lords. Therefore, we should depart before we are seen. We promised the clerk not to be a distraction.” She led the girl through a door and down a set of stairs the clerk had said were rarely used. “I think we should have his lordship’s carriage take us to Whitmire House. Then the driver can return for Lord Whitmire and Robinson. We have no idea how long your father and my brother must tarry before they can leave without being thought poorly of. We might discover ourselves dining alone this evening.”

The door at the bottom of the stairs led to the outside and fresh air. Stepping into a small bricked circle, Verity inhaled deeply. She needed to clear her thinking. What was she to do? Without realizing it, she had given her heart to a man who would never love her.

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Life Below Stairs: Non-Existent Legal Redress

Was there legal redress for the servants of Victorian households?  Although there was genuine concern for the conditions in which many of the servants operated, most claimed it was impossible to make laws to protect domestic servants. Those that were passed were heavily settled in favor of the master and mistress of the house rather than the staff. For example, if a servant was dismissed and her wages withheld illegally, a magistrate could not settle the matter for there was no legal statutes to protect the servant. Occasionally, a master or mistress would be summoned to explain why the servant’s wages were withheld, but if he or she did not respond, there was no legal recourse. 

servant_1.jpgServants could be released for any number of arbitrary reasons. Employers were not responsible for medical care, even if the servant became ill or was injured because of the household conditions. Neither was an employer required to supply the servant was a character, or reference, which permitted the mistress to hold that knowledge over the servant’s head in all disputes for a servant without a character reference would not be able to secure another position. Servants, as a whole, had few rights and little hope for a future. 

 dirtyoldad2.jpg From M. Collet’s Report on the Money Wages of Indoor Domestic Servants [1899, Volume XCII, page 15], we learn, “The young ‘slavery,’ working in a lodging house or a coffee shop or with ‘rough-mannered’ employers had to ‘work harder and under more unfavorable conditions perhaps than any other class of the community…. As soon as she reaches an age when she wants more than a very small sum in wages, she is dismissed and replaced by another young girl…. This class of girl in a very few years disappears from the ranks of domestic servants, and in doing so, in generally in a worse position than the factory girl in the same grade.”

Even mature women who devoted their lives to the welfare of the family in which she operated found that they earned little more than the maid-of-all-work. They might receive a grateful remark upon their leaving, and perhaps as much as a month’s wages. They could look forward to some charity providing them a token for their service. For example, the Female Servants’ Home Society presented the servant a Bible for two years of service, a testimonial and a suitable book for five years continuous service, a silver medal for nine, and a gold medal for fifteen years. [T. Henry Baylis, The Rights, Duties, and Relations of Domestic Servants, their Masters and Mistresses, Sampson Low, 1837, page 39.] Generally there was little awaiting an elderly servant beyond the almshouse or the workhouse. “Service is no inheritance” was a maxim often heard from Victorian servants. 

51Nmv0OkB-L._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Outside of London, on St. Thomas’s Day, which is four days before Christmas, some charities provided little gifts of goods or money to selected servants. In 1663, the James Frethern’s Charity was founded ‘for the benefit of a maid servant who has continued six years as a hired servant in Burford, Oxfordshire.’ In Wargrave, Berkshire, the Rev. Walter Sellon’s Charity was founded in 1793 to provide 8 guineas ‘for the benefit of poor persons resident in the parish who are engaged in domestic service.’ The Margaret Dew Charity (1816) was for the ‘general benefit of Godly and deserving poor and decayed Housekeepers of Bramton Abbots parish’ in Herfordshire. 

According to Frank E. Huggett’s Life Below Stairs (page 115), “Servants’ charities and institutions of all kinds were severely handicapped by a chronic shortage of funds in Victorian times. Mistresses were reluctant to give servants money either in the form of well-earned wages or in charitable donations. In 1861, only £6,250 was subscribed to the twenty-one servant charities in the capital; Bible and missionary societies, on the other hand, received no less than £332,679. The Victorians had an inflexible, and often unfeeling, sense of priorities.” 

Other Resources: 

List of Victorian Charities 

Charity and Condescension: Victorian Literature and the Dilemmas of Philanthropy, by Daniel Siegel

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