Playing Cards in Jane Austen’s England, Pleasant Pastime, as Well as Gambling

… the undeniably romantic allure of the richly decorated gaming clubs or the reckless gambling of dynastic fortunes [which] rather trump[s] the dingy and dull penny games played against street walls or in alehouses. (Arthur Pitt, MA dissertation, A Study Of Gamblers And Gaming Culture In London, c. 1780-1844)


The idea of playing cards is one often explored in Regency Era-based books and novels. What type of games? Were these purely for passing time in pleasurable company? Or were they more for those, like Mr. George Wickham in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, who attempted to win his fortune? Or foolishly lose one’s inheritance? We hear mention of playing cards after suffer within families and playing cards at balls, a separate room set aside for those who wish to indulge in sometime more sedate than dancing a country dance. Card parties were a common way to while away an evening. Whether as a small group in a private home, or as an alternative to dancing at an assembly or ball, they were an acceptable pastime for anyone in any station. 

First, let us address the playing of cards outside the home. Many who indulged in this activity were serious gamesters, often times placing their families in ruin and “putting a period to his existence.” Naturally, such is not to say all men lost their fortunes, nor does the idea of “gaming hells” eliminate the fact that men (and some women) regularly bet on cock fights, bear baiting, horse races, fisticuffs, etc. Moreover, it was not necessary for the gentleman to go to a “gaming hell” to place his bet, for every gentleman’s club (White’s Brooks’s, Boodle’s, Watier’s, etc.) had a card room, and as mentioned above, every ball and house party hosted a game room. In those, the player could have reasonable hopes of an honest game of cards. The gaming hells were not so reputable as that. There, “Captain Sharps” often won huge fortunes. 

[For more on Gentlemen Clubs in the Regency England, visit this post on Historical Hussies.]

Charles James Fox from Historical and Posthumous Memoirs of Wraxall 1884 1a.jpg Supposedly, Charles James Fox, Whig MP and leader of the Opposition to William Pitt the Younger’s Tory government, and close personal friend of George, Prince of Wales and Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire and his brother lost large sums even at supposedly staid places like Brooks’s. Please note that some accounts of Fox’s losses refer to his doing so at Almack’s. However, we must remember that Brooks’s, at one time was called “Almack’s,” in the late 18th century. So the place where Fox lost a large fortune was the gentleman’s club Almack’s, later called Brooks’s. (Absolutely confusing for those of us who are trying to keep our facts straight!!!) [The establishment most of us read about in Regency romances— Almack’s—was where couples met in the “Marriage Mart” [although this idea appears to be more of a early Victorian concept than Regency]. It was run by the four Patronesses and was later called Willis’s Rooms. 

However, I will say that Almack’s was not as staid as Heyer and most Regency romances make out: it was not just a “marriage mart,” but also a club where the wheelers and dealers of Parliament made political alliances, etc., and where one could meet everyone of importance on a Wednesday night.  So I expect there was some significant money lost and won at our Almack’s, too, upon occasion. Almack’s also sometimes served as a gambling house that rented  out rooms for private events and the assembly.

So, what card games were popular during the Regency? 

Whist was very popular. If you know something of “Contract Bridge,” you likely will recognize whist as a precursor of that game. The game requires four players (2 sets of partners). A trump suit is chosen and tricks are won. 

When the card tables were placed, he had an opportunity of obliging her in return, by sitting down to whist.

“I know little of the game, at present,” said he, “but I shall be glad to improve myself, for in my situation of life –” Mrs. Philips was very thankful for his compliance, but could not wait for his reason.

Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first there seemed danger of Lydia’s engrossing him entirely for she was a most determined talker; but being likewise extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon grew too much interested in the game, too eager in making bets and exclaiming after prizes, to have attention for any one in particular. Allowing for the common demands of the game, Mr. Wickham was therefore at leisure to talk to Elizabeth, and she was very willing to hear him… – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 16

Piquet is another popular Regency card game. Piquet is not easy to master for a strong memory of which cards have been played is important. Moreover, the game has a complicated scoring system and possibilities of huge bonus points. Skill and strategy are necessary to play well. I imagine Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, working as partners, would be hard to beat in this game. 

Here, however, the kindness of Mrs. Jennings interposed most acceptably; for to send the Colonel away while his love was in so much uneasiness on her sister’s account would be to deprive them both, she thought, of every comfort; and, therefore, telling him at once that his stay at Cleveland was necessary to herself that she should want him to play at piquet of an evening… – Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43 

In the five-card version of loo, a permanent high trump is selected, called “Pam.” The players play for tricks. However, “at the beginning of the hand, they may choose to play, fold, or pick up and play an extra hand dealt, called a ‘miss.’ A player who wins no tricks  is ‘looed.'” [Gambling in Regency England]

What we called “Twenty-One” was called “Vingt-et-un” during the Regency. The idea is to earn 21 points or reach a higher number than the dealer. Going over 21 points means a person loses that hand. 

Vingt-un is the game at Osborne Castle. I have played nothing but vingt-un of late. You would be astonished to hear the noise we make there — the fine old lofty drawing-room rings again. Lady Osborne sometimes declares she cannot hear herself speak. Lord Osborne enjoys it famously, and he makes the best dealer without exception that I ever beheld, — such quickness and spirit, he lets nobody dream over their cards. I wish you could see him overdraw himself on both his own cards. It is worth anything in the world!” – The Watsons

In Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter, the family has a gambling house where Faro [or Pharoah – or Basset] was played. It was a game with a bank that people played against the house. They had a bouncer and usually had people learned of the game and its location by word-of-mouth, because it was illegal to have a Faro bank. In other words, faro is not really a card game, but a game of chance using cards. Nowadays, it is played at a green baize table displaying pictures of playing cards. However, during the Regency, the dealer takes cards from a special wooden box and lays them face up on the table. One suit of the cards is pasted to the table in numerical order, and players place their bets by putting what they want to stake on one or more cards. Various rules decide whether a card drawn from the box wins for a player with a stake on the same number, or loses. Basically though, the player bets on whether a certain card will be dealt from the wooden box.

In the late 1700s, fashionable ladies set up Faro banks in their homes, but this practice fell out of favor by the Regency. That did not mean it stopped completely. Some ladies supplemented their income by ‘holding the bank’ in private card parties held in their houses. As long as they retained the appearance of merely being a hostess, and not in business, such a venture would dent their reputation but might not ruin it.

Hazard, another game often mentioned, is not a card game at all but a dice game. The player must roll a certain number on the dice. There is some strategy involved in which numbers the player selects to roll, but Hazard is essentially a game of chance.

The Jane Austen Centre provides us these instructions for the game of “Commerce.” 

“Catherine was disturbed and out of spirits; but Isabella seemed to find a pool of commerce, in the fate of which she shared, by private partnership with Morland, a very good equivalent for the quiet and country air of an inn at Clifton. – Northanger Abbey , Chapter 11

How to Play Commerce:  Deck: 52 card deck with Aces high; Players: 3 to 12: Object: To finish with the best hand

Highest: 3 of a kind, called a Tricon 
Next: 3 Cards of a suit and sequence 
Last: The greatest pip-value of 2 or 3 cards of the same suit, counting Acesa s 11, Court Cards as 10 and others at numerical value. If equal, a 3 card flush beats a 2 card one. If still equal, the tied player nearest in turn after the dealer wins.

Preliminaries: Each player contributes to the pot. The dealer deals 3 cards to each player.

English playing cards from about 1750Play: The player to the left of the dealer bids to buy or trade. To buy, she gives a chip to the dealer for a card from the deck and discards a card which is placed at the bottom of the deck. To trade, she offers to pass a card to the player on her left in exchange for one given to her. If the player agrees to trade, the exchange is made without looking at the cards being received. No chip is paid. If a player does not buy or trade on the first opportunity, she cannot do it during the remaining play of the hand. If she buys or trades, she may buy or trade on a later turn. Trading can only occur to the left. Play continues with each in turn having the opportunity to buy or trade until a player ‘knocks.’ A player knocks when she is content with her hand. All hands must then be shown and the winner determined.”

Instructions for the Game of Whist from the Jane Austen Centre

“Whist and speculation; which will amuse me most?”
Mansfield Park, Chapter 25

“Deck: 52 card deck; Players: 4 players, as partners (2 and 2); Object: To take tricks and score the most points
Preliminaries:All 52 cards are dealt facedown except for the final card, which is turned up to establish the trump suit.

“Whist was one of the first card games to use the trump-suit concept. It developed in the 18th century from the French game of triomphe, which began in the 16th century. This game was replaced at the end of the 19th century by bridge and is very similar to hearts. When playing, the dealer adds that card to his hand when it is his turn to play. The player to his left starts play by leading a card and the other players follow suit, if possible. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit or by a trump card played form a hand with no cards in the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads next. Six tricks are called a book and each additional trick counts as one point. The first partnership to score seven points wins.”

In the evening it was found, according to the predetermination of Mrs Grant and her sister, that after making up the whist-table there would remain sufficient for a round game, and everybody being as perfectly complying and without a choice as on such occasions they always are, speculation was decided on almost as soon as whist; and Lady Bertram soon found herself in the critical situation of being applied to for her own choice between the games, and being required either to draw a card for whist or not. – Mansfield Park, Chapter 25


Instructions for the Game of Loo

“On entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below with a book.” – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 8

Instructions on How to Win at Speculation

“What shall I do, Sir Thomas? Whist and speculation; which will amuse me most?”

Sir Thomas, after a moment’s thought, recommended speculation. He was a whist player himself, and perhaps might feel that it would not much amuse him to have her for a partner. – Mansfield Park, Chapter 25 

Instruction on How to Play Quadrille

Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille; and as Miss De Bourgh chose to play at cassino, the two girls had the honour of assisting Mrs. Jenkinson to make up her party. Their table was superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss De Bourgh’s being too hot or too cold, or having too much or too little light. A great deal more passed at the other table, Lady Catherine was generally speaking — stating the mistakes of the three others, or relating some anecdote of herself. Mr. Collins was employed in agreeing to every thing her Ladyship said, thanking her for every fish he won, and apologising if he thought he won too many. Sir William did not say much. He was storing his memory with anecdotes and noble names. – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 29

How to Play Casino 

After some time spent in saying little or doing less, Lady Middleton sat down to cassino; and as Marianne was not in spirits for moving about, she and Elinor luckily succeeding to chairs, placed themselves at no great distance from the table. – Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 28

Other Sources: 

This blog post on Jane Austen’s World has a list of further links at the end.

Posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, quotes, Regency era, Regency romance, research, Sense & Sensibility, Whigs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Mr. Bennet, a Guest Post from Jann Rowland

This post originally appeared on Austen Authors on June 26, 2019. Enjoy! 

I’ve always liked Mr. Bennet as a character in Pride and Prejudice. He’s sarcastic and funny, he provides several priceless moments, and is Elizabeth’s true supporter, sometimes in direct confrontation with his wife. I am well aware that in looking after her daughters’ needs (i.e. wishing to see them married) Mrs. Bennet feels like she is killing two birds with one stone, but I’ve always thought her motives were primarily selfish—in securing her daughters’ futures, she’s really securing her own. Mr. Bennet, however, is more focused on what is best for Elizabeth.

One thing that’s always surprised me, however, is that Mr. Bennet is as beloved a character as he is. I’ve had several conversations with other people who also claim to enjoy him as a character, and only few who disagree. To be honest, I’ve always wondered why that ratio did not swing the other way. Let’s face it, Mr. Bennet is actually a bit of an ass. Let’s dig a little into his character.

In many ways, Mr. Bennet is a reprehensible character. Among his faults are:

  • Sarcasm, if used correctly, is altogether acceptable, and by that, I mean it’s not directed toward someone in a mean way. Mr. Bennet is a master of sarcasm, and all too often, it’s directed at his youngest daughters and, more often, his wife. The fact that his wife is not really able to understand a lot of his witticisms is not a mitigating factor—though Mrs. Bennet is a twit, I’m sure she frequently understands that he’s making fun of her, even if she doesn’t understand what he’s saying. In modern terms, this could be called a form of emotional abuse.
  • Mr. Bennet’s neglect of his family beyond dispute. Other than Elizabeth, and occasionally Jane, he doesn’t have time for any of his daughters, except to make fun of them. This neglect, of course, culminates in Lydia’s elopement and the near ruin of his family. They are saved from this calamity, not because of Mr. Bennet, but almost in spite of him. And while he does vow to do better, his attempts consist of telling Kitty she won’t be out for ten years, and a few words about soldiers in a raised voice.
  • Mr. Bennet takes no thought for the family’s eventual support until he is forced to do so. His excuse is that he expected to father a son to provide for his daughters and widow. This, again, is Mr. Bennet taking the easy way out, as he would simply pass the burden to a son. It’s also short-sighted, as without dowries, the girls face a difficult time attracting a husband, and if unable to do so, would leave them dependent upon their brother, who would likely come to see them as a burden.
  • Furthermore, the family’s situation is truly desperate. We are told Mr. Bennet has to watch his wife or she will exceed his income, and yet, if he passed away early, he would leave his wife and daughters homeless, to attempt to subsist on an income of £200, when they would be accustomed to ten times that amount. There was a reason why Mrs. Bennet feared genteel poverty, though her way of showing it is reprehensible.
  • The younger girls are allowed to run wild. As the master of the house, Mr. Bennet possesses the power to compel obedience and teach good behavior, but he allows his wife to teach the girls when she’s clearly not equipped to do so. This makes it doubly difficult for the girls to attract good suitors—not only would a man not wish to marry a woman who will embarrass him, many would not wish to marry a woman whose sisters might do so, to say nothing of eventually having to support them.

By these accounts, Mr. Bennet’s faults are heavy, indeed. But do not despair, for Mr. Bennet also possesses may sterling qualities, though they are not all shown in proper ways. Consider the following:

  • Mr. Bennet is a good provider. You can look at this as both a negative and a positive, but he rarely forbids his girls anything, and they always have everything they require. The girls are always dressed well, have been given a good home and a good life which, though of the lower gentry, would have been the envy of the majority of those who lived at that time.
  • Within the Bennet family, Mr. Bennet plays the role of Elizabeth’s protector. Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth have never seen eye to eye. She is habitually critical of her second eldest daughter and would have forced her into a disastrous marriage with Mr. Collins if she had her way. And no one can forget the memorable line from Mr. Bennet on the occasion: “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.” Knowing his daughter as he does, he knows what will make her happy and what will not. He truly is her protector.
  • Mr. Bennet is an intelligent man, and the one daughter of his who could share in his intellect, he made certain she learned as much as she wished. I’ve always thought Mr. Bennet would have been better suited to be a university professor or a researcher, though I suppose we’re never really told where his literary tastes tend. Regardless, it’s clear he’s not really cut out to be a landowner, as he can’t bother himself with the estate’s maintenance. But he certainly is a smart man.
  • Though his methods of dealing with his wife are not always laudable, Mr. Bennet does not descend to some of the behaviors which were common in his day. He does not have a mistress (though we’re not told directly, I am confident we can infer this), so he doesn’t go looking elsewhere to satisfy needs Mrs. Bennet cannot meet. He also does not physically mistreat his wife. Let’s face it—being married to a woman like Mrs. Bennet would drive most around the twist! There is a counter argument there, but the fact that he does none of these things, though society would not have condemned him if he did, is a point in his favor.

Regardless of these facts, it seems the majority of the fandom appreciates Mr. Bennet’s good points, while recognizing those which are not so laudable. He’s a flawed character, but somehow we love him all the more for it. Then again, who wants to read books about perfect people? It’s a character’s weakness that makes them interesting! The reason I often tend toward writing variations where Mr. Bennet is a little changed or rises to the occasion, is because I do like him as a character and would like to see him realize a little more of the potential that lurks under his sardonic exterior. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Austen Authors, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, Pride and Prejudice, reading, reading habits, Regency era, Regency romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barristers and Solicitors During the Regency Era

Previously, I did a post about barristers, solicitors, and lawyers, but I have had a few questions come up since then, so I am going to repeat some of what I had written back on April 12, 2017, but add to it to clarify the differences and hopefully answer the questions two readers sent to me. 

Question #1: Could a young man of the merchant social class “choose” to become a barrister? If so, how would he go about it? 

The simple, or not so simple, answer is “Yes.” He could become a barrister, but it would not be easy. The candidate who wished to practice law had to have someone recommend him, meaning someone from the gentry or the aristocracy. It would be necessary for him to read law for seven years if he did not go to university. Best thing he could do would be to go to university and study law there, which would cut his time at an Inn of Court down to about three years of working with someone and eating his dinners. However, going to university during the Regency era could be expensive, as was, basically, living one’s life at the Inn of Court or in residence with a barrister. Remember, the candidate would be paying out funds, even those candidates whose family shoulder the cost paid out funds, needed something to live on. The man would have little or no income for seven years. All that is assuming a university would accept him or an Inn of Court would accept him. My answer would be, though not impossible, certainly not an easy route, for the man, no matter if he was richer than those sons of gentlemen and the aristocracy, would not be easily accepted into the profession. Read on…

In present day UK, the Inns of Court in London are the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales. There are four Inns of Court: Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. All barristers must belong to one of them. They have supervisory and disciplinary functions over their members. The Inns also provide libraries, dining facilities and professional accommodation. Each also has a church or chapel attached to it and is a self-contained precinct where barristers traditionally train and practise, although growth in the legal profession, together with a desire to practise from more modern accommodations, caused many barristers’ chambers to move outside the precincts of the Inns of Court in the late 20th century.

“During the 12th and early 13th centuries the law was taught in the City of London, primarily by the clergy. But a papal bull in 1218 prohibited the clergy from practising in the secular courts (where the English common law system operated, as opposed to the Roman civil law favoured by the Church). As a result, law began to be practised and taught by laymen instead of by clerics. To protect their schools from competition, first Henry II and later, Henry III issued proclamations prohibiting the teaching of the civil law within the City of London. As a result, the common law lawyers moved to premises outside the City, which in time became the inns of court.

“In the earliest centuries of their existence, beginning with the 14th century, the Inns were any of a sizable number of buildings or precincts where lawyers traditionally lodged, trained and carried on their profession. Over the centuries, the four Inns of Court became where barristers were trained, while the more numerous Inns of Chancery—which were affiliated to the Inns of Court – were responsible for the training of solicitors. In the 16th century and earlier, students or apprentices learned their craft primarily by attending court and sharing both accommodations and education during the legal terms. Prior to the English Civil War in 1642, this training lasted at least seven years; subsequently, the Inns focused their residency requirements on dining together in the company of experienced barristers, to enable learning through contact and networking with experts. In the mid-18th century, the common law was first recognized as a subject for study in the universities, and by 1872, bar examinations became compulsory for entry into the profession of law.” [Inns of Court]

Though the Inns of Court had once been regular law schools, they really were not conducted in that manner by the time of the Regency. The men who wanted to be lawyers worked/apprenticed in a lawyer’s office. They read law, studied the latest rulings, etc., and “ate their dinners.”  

Though attending university for three years reduced the time the man had to “eat his dinners,” the universities did not have any courses in the common law. Those they had to learn by reading cases and listening to barristers work and hunting up the law. The universities taught civil law, and those who graduated with a civil law could practice in the church courts, admiralty, probate and marriage. Some cross trained, and others stayed either as a civil or common law professional. Those training to be a barrister customarily spent time “reading in chambers,” meaning he spent time with a barrister to whom he has paid a fee for the privilege of “training” with the practicing barrister. Nowadays, this is two years’ stint with the candidate spending a year with two different barristers. The most important duty a future advocate had to take and which was compulsory was to eat a certain number of dinners in the hall of his Inn. This is called “keeping terms.” The legal year has four terms: Hilary, Easter, Trinity, and Michaelmas. I am not certain how many meals were to be kept during the Regency, but in today’s terms, the candidate must take six meals during each term. 

To be a solicitor, a proctor, or an attorney, the man had to be an apprentice to a man practicing in the field in which he wished to practice: C=common law, Chancery, or civil law courts. Solicitors were regulated by parliamentary law while all the barrister/Pleaders were regulated by their inns and the judges of the courts to which they were admitted for practice. It took about seven years to become a good solicitor. Solicitors had a lower social standing than did barristers, for the most part, because they did the work and took money into their hands. However, they often became very rich. Some solicitors acted as men of business for large landowners. Solicitors were regulated by parliamentary law, but barristers were governed by the benchers of their Inn.

The various courts were very jealous of one another’s jurisdiction and the processes. They even had some different terminology.

The solicitors/proctors/attorneys spoke with clients and drew up proper forms and did deeds, wills, and contracts. The barristers/advocates/and serjeants (higher level barristers) were the ones who could speak in the higher courts and present the case. Quite often they only spoke to judges and not juries. These men were not supposed to converse with the client at all.

Criminal practice was just coming in as a area of practice as it was not yet common for all accused or even the prosecution to have a lawyer. Barristers/serjeants and advocates could also just be asked a point of law, even if it they were not defending or prosecuting a case.

Also see my piece on a A Simple Overview of the English Courts During the Regency for additional information. 

“A Serjeant-at-Law (SL), commonly known simply as a Serjeant, was a member of an order of barristers at the English bar.  The position of Serjeant-at-Law (servientes ad legem), or Sergeant-Counter, was centuries old; there are writs dating to 1300 which identify them as descended from figures in France before the Norman Conquest. The Serjeants were the oldest formally created order in England, having been brought into existence as a body by Henry II. The order rose during the 16th century as a small, elite group of lawyers who took much of the work in the central common law courts. With the creation of Queen’s Counsel (or “Queen’s Counsel Extraordinary”) during the reign of Elizabeth I, the order gradually began to decline, with each monarch opting to create more King’s or Queen’s Counsel. The Serjeants’ exclusive jurisdictions were ended during the 19th century and, with the Judicature Act 1873 coming into force in 1875, it was felt that there was no need to have such figures, and no more were created. 

“The Serjeants had for many centuries exclusive jurisdiction over the Court of Common Pleas, being the only lawyers allowed to argue a case there. At the same time they had rights of audience in the other central common law courts (the Court of King’s Bench and Exchequer of Pleas) and precedence over all other lawyers. Only Serjeants-at-Law could become judges of these courts right up into the 19th century, and socially the Serjeants ranked above Knights Bachelor and Companions of the Bath. Within the Serjeants-at-Law were more distinct orders; the King’s Serjeants, particularly favoured Serjeants-at-Law, and within that the King’s Premier Serjeant, the Monarch’s most favoured Serjeant, and the King’s Ancient Serjeant, the oldest. Serjeants (except King’s Serjeants) were created by Writ of Summons under the Great Seal of the Realm and wore a special and distinctive dress, the chief feature of which was the coif, a white lawn or silk skullcap, afterwards represented by a round piece of white lace at the top of the wig. 

“The process of being called to the order of Serjeants-at-Law stayed fairly constant. The traditional method was that the Serjeants would discuss among themselves prospective candidates, and then make recommendations to the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.  He would pass these names on to the Lord Chancellor, who would appoint the new Serjeants. This was intended to provide a way to select possible judges in a period where political favouritism was rampant – since only Serjeants could become judges, making sure that Serjeants were not political appointees was seen to provide for a neutral judiciary. Serjeants were traditionally appointed by a writ directly from the King. The writ was issued under the Great Seal of the Realm and required “the elected and qualified apprentices of the law to take the state and degree of a Serjeant-at-Law”. The newly created Serjeants would then assemble in one of the Inns of Court, where they would hear a speech from the Lord Chancellor or Lord Chief Justice and be given a purse of gold. The Coif was then placed on the Serjeant’s head. The Serjeants were required to swear an oath, which was that they would: …serve the King’s people as one of the Serjeants-at-law, and you shall truly counsel them that you be retained with after your cunning; and you shall not defer or delay their causes willingly, for covetness of money, or other thing that may turn you to profit; and you shall give due attendance accordingly. So help you God.” [Serjeant-at-law]


Question #2:  Could a foreigner be a barrister?

Just as a point of reference, nowadays (not during the Regency era), lawyers qualified in foreign jurisdictions, as well as English barristers, can take the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) assessment, a fast-track route for qualification as an English solicitor which can be completed in a shorter or longer period of time, depending on the legal background of the candidate. There is no training or experience requirement under the QLTS, which comprises two assessments; a multiple choice test (180 multiple choice questions on 14 subject matters) and two practical assessments, the OSCE1 and OSCE2 which include nine written papers, three oral papers and three mixed written-oral papers on the most important areas of practice for solicitors (business law, probate, conveyancing, civil litigation, criminal litigation). The scheme is open to qualified lawyers in many common law and civil law jurisdictions, such as the US, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, India, Pakistan, all EU member states, as well as other countries. [The Law Society: Qualifying From Outside the UK]

Again, as in the previous question, the idea was not an impossible one, but it remained very unlikely, for the same reasons. Almost every profession during the Regency and early 1800s required an oath of allegiance to the Church of England and proof of having taken Communion. I like this description of English Law through German Spectacles from 1890: The Law Students’ Journal, Volume 12. 

Both solicitors and barristers had to have several years of training. Coming to England as a foreigner, it would likely be easier to train as a solicitor than as a barrister. Solicitors had to have 5 years as apprentice, all with the same man, so if he died during those five years, the solicitor candidate had to begin again with another. At the end of five years, he could apply for recognition and admittance to practice as a solicitor. The man had to be recommended by the one who was training him and provide proof of years of service, studies, etc. Sometimes these candidates were given an exam on various aspects of their work.

If a man attained a university degree in civil law, he could be entered without the five years “apprenticeship.” Most who attended university thought of becoming barristers. They were required to study at Inns of Court for four years after their university studies were complete. That is seven years total. When the barristers of their Inn thought them ready, they were Called to the Bar.

“The call to the bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party and are then said to have been “called to the bar” or to have received a “call to the bar”. “The bar” is now used as a collective noun for barrister, but literally referred to the wooden barrier in old courtrooms, which separated the often crowded public area at the rear from the space near the judges reserved for those having business with the Court. Barristers would sit or stand immediately behind it, facing the judge, and could use it as a table for their law briefs. 

“Like many other common law terms, the term originated in England in the Middle Ages,  and the call to the bar refers to the summons issued to one found fit to speak at the ‘bar’ of the royal courts. In time, English judges allowed only legally qualified men to address them on the law and later delegated the qualification and admission of barristers to the four Inns of Court. Once an Inn calls one of its members to its bar, they are thereafter a barrister. They may not, however, practise as a barrister until they have completed (or been exempted from) an apprenticeship called pupillage. After completing pupillage, they are considered to be a practising barrister with a right of audience before all courts.” [Call to the bar]

Although there have been some changes to the distinctions in modern England and Wales, most being in social standing, most jurisdictions define two types of lawyers, who are regulated by different bodies, with separate training, examinations, regulation and traditions:

  • Barristers primarily practise in court and generally specialise in advocacy in a particular field of law; they have a right of audience in all courts of England and Wales.
  • Solicitors do not necessarily undertake court work, but have a right of audience in the lower courts (magistrates’ courts and county courts). They are admitted or enrolled as a solicitor, to conduct litigation and practise in law outside court, e.g., providing legal advice to lay clients and acting on their behalf in legal matters.

A solicitor must additionally qualify as a solicitor-advocate in order to acquire the same “higher rights” of audience as a barrister. In other jurisdictions, the terminology and the degree of overlap between the roles of solicitor and barrister varies greatly; in most, the distinction has disappeared entirely.

Briefly, solicitors dealt with clients, while barristers had contact only with the solicitor and depended on the solicitors for an adequate presentation of the case. Both had to be admitted to practice in the different courts. King’s Bench and Common pleas were common law courts as were the criminal court. Chancery was a court of equity, and the church courts dealt with marriages and wills and were under civil (Roman) law.

They had attorneys, solicitors, and proctors. These did the legal work of investigation, writing up the writs, determining the charge when working for a plaintiff and  looking for a rebuttal for a defendant. They paid the one who pled the case in court.

Serjeants, barristers, and advocates. These were the pleaders. Despite what one reads in novels, they rarely ever met the client and seldom spoke to the client about the case. They were hired and paid by the attorney, solicitor and  proctor.

By the way, even the English of the day became exhausted with trying to keep all the groups and classes straight and which man worked in which court, so there was a general trend to dropping the distinction between solicitors and attorneys. All pleaders were called barristers by the general public. Records of court cases or legal texts might hold to the distinction. The church court held to proctor (solicitor) and advocate (barrister) the longest and some state divorce courts continued to do so for ages afterwards.

Many solicitors became very wealthy, though it was usually the barristers who went on to silk and a peerage. When a man took his silk, he changed his customary gown for a silk one and became a king’s Counsel. These men were called upon to argue many of the cases for the Crown. They could take a private case as long as it was not against the Crown or any government office or official. Barristers had chambers. There were no law firms, as we think of them in present time. They could share the chambers with other barristers– sharing the rent and expenses of the clerks, but they worked independently. The clerk of chambers would  be the one to receive the brief from solicitors and would collect the”honorarium” from the  solicitor, but other than the shared expenses the men were independent. 

To the best of my knowledge, and I have been wrong on several occasions, so do not quote me, solicitors were forbidden to form companies. They could employ others, but their businesses were independent from other solicitors. A man who had been practicing for awhile and  had a  thriving business could take in his son or his nephew or a stranger as a student  apprentice. There is not as much information around on the organization and rules governing solicitors as there are regarding the governing of barristers. 

“Before the creation of the Supreme Court of Judicature under the Supreme Cour tof Judicature Act 1873, solicitors practised in the Court of Chancery, attorneys practised in the common law courts and proctors practised in the ecclesiastical courts. After 1873, the offices of ‘attorney’ and ‘proctor’ disappeared as terms relating to legally qualified persons, being replaced by “Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales”, except for the unique government offices of Queen’s (or King’s) Proctor (now generally Treasury Solicitor which is co-held with the title), and Attorney- General. Since the replacement of the judicial aspect of the House of Lords with the Supreme Court the full title of a solicitor is ‘Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales’.

“In the English legal system, solicitors traditionally dealt with any legal matter including conducting proceedings in courts although solicitors were required to engage a barrister as advocate in a High Court or above after the profession split in two. Minor criminal cases are tried in magistrates’ courts, which constitute by far the majority of courts. More serious criminal cases still start in the magistrates’ court and may then be transferred to a higher court.” [Solicitor]

Additional Sources: 

The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple: Call to the Bar

The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn: Becoming a Barrister

The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple: Education and Training

Hugh H. L. Bellot: The Inner and Middle Temple: Legal, Literary, and Historic Associations 


Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, Church of England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Living in the Regency, Regency era, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Colours of the Regency

LastWomanStanding3x5   In my novella, “Last Woman Standing,” which is to be a part of a Christmas anthology, the heroine’s father is a horticulturalist. He has an unusual monkey flower species called the “Calico” in the book. In case you are interested, here is what the website Calscape says of the flower: “Mimulus pictus is a species of monkey flower known by the common name calico monkey flower. It is endemic to central California, where it is known only from the southernmost Sierra Nevada and adjacent Tehachapi Mountains in Tulare and Kern Counties. It grows in forest and woodland habitat, in open, bare, rocky, and often disturbed areas. This is an annual herb growing in a small patch at ground level or erect to a maximum height of about 38 centimeters. The stem is hairy and rectangular in cross-section. The oppositely arranged leaves are somewhat oval in shape and up to 4.5 centimeters long. The tubular base of the flower is encapsulated in a dark reddish calyx of sepals with uneven lobes. The five-lobed flower has a maroon throat and the circular face is white with stark maroon veining.” The last line of this description is the one that drove me a bit batty while describing the flower in the book, for “maroon” was not a termed commonly used during the Regency. It was just becoming popular at the end of the 18th Century. 


From Dictionary. com
adjective: maroon
  1. 1.
    of a brownish-crimson color.
    “ornate maroon and gold wallpaper”
noun: maroon; plural noun: maroons
  1. 1.
    a brownish-crimson color.
    “the hat is available in either white or maroon”
  2. 2.
    a firework that makes a loud bang, used mainly as a signal or warning.
late 17th century (in the sense ‘chestnut’): from French marron ‘chestnut’, via Italian from medieval Greek maraon . The sense relating to color dates from the late 18th century.

It seems like the Regency was the era for colorful names and names for colors. However, many only lasted a season or two. Some colors were dictated by events of the day (battles won, allied countries, etc.). But one of the reasons the Regency era is so fascinating is due to the many descriptive colors, etc.

I am not sure certain whether there were specific color names confined just to the Regency. However, if you would like a list of colors used across the Regency and the longer Georgian eras, accompanied by swatches, you might want to have a look at Sarah Waldock’s post at her blog, Renaissance and Regency Ruminations. If you read my story, you will notice I use both the terms “chestnut” and “Egyptian brown” to describe the veining in the flower pictured above. 

This color list was primarily prepared by Sarah, who also dyes fabrics using old techniques and formulas, augmented by information provided to her by Charles Bazalgette, who recently published a biography of his ancestor, Louis Bazalgette, entitled Prinny’s Taylor. It is important to keep in mind that most of the colors on this list came primarily from colors used for garments and accessories, rather than interior decor. Which is not to say that such colors were not used for such purposes, just that the sources of these color names are based upon garment colors.

51jyow5S1BL.jpg In case you want to know more of the book Prinny’s Taylor: The Life and Times of Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830)The Prince of Wales, later George IV, is probably the most written-about of all British monarchs, and his excesses, his debts and the huge sums that he expended on his wardrobe are legendary. It is therefore strange that the man who was the Prince’s tailor for over thirty-two years, and his principal tailor for over half of that time, should have been named, and then only in passing, in just two other books. 
The reason why Louis Bazalgette has been a shadowy figure until now is that the relationship between the two men was discreet and almost clandestine. This biography presents a detailed picture of an extraordinary man, of humble origins, whose influence on gentlemen’s tailoring, and upon the Prince himself, must have been far-reaching. 
This fascinating story presents a new angle on Georgian and Regency life, as seen through the eyes of a little French tailor who by his own efforts became a very wealthy propertied merchant. There is also a great deal of information on gentlemen’s tailoring of the period, a subject sparsely covered in other publications, and we are regaled in detail with the clothes that were made for Prinny, when and where he wore them and how much they cost. Many of the anecdotes about George are included, but given new meaning because of the fresh information that the author has discovered.
Some of Louis Bazalgette’s descendants also enter the story. His eldest son Joseph William Bazalgette, R.N, served with distinction during the Napoleonic wars, and his grandson of the same name was the noted civil engineer who made such a difference to London. The author is Louis’ great-great-great-great-grandson.
Lovers of the period will be delighted by many previously unpublished items which have been uncovered during over twenty years of painstaking research.

The earliest reference I have found of Navy Blue comes in 1814. (from the Oxford English Dictionary). Forest Green dates to 1810. Navy Blue might have been already in use at the time because the reference refers to a vat of dye. Forest Green was used by a Scot in reference to a color called Lincoln green. Some of the names of colors used in house paint  were very odd. Farrow and Ball used to have a sample card for historic colors like dead salmon and mouseback. We can also discover color names in the descriptions of fashion prints in the magazines. Some color terms date from after the Regency, such as Mauve. Colors and fashion details were also named after events. A fashion color was stone. I wondered it there was a difference between stone and Bath stone, field stone, or flagstone. Fruits and flowers were names often used. Navy blue was the color of the British naval uniform. Navy bean attested from 1856, so called because they were grown to be used by the Navy. (From But it does not say when they began using the term as a color rather than a noun. I have seen “cerulean blue,” “Pomona green,” and “primrose yellow,” to name a few.

There were common Regency/Georgian terms for various hues within each color. Someone on the Beau Monde loop (sorry, I cannot discover who provided this list) tells us about “greens.” 

Greens, for instance, were:

Bottle green

Bronze Green

Corbeau coloured

Emerald green

Olive (green)

Parrot green

Pomona green

Rifle green

Saxon green

Spring (green)

This table reads as: the title of the color, the year the term was first used, the modern color description/name as per the British Color Council,

Aurora, 1809. Chilli.

Aurora, 1829.  Shell-Pink.

Eminence, 1829.  Crushed Strawberry.

Japanese Rose, 1826.  Crushed Strawberry.

Marsh Mallow, 1829. Crocus or Old Rose.

Morone, 1811. Peony Red.

Naccarat, 1800. Tangerine.

Terre D’Egypt, 1824. Brick Red.

In the Regency period, there certainly are more colors for white/cream/shades thereof than for red/pink/orange.

51mvL3GneQL.jpg  You might consider an investment in C. Willett Cunningham’s, English Women’s Clothing in the Ninetheeth Century: A Comprehensive Guide with 1,117 Illustrations. At 576 pages, it is well worth the nearly $20 cost, for it has information on hair styles, hats, prices on yardage, undergarments, etc. 

Book Blurb:

The nineteenth century was a period of continuous change for women’s clothing in England. The growing prosperity of the merchant class meant an ever-larger number of women for whom “dress” was a principal function in life, while the increasing availability of lower-priced ready-made garments enabled women of moderate means to purchase the fashions of the day. In addition, the development of the railways spurred the spread of new goods, while the removal of the tax on papers in 1854 produced an abundance of fashion magazines at cheap prices, bringing news of the latest styles to the multitudes.
The magnificent array of ladies’ fashions that characterized the century are on display in this remarkably complete decade-by-decade overview. Drawing almost exclusively on contemporary sources — fashion magazines, newspapers, rare period photographs, memoirs, Victorian novels, periodicals, and other publications, as well as firsthand observation of actual garments — the author describes and explains the couture that evolved in response to changing social conditions, technological innovations, and cultural developments.
Over 1,100 line and tone drawings and photographs depict hundreds of outfits ranging from lovely morning dresses and starkly attractive riding outfits to elegant carriage costumes, opulent evening dresses, and exquisite bridal gowns. Full-page plates also depict period millinery, footwear, underclothing, and other apparel, while three useful glossaries provide descriptions of materials, definitions of technical terms, and more.
Museum curators, vintage clothes collectors, and fashion historians will find this carefully researched and well-written book an indispensable tool for dating, identifying, and authenticating vintage clothing. Not only are styles described and illustrated in detail for each year; all the small details of construction by which specimens can be dated are given wherever possible. Moreover, designers, illustrators, and fashion enthusiasts will be delighted by the superbly detailed illustrations, which painstakingly document the fashionable finery of the Victorian era.

Posted in book release, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Living in the Regency, Regency era, research, writing | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Significance of Birth Order in Jane Austen’s Novels, a Guest Post from Eliza Shearer

This post originally appeared on Austen Authors on June 25, 2019. Enjoy! 

Birth order has an impact on your personality and behaviour, according to many psychologists. Some of the stereotypes related to sibling birth order have primarily been confirmed by scientific studies, but at Jane Austen’s time, such observations would have remained anecdotal only.

Whether you trust said studies or not, it is worth checking out what this observant writer, so talented at describing human emotions, behaviours and interactions, made of the supposed characteristics of children born in the same family, depending on their birth order.

Firstborns, the Responsible Ones?

When it comes to firstborns, stereotypes abound. Because they enjoy the attention of both parents, firstborns are supposedly born leaders, conscientious and responsible achievers, and at the same time tend to be overly cautious, perfectionists and even controlling.

Some of Jane Austen’s characters who are firstborns neatly fit in this category, and you need not look further than collected Elinor Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility, always so organised and responsible (Mrs Dashwood definitely wasn’t a firstborn!). Charlotte Lucas of Pride and Prejudice, who opts for financial security in the shape of a marriage of convenience rather than becoming a burden for her family, is another sensible older sibling.

Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and Mr Knightley in Emma are further examples of firstborn children whose diligence and sense of responsibility for the lives of others are acute, and who respect their elders and want to be the best at everything they do. But this attitude is not always laudable, in Jane Austen’s opinion: Sense and Sensibility‘s Edward Ferrars has such a warped sense of honour that he is prepared to marry a silly woman simply because he promised to do so as a bored young man.

Not all firstborns fit the idealistic picture of duty and respectability. Elizabeth Elliot, Anne’s eldest sister in Persuasion, is selfish, hedonistic, snobby and full of her own firstborn privilege as the eldest Elliot daughter. Tommy Bertram of Mansfield Park is charming and fun, but also thoughtless, even callous, to the point that his spending habits put his brother Edmund’s inheritance and future happiness in jeopardy.

Free-spirited Last Borns

At the other end of the spectrum, we find the baby of the family. Youngest children are supposed to have benefited from their parents’ increasingly lax approach to parenting, especially if there are several siblings between them and the firstborn. They are often accused of being attention-seekers, but on the plus side, they tend to behave in uncomplicated, spontaneous ways.

Lydia Bennet, Elizabeth’s baby sister in Pride and Prejudice, is the Austen character that most closely fits the stereotype. She is fun-loving and outgoing, but also self-centred and manipulative. Lydia elopes with the man she wants without thinking of the consequences. Marrying without parental consent was a severe affront to the family, and therefore a rare occurrence, but interestingly, Mansfield Park’s Julia Bertram, who also elopes, happens to be the youngest Bertram sibling.

To find out what happens when freedom-loving youngest children acquire responsibilities, look no further than Mary Musgrove, the youngest Elliot sister in Persuasion. Mary has a knack for getting others (particularly her sister Anne) to stand in for her when it comes to dealing with the less unpleasant aspects of being a grown-up, such as having to miss out on social occasions on account of sick children.

Amongst the men, there is perhaps a no better example of a spoilt youngest child in Austen’s novels than the foolish Robert Ferrars, Edward Ferrars’ younger brother in Sense and Sensibility. The first time Elinor meets him, at a jeweller’s, he is buying a fancy and ridiculously expensive toothpick case. Need I say more?

Middle Children, the Great Question Mark

What about the children who fall in the middle in sibling birth order? It turns out that they are a bit of a mystery and can turn out either way. In some cases, their behaviour is close to what one might expect from the stereotypical older sibling. Mansfield Park’s Edmund Bertram is a man of honour who cares about those less privileged than himself and is prepared to forfeit their future happiness because of a higher sense of morality. He will not contemplate not going into the church, as is his vocation, even if this means renouncing the woman he loves.

Anne Elliot of Persuasion is another example of a middle child behaving in a far more sensible way than her elder siblings. She is also a bit of a loner, a trait that she shares with Mary Bennet, the middle child in Pride and Prejudice. Poor Mary is definitely the odd one out amongst the Bennet sisters, not just because she isn’t as pretty as the rest of them, but also because the other four are so clearly paired off from the beginning.

There are also instances of middle children who refuse to blend into the familial background and stand out to find a place within the family. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood is not exactly a wallflower, drawing attention to herself at every possible occasion. In Pride and Prejudice, spirited Elizabeth Bennet is her father’s favourite and the most magnetic of all five sisters.

All in all, I am sure that Austen would have agreed with Dr Kevin Leman, a psychologist who has studied birth order for decades, who said that “the one thing you can bet your paycheck on is the firstborn and second-born in any given family are going to be different.”

What do you make of Austen’s depiction of birth order and the impact it has on the personalities of her characters? Do you identify as one character in particular?

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, customs and tradiitons, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, reading, real life tales, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is the Difference Between a Peerage That is “Dormant,” “Extinct” or in “Abeyance”?

1200px-Wreath_lockup_gold_rgb.jpgI was recently looking for names and titles to use for characters in a list of extinct  and abeyant peerages in an online copy of  Debrett’s from the mid 1800s. Some of the titles in abeyance had been in that state since the 13th Century. It got me thinking as to whether the readers of Regency romances know the difference between dormant, extinct, or in abeyance as a plot point. Does it matter to the average reader whether the history is accurate or not? 

While most peerages were created by patent and become extinct when there are no longer any male heirs, some peerages were created when a man was called to the House of Lord by a writ of summons issued in  his peerage title. If the clerk made a mistake and wrote the wrong title then a new peerage was created. These peerages by writ could descend to both sons and daughters. However, while if a man had several sons the peerage went to the oldest, the practice was that sisters shared equally. If a holder of a barony had four daughters and no sons, they would all share equally in property, but none of them would actually hold the title. This would remain in abeyance until such time as one descendant survived and was willing and able to do a detailed  family tree accounting for all the sisters and their children for how many years or decades since the death of the last peer. If there were four daughters there would be fewer descendants than if there had been fifteen daughters. By the fifth generation the families probably forgot there was  ever a matter of a peerage title.


It was an arduous task to show all of the children of the last peer, when born, when died, when married to whom, with proofs from parish registers about marriages and baptisms, as well as records of deaths. The successful claimant need not be the only surviving descendent of the sisters, but the descendant of the oldest sister had a bit of precedence over the descendants of the younger sisters.

When peerages are in abeyance, the birth of a son to one of the sisters does not automatically make him the successor to all of the sisters. 

Secondary peerages are dormant titles if there are no heirs to bear them or if the heir is not given a peerage title.

A title is also dormant when it is known or suspected that male heirs exist somewhere, but that they have not come forward to claim the title.

It is my understanding, for example, that the Avonmore peerage is dormant because one of the sons of the 3rd viscount went off to Australia, where he was known to have married and  had a child. However, no one ever came forward to claim the peerage, so it is dormant. If  it was known that there were no longer any male heirs left alive , the peerage will be considered extinct.

Frederick Berkeley, 5th Earl of Berkley was also the baron of Berkeley, He had married Mary Cole and had ten children, but 5 were declared illegitimate in 1811, after Frederick’s death in 1810. There was a question regarding the exact date of Frederick and Mary’s marriage. Although they both claimed it occurred on 30 March 1785, the incontrovertible proof offered at the time was the marriage occurred at Lambeth Church, Surrey, on 16 May 1796. Thus, the earldom was presented to their fifth child (the others being illegitimate), a son, age 16 years at the time: Thomas Morton Fitzhardinge Berkely. Because the young man was alive, but too frightened of, or loyal to, his oldest brother and his mother, he ever claimed the peerage and never took his seat in the House of Lords. It is said, per his father’s will, Thomas would have lost his small inheritance had he disputed his eldest brother’s claim to the titles. 


A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, Sixth Edition 1839 (known better simply as Burke’s Peerage) ~ Public Domain via Wikipedia

   Therefore, the earldom of Berkeley remained dormant until Thomas died in August 1882, unmarried and without issue. Then the Berkeley earldom went to a descendent of a younger legitimate  brother. At that time a female descendent of an older legitimate brother petitioned to have the barony awarded to her. After proving her descent and that the barony was a barony by writ, she succeeded. She was Louisa Mary Milman, 15th Baroness Berkeley (by birth: Berkeley) (1840-1899). Louisa was followed by Eva Mary Foley, 16th Baroness Berkeley (by birth: Milman) (1875-1964) (The peerage became abeyant in 1964.) Eva was followed by Mary Lalle Foley-Berkeley, 17th Baroness Berkeley (1905-1992) (The abeyance was terminated in 1967.) Then, Anthony Fitzhardinge Gueterbock, 18th Baron Berkeley (b. 1939), her nephew became the baron. The heir apparent is his son the Hon. Thomas FitzHardinge Gueterbock (b. 1969).

Extinct indicates the peerage has no more heirs at all or no more male heirs if a peerage by patent.

Dormant means a peerage has been swallowed up in a superior title or an unclaimed peerage when a likely successor is known to be alive.

Abeyance means daughters shared equally in the right of succession so the prize goes to the descendent who either out lives the others or can prove she or he has a better claim than the cousins.

For more information on how a peerage is swallowed up in a superior title, visit:

The Prince Regent could not call a title out of abeyance, but he could grant a title in a second creation that had become extinct. Titles in abeyance have known contenders and usually start with a title available to daughters. When daughters inherit, they all do equally, so the title is in abeyance until one claimant is given the right to it. The numbering starts over. I used this in my book Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion.

Abeyance is when there is more than one claimant to a title. This usually happens when a peerage by writ is inherited by daughters. It remains in abeyance until it is called out by one of the claimants. One title was claimed after 400 years. Afterwards, Parliament decided to limit the statute for such claims to 100 years.

When there are no title holders to be found and no people presumed to be around, the title becomes extinct and reverts to the Crown.

The title is dormant, if  a person is thought to be alive, but just has not claimed it. The baby would be the duke, and the title would be alive during the child’s life time unless proof can be found of his death.

The law, however, is not without its remedy for this anomalous situations. It vests in the Crown a power by its prerogative of selecting one of the co-heirs, or the heir of one of the co-heirs, to take the peerage, and so soon as the Crown has declared its will in this respect, the peerage descends to the person thus selected. The usual mode in which the Crown has made its selection has been by causing a Writ of Summons to be issued to the person selected, or, if such person be a woman, by causing Letters Patent be made determining the abeyance in her favour. Where the person selected is already a peer, the abeyance has also been determined in his favor by Letters Patent. The heir in whose favour an abeyance is thus terminated takes the peerage and holds it to him and the heirs of his body. This is not a new peerage, but, rather, the old peerage with the old precedence. (The Peerage Law Handbook, p. 100-101).

According to one of the peerage law books, the ONLY power a monarch retained over a title once it was granted was the power to choose from amongst co-heirs and terminate an abeyance in the favor of one of them. It almost never happened, but it is technically possible that as Regent, Prince George, the Prince of Wales, could, in fact, have done this if the hero in an author’s next Regency romance is somewhere in the line of co-heirs.

Posted in British history, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, historical fiction, Inheritance, kings and queens, Living in the Regency, peerage, real life tales, Regency romance, research, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Was the “Ton” or the “Bon Ton” a More Appropriate Descriptor to Call the Aristocracy During the Regency Era?

Le bon ton is a French phrase meaning “the good style” or “good form.” So one could be part of the ton, if one had the style for it, which is why Beau Brummell could be a leader of fashion and society despite not having much of a background. All of which is very ironic for Brummel was born into the “middle class.”

800px-BrummellEngrvFrmMiniature.jpg“[George Bryan Brummell] Brummell was born in London, the younger son of William Brummell, a politician, of Donnington Grove in Berkshire. The family was middle class, but the elder Brummell was ambitious for his son to become a gentleman, and young George was raised with that understanding. Brummell was educated at Eton and made his precocious mark on fashion when he not only modernised the white stock, or cravat, that was the mark of the Eton boy, but added a gold buckle to it He progressed to Oxford University, where, by his own example, he made cotton stockings and dingy cravats a thing of the past. He left the university after only a year, at the age of sixteen.” [John, Doran (1857), Miscellaneous Works, Volume I: Habits and Men, Beau Brummell, Great Britain: Richard Bentley, p. 379.]

Brummell would not have had the influence he possessed if he had not been a member of the Prince of Wales’s inner circle and taken up by the Whigs. Though Brummell’s downfall is said to have started from his bad ton of arguing with, and then insulting, the Prince Regent, the timing also coincides with the  Whigs’s disenchantment with the Regent and the switching of sides by many on many issues. 

“Unfortunately, Brummell‘s wealthy friends had a less than satisfactory influence on him; he began spending and gambling as though his fortune were as ample as theirs. Such liberal outlay began to deplete his capital rapidly, and he found it increasingly difficult to maintain his lifestyle, although his prominent position in society still allowed him to float a line of credit. This changed in July 1813, at a masquerade ball jointly hosted at Watier’s private club by Brummell, Lord Alvanley, Henry Mildmay, and Henry Pierrepoint. The four were considered the prime movers of Watier’s, dubbed ‘the Dandy Club’ by Byron. The Prince Regent greeted Alvanley and Pierrepoint at the event, and then ‘cut’ Brummell and Mildmay by staring at their faces without speaking. This provoked Brummell’s remark, ‘Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?’. The incident marked the final breach in a rift between Brummell and the Regent that had opened in 1811, when the Prince became Regent and began abandoning all his old Whig friends. Ordinarily, the loss of royal favour to a favourite meant social doom, but Brummell ran as much on the approval and friendship of other leaders of fashionable circles. He became the anomaly of a favourite flourishing without a patron, still influencing fashion and courted by a large segment of society.”

While the Prince and  the Whigs were aligned, the Whigs castigated Princess Caroline.  However, when the Whigs discovered the Prince had gone back  on his promise to them, they started supporting  Caroline, and the Tories, who had previously supported her, now turned their backs on her. Politics had much more to do with things than  we might have realized prior.

Consequently, the ton might be expanded to include the “upper ten thousand,” not just the upper four hundred. And whether they liked it or not, a duke might have been poor ton, while a mere mister might have been le bon ton, as in with the Beau, who had no title.

Most naturally, money spoke loudly among the aristocratic class, but if one had little or no sense of style and good form, he might be shunned. Likewise, a title was important, but if it were dripping in scandal or if the title holders possessed poor manners, Society might well turn its back on the person. 

It might then be supposed, based on what we have in tact from the day, such as women’s magazines, the Ton were aristocrats and upper level gentry who attended the London Season and the Little Season. This group worked rather like the A list of celebrities we now follow. To be on the “list,” one must possess certain family connections, be wealthy, own land, and appear untouched by trade or needing to earn a living. Young ladies who were presented to the Court were A list, while those who were not presented, but otherwise met the criteria to be invited to Almack’s were the B list, etc.

Keeping this in mind, “the ton” then becomes more of a descriptor for those with excellent taste in manner and fashion, rather than the whole of the aristocracy in the Regency period. Some believe, and I am among those believers, that it was Georgette Heyer who first called the whole of the aristocracy the ton. 

However, none of these examples seem to be what the  group called themselves. Most of the comments are not really complimentary.  Some would be applicable to the dandy set, the fops, and the careless youth or the late Georgian equivalent to “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Then others were addressed to those referred to as bluestockings, the demi-monde, rakes, etc.

The lovely Candice Hern has a whole list of “slang terms” on her website. For example, do you know what an “ape leader” might be? “An old maid or spinster. An old English adage said that a spinster’s punishment after death, for failing to procreate, would be to lead apes in hell.”

A “cicisbeo” is a married woman’s gallant, usually a platonic admirer. 

A “cit” was a contemptuous term for a member of the merchant class, one works or lives in the City of London. 

“High in the instep” means the person is arrogant; snobbish; overly proud, and very much aware of social rank. 

A “hoyden” is a girl who is boisterous, carefree, or tomboyish in her behavior. Etc. 

The point is the ton were quick to label and to call others out in order to hide their own foibles. 

I think the members of the upper two or ten thousand were just as likely to use “our sort,” as it would be the ton. When speaking of the middle and lower classes, it was always in terms indicating “those people” should respect their betters. Most assuredly, it was assumed that only the members of the upper class could be considered well bred and possessing good taste. 

It seems to me, the ton also held a real connotation for folks involved in the fashionable world, in London, in Society—people who were active and connected and “accomplishing” something of importance to them. It seems to me that there was not as strict a divide as a hundred years before (or even fifty) between the “country bumpkin” type (the country gentry who never went to London, or if they did, drew laughter through not knowing the current dress, etiquette, and dance styles) and the “London fashionables. Perhaps this change was due to improved transportation, and people more inclined to travel to Bath or Brighton or Ramsgate or other watering holes and sea side destinations. However, I firmly believe there was still a distinction.  You might prefer your daughter to marry a wealthy country gentleman than a fashionable younger son, but if you did not have a daughter to marry off, you might rather have the latter at your dinner party.  And, most certainly, you would far rather your daughter marry a wealthy gentleman with ties and connections and friends at court and among the royals.  People advanced and grew richer through connections more than anything else at this time.

  “My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”
  Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
  “But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”
  Mr. Bennet made no answer.
  “Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.
  “You  want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”
  This was invitation enough.
  “Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”
  “What is his name?”
  “Is he married or single?”
  “Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

  Mr. Bingley was good looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.
  Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters.

For those of you interested in this topic…

A quick glance through a few of my reference books revealed there are also publications that use bon ton as a descriptor in their titles. The New Bon Ton Magazine (Telescope of the Times) that was published from 1818-1821.

Slang: A Dictionary of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, the Pit, of Bon Ton and the Varieties of Life by John Bee in 1823.

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Playwright David Garrick’s comedy Bon Ton; or High Life Above Stairs was performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on March 18, 1775.

The Cambridge Companion to British Theatre 1730-1830 documents dramatist Hannah Cowley referencing the bon ton society. See The Celebrated Hannah Cowley by Angela Escott. 

How to Pronounce the Word “Ton” in Reference to the Upper Class in Regency England? 

What is the “Haut Ton”? What is the “Haut Ton”? 

Who Were the “Ton” and the “Beau Monde”?

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