Birthing Twins in the Regency + Release of “The Earl Claims His Comfort”

Do you adore cute babies as much as I? What about twins? Twins run in my husband’s family. Thankfully, we did not experience twins directly, but his sister and our second son both did. As a 70-year-old grandmother, I enjoy cuddling infants because I know I can send them home with their parents afterwards. However, the idea of twins during the Regency period intrigued me and brought me to a new series. Heck even the whole idea of giving birth with what we would call primitive methods was a daunting idea to explore. Therefore, I wish to introduce you to a new romantic suspense series set in the Regency.

Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep is the first book in a Regency romantic suspense trilogy: The Twins, and it has been named as a 2017 finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Obviously, when I learned the news of its success, I did my *Happy Dance* (which I must say is infinitely less entertaining than was Elaine’s in the “Seinfeld” series, for I did dance on Broadway in my youth, and I can keep a beat).  Today, I would give you the acquaintance of the second in the series, The Earl Claims His Comfort, which arrived on September 16 from Black Opal Books.

In “Angel” there are several sets of twins. The hero, Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, is a twin. Malvern and his sister, Henrietta, Viscountess Stoke, are fraternal twins, as are Henrietta’s boys. She is in the family way a second time in the book and obviously expecting twins again. Her husband, Viscount Stoke, is also a twin. Malvern’s father, the Duke of Devilfoard, possesses a twin. However, I wished a different slant for book 2. Identical twins become part of the plot of The Earl Claims His Comfort, where we encounter an “evil” twin as part of the mystery.

One might think that the preponderance of twins during the early 1800s is odd, but Vital Statics available on the possibility of twinning during the 1700s and 1800s can be found in a variety of abstracts. For example in the U. S. at the same time, “Vital records of Saybrook and Plymouth in New England from the 17th century were investigated. Among 8,562 maternities 81 twin maternities were found, the twinning rate being 0.95%. Twinning rate was low at the 1st and 2nd births as compared with the 3rd or later births, and was highest at the 7th and 8th births (1.6%). Twin maternity seemed to be a strong risk factor to terminate reproduction, particularly after 6 or more children had been delivered. The rate of mothers who had any other child (“fertile” mothers) at the 7th or later birth order was significantly lower for twin (13%) than for singleton maternities (63%). Twinning rate also varied by the size of offspring of a mother, and those mothers who had 5 or 6 children showed the highest twinning rate (1.3%). Those fertile mothers who had 7 or more children showed the lowest twinning rate (0.74%), although an exceptionally higher twinning rate was seen at their last births. Elongation of the last birth interval was observed for each group of every family size, and higher twinning rates were generally observed at their last births. Reduction in fecundity and rise in twinning rate seem to have occurred simultaneously at the last stage of the reproductive period of mothers, regardless of their family size.” (U. S. National Library of Medicine)

41+uPLTbk3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg The birth experience during the Regency era was very difficult for women. We often hear the reason that men chose a younger woman (and women were on “the shelf” at age five and twenty) was that the younger girls were thought better to survive child birth. And no wonder! Did you realize that during this period a woman would experience pregnancy some ten times. The women gave birth to an average of six times during their lifetimes. Edward Shorter in Women’s Bodies: A Social History of Women’s Encounter with Health, Ill-Health and Medicine says, “The indifference of men to the physical welfare of women is most striking in regard to childbirth. …child bearing was a woman’s event, occurring with the women’s culture; a man’s primary concern was to see a living heir brought forth. I am not [Shorter] trying to cast the husbands of traditional society as fiends but want merely to show what an unbridgeable sentimental distance separated them from their wives. Under these circumstances it is unrealistic to think that men would abstain from intercourse in order to save women from the physical consequences of repeated childbearing.”

412TR97GYTL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg In her book In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860, Judith Schneid Lewis shares some interesting facts of the time period. Ms. Lewis studied 50 aristocratic women for the book. From these studies we learn that these 50 women averaged 8 children over an eighteen year period. The women in the group married typically at 21 and gave birth to her first child within 2.25 years. They continued to present their husbands with children until the age of 40.

Ms. Lewis tells us that 80% of the women gave birth within two years of marriage, with 50% presenting their husbands with a child within the first year of marriage. The Duchess of Leinster birthed 21 children over a 30 year span. She was 46 years of age when the last one was born.

Typical of the period, a male midwife would ask the woman if she were prepared to “take a pain,” meaning a vaginal examination. For this procedure, a pregnant woman would customarily lie on her left side upon a bed. She would be asked to draw her knees up to her abdomen. This was the position recommended by Doctor Thomas Denman, a prominent male midwife of the period. Denman also cautioned for discretion and tenderness during the examination.

From the examination, the midwife could determine how advanced was the pregnancy, whether the woman’s pelvis was deformed or not, and whether the baby had turned head down. If delivery occurred within 24 hours, it was considered natural. We see much of what happened to Princess Charlotte (daughter of the Prince Regent) as how it was for women during the Regency.

“About 7 o’clock on the evening of Monday, the 3rd of November, at 42 weeks and 3 days gestation, the membranes spontaneously ruptured and labor pains soon followed. The contractions were coming every 8 to 10 minutes and were very mild. Examination of the cervix at that time revealed the tip of the cervix to be about a half penny dilated. On Tuesday morning, around 3 a.m., the 4th of November, Princess Charlotte had a violent vomiting spell and Dr. Croft thinking that delivery was eminent, sent for the officers of the state and Dr. Matthew Baillie.

“The pains continued. They were weak and ineffectual but still sharp enough to be distressing, occurring about 8 minute intervals with little progress in the labor. Around 11:00 a.m. that morning after 16 hours of labor the cervix the size of a crown piece (probably 4 cm). At 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, she was noted to have just an anterior lip of cervix, and by 9:00 p.m., she was completely dilated. At this point, she had had about 26 hours of the first stage of labor.

“Labor advanced, but the progress was very slow. At noon, on Wednesday, the 5th of November after the second stage of labor had gone on for 15 hours, the uterine discharge became a dark green color, which made the medical attendants fear that the child might be dead. Between three and four p.m. after the second stage had gone on for 18 hours, the child’s head began to press on the external parts, and by 9:00 p.m., was born by the action of Charlotte’s pains only.

“The child, a 9 lb. boy, was dead and had evidently been dead for some hours. The umbilical cord was very small and was of a dark green or black color. About ten minutes after the delivery, Sir Richard Croft discovered that the uterus was contracted in the middle in an hourglass form. Approximately 20 minutes later, the princess began to hemorrhage. About 12:45 am. on the 6th of November she complained of great uneasiness in her chest and great difficulty in breathing. Her pulse became rapid, deep and irregular, and she extremely restless and was not able to remain still for a single moment.”(The Death of Princess Charlotte of Wales An Obstetric Tragedy, Charles R. Oberst, Spring 1984) Within hours, the Princess had passed. When we consider such, it is a wonder that any woman of the period would consider the “joys” of childbirth.



Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books

– a 2016 Hot Prospects finalist in Romantic Suspense

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how a stranger’s life parallels his, while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon a road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

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Excerpt from Chapter 5 of The Earl Claims His Comfort

“What do you mean I ordered you to attack the man sleeping in the cook’s quarters?” Rem growled in frustration. “I was the man in the cook’s room! Why in bloody hell would I pay you to attack me?”

He and Miss Neville had secured the two attackers only moments before the sound of running footsteps announced the arrival of the baronet and the marquess. His associates assisted him in bringing the younger of the two to sit in a chair before the worktable. The older had yet to awaken from the blow delivered by Miss Neville to the side of the man’s head.

“It be as I says,” the man assured. “Me and Heneree meets a man who offers us each twenty pounds to slit the throat of a man who pretends to be his lordship.”

“And the man favored Lord Remmington?” Malvern asked in the same state of confusion as Rem experienced.

His attacker turned a steady eye upon Rem’s countenance. “No ‘avored,” the intruder declared. “Be the same man.”

Rem reached for the man to shake some sense into him, but Sir Alexander caught Rem’s hand to stall his fervor. “Why do you not see to Miss Neville?” the baronet suggested. “The lady appears quite fragged from this encounter. Assure her all is well and send her off to bed. Malvern and I will learn the truth of this matter.”

Rem did not approve of the baronet’s dismissal, but when he glanced to his bedroom where Miss Neville and Sally swept up broken crockery and attempted to repair the collapsed bed frame, Rem accepted Sir Alexander’s orders. The lady strained under the weight of the heavy frame. “I mean to know the truth,” Rem hissed as he rose stiffly.

“As do we,” Sir Alexander confirmed.

Rem hobbled toward the small room to place his shoulder against the wood so the women could reset the notch. “While Sir Alexander continues his investigation, I thought perhaps I could convince you to tend my cuts from the altercation. Then I desire that you and Sally return above stairs. A long night awaits the investigation, and I do not wish Miss Deirdre to know more anguish.”

“But, my lord—” she began her objection.

However, he shook off her words. “Sir Alexander and Lord Malvern cannot ask the types of questions necessary with a lady in the room. Trust me that this is for the best. The gentlemen would not wish to expose you to the baser natures of our prisoners.”

“Your promise to Deirdre?” Miss Neville asked softly.

“Tell the child I did not forget, but I must first assist Lord Malvern and the baronet. Assure Deirdre that I mean to protect you both. No harm will come to either of you.”



Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy

– a 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense finalist

-a SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Award finalist for Historical Romance

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Posted in Black Opal Books, blog hop, book excerpts, book release, British history, eBooks, excerpt, Georgian England, Georgian Era, heroines, historical fiction, kings and queens, Living in the Regency, medicine, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, romance, suspense | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conjugal Beneath the Fraternal: Jane Austen’s Understanding of Love, a Guest Post from Kyra C. Kramer

This scholarly piece appeared on Austen Authors on September 17, 2017. I brought it over here so more people could enjoy it.

Conjugal Beneath the Fraternal:

Jane Austen’s Understanding of Love

41WG-XZ1drL._UY250_.jpg In her third novel, Mansfield Park, Jane Austen explains that the relationship between siblings is potentially the deepest, strongest love possible, and that:

“even the conjugal tie is beneath the fraternal. Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connexions can supply; and it must be by a long and unnatural estrangement, by a divorce which no subsequent connexion can justify, if such precious remains of the earliest attachments are ever entirely outlived.”

This contradicts the entrenched cultural message, which was already prevalent in Regency England, that romantic love is the central connection to promote emotional well-being and happiness. Why was Austen willing to buck the norm and take a stance declaring familial affection as the epitome of happiness?

In part, it was the result of Austen’s upbringing. Her parents’ social position relative to their closest physical neighbors resulted in a type of isolation for the Austen children, particularly for the girls. While other boys attended the Rev Austen’s school and formed friendships with his sons, his daughters would have been discouraged from rough-housing with the ‘strangers’ among them. Jane Austen’s earliest playmates were her siblings, her best friend was her older sister, and as an adult she appeared to find it difficult to form strong emotional bonds to people whom she had not known most of her life. Even her closest friendships were overshadowed by her family attachments, and her first instinct was to seek companionship within her kinship network.

Although the theory that Jane Austen had a sexual relationship with her sister, Cassandra, is nothing but prurient malarkey, her affection for her siblings was never challenged by a romantic attachment of sufficient duration or intimacy to displace familial love as her strongest emotion. Thus, Austen’s only experiences of profound, long-term love with the opposite sex were with her father and her brothers, who (without the sexual overtones that would imply incest) were the role models for her heroes. This does not mean that Jane Austen felt romantically toward her brothers; there is no hint of a Lannister kind of relationship in the Austen family. It is simply that when she thought of what love was, and love felt like at its strongest, she thought of her love for her family.

4121h-YMhXL._UY250_.jpg 413PzvxFZpL._UY250_.jpg 41oUGUHQCfL._UY250_ Austen’s first two books, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, were written when she was a young woman, and still enjoying the heady feelings of courtship and a reasonable expectation that she would marry. The protagonists of those novels typically come from outside of the familial framework. Edward Ferris was a stranger, in spite of his connections to the Dashwood family, while Col Brandon, Willoughby, Bingley, Darcy, and Wickham were all completely exterior to the heroines’ families. In Northanger Abbey, which was published last but written earlier than any of her other works (circa 1803), the hero was so unconnected to the heroine’s family that he was introduced to her at a public ball in Bath. 

41tLvAnwKzL._UY250_.jpg In contrast, the romantic interests of her third and fourth novels, Mansfield Park and Emma, which were written after Austen was a determined spinster with no intention of marrying, are men who are practically the heroines’ elder siblings. Edmund Bertram is both Fanny Price’s first cousin and her de facto brother, the one who had “formed her mind” as a girl, while Mr. Knightly is Emma’s much-older brother-in-law who has known her since her birth, indulged her as a little sister, and guided her understanding.

Mansfield Park, in particular, is a psychologist’s paradise of subtextual, subconscious, supplanting of familial bonds in the place of romance. Fanny has been in love with Edmund since she was a child, and they display all the attachments of siblings. When Edmund is devastated over his actual sister Maria’s disgrace and his disappointment over his love interest, Mary Crawford’s, lack of delicacy, he came to Fanny and “pressed [her] to his heart with only these words, just articulate, ‘My Fanny, my only sister; my only comfort now!’” He would shortly thereafter discover that in this ‘sister’ was the adhesive he needed to mend his broken heart: (emphasis mine)

“Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love … With such a regard for her, indeed, as his had long been, a regard founded on the most endearing claims of innocence and helplessness, and completed by every recommendation of growing worth, what could be more natural than the change? Loving, guiding, protecting her, as he had been doing ever since her being ten years old, her mind in so great a degree formed by his care, and her comfort depending on his kindness, an object to him of such close and peculiar interest, dearer by all his own importance with her than any one else at Mansfield, what was there now to add, but that he should learn to prefer soft light eyes to sparkling dark ones.”

To the modern reader the relationship between first cousins, even barring the fact they regarded each other as sister and brother, is incestuous and disconcerting. However, marriages between cousins were considered normal – even desirable — in Austen’s time. The idea of siblings marrying, though, was just as revolting in that era as our own, and Austen would have been horrified if anyone had suggested she felt romantic love or sexual attraction toward one of her brothers. There is every likelihood that Austen was completely oblivious to the implied incest in Mansfield Park. I also have strong doubts that Austen understood how awkward, how unsatisfying, it would be to have sex with a partner whom one regarded as a sibling. She probably didn’t give much thought to Fanny and Edmund’s marital bed. In Austen’s works, that kind of heated passion between lovers seems to have been for “impure” and lesser forms of affection, such as Maria and Henry Crawford’s liaison, or Lydia’s marriage to Wickham. Lust seems to be almost wholly unconnected to true love in Austen novels. The closest she comes to a hero’s desire is his admiration for a heroine’s “fine eyes” or “delicate features”, and even then the heroine’s physical attractions are secondary to her appealing personal characteristics.

41azoatSy3L._UY250_.jpg The last novel that Austen wrote, Persuasion, featured a hero, Captain Wentworth, who once more came from outside the web of family connections, but the objections from within those connections, in the form of disapproval from her substitute mother, Lady Russell, are the reasons why his suit was initially unsuccessful. Anne Elliot considers her affection for Lady Russell – as demonstrated by taking Lady Russell’s advice to end the engagement – to be more important than her feelings for Captain Wentworth. In short, she chooses familial love over romantic love. She later regrets it, discovering that her affection for Wentworth is stronger than any of her other attachments, but she is the only one of Austen’s heroines to have no family bonds to replace Wentworth in her heart. She is not close to either of her sisters, has no brothers, and the parent whom she could love and respect is dead. Anne Elliot’s only ‘family’ in the way that Austen understood family was Lady Russell, but she was a close family friend rather than a blood relative. It is almost as if Austen subconsciously thought romance was only truly important when there was no superior, familial love to be had. At the end of the novel, Anne’s biggest regret was that she could not offer Captain Wentworth any relatives:

“which a man of sense could value. There she felt her own inferiority very keenly. The disproportion in their fortune was nothing; it did not give her a moment’s regret; but to have no family to receive and estimate him properly, nothing of respectability, of harmony, of good will to offer in return for all the worth and all the prompt welcome which met her in his brothers and sisters, was a source of as lively pain as her mind could well be sensible of under circumstances of otherwise strong felicity.”

It is also interesting to note that Captain Wentworth was a sailor, rather than the gentleman of fortune or a reverend, as her former heroes had been. By the time she was writing Persuasion, both of her two younger brothers were naval captains, giving her a firsthand experience with a new ‘type’ of masculinity. Her former heroes were either clergyman/landowners like her father and eldest (healthy) brothers, but with Persuasion she had unknowingly chosen a hero that allowed her to symbolically marry – via her heroines – a final representation of her brothers.

Austen was wise enough to always “write what you know”, and what she knew was that she loved her brothers and trusted them to support her emotionally and financially. It was therefore natural that they, the most important men in her life, would be romantic surrogates in her novels.

71KIG+Es3uL._UX250_.jpg Meet the Author: Kyra Cornelius Kramer is a freelance academic with BS degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. She has written essays on the agency of the Female Gothic heroine and women’s bodies as feminist texts in the works of Jennifer Crusie. She has also co-authored two works; one with Dr. Laura Vivanco on the way in which the bodies of romance heroes and heroines act as the sites of reinforcement of, and resistance to, enculturated sexualities and gender ideologies, and another with Dr. Catrina Banks Whitley on Henry VIII.

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

51gEABHjwQL._UY250_.jpg 51I7t1zrE+L._UY250_.jpg 518HHpYHyIL._UY250_.jpg  51OsG52KTXL._UY250_.jpg 41-qd7G4ueL._UY250_.jpg

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, British Navy, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era, Regency romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Georgian Garden Adornments & Embellishments, a Guest Post from Sharon Lathan

Today, I have stolen one of my good friend’s post from Austen Authors to share with you. Sharon Lathan loves research as much as I, so you should enjoy this piece on Georgian Gardens, originally posted on May 16, 2016. If you wish to view the original post with Sharon’s lovely slide show, you may do so HERE

Georgian Garden Adornments & Embellishments


Temple of Apollo, Stourhead

A “Georgian Garden” is defined by the UK National Trust as one which dates from 1714 to 1830. In my blog post on May 16 —  Regency Servants ~ Keepers of the Grounds  —  I not only talked about the men and women who designed and maintained these massive parks, I also gave a historical overview of landscape styles during this period of time. Today I am writing an adjunct essay (with LOTS of photos) on the plethora of structural features unique to the Georgian garden.

“The park and garden merged into one, this was successfully achieved by the innovation of the ha-ha, a stock-proof boundary invisible from the house. Circuit walks around the landscape park were designed to evoke a variety of emotions with dark enclosed tunnels of evergreens opening into bright sunny glades. Walled kitchen gardens were sited out of view or screened by the latest craze, the shrubbery. The concept of the landscape park was ultimately a British style which would influence gardens throughout Europe.” —National Trust introduction to Georgian Gardens

Georgian garden style at a glance:

  • Informal layout designed as a classical place offering peace and simplicity
  • Lakes created to reflect the landscape as well as for recreation
  • Cascades adding drama and animation to the scene
  • Temples, grottos, towers, and other follies doubled as tearooms and shelters
  • Clumps and shelterbelts to provide shelter and privacy 
  • Shrubberies planted with the newly introduced exotics from abroad
  • The Ha-ha, an invisible boundary to keep livestock away from the house
  • Circuit walks designed to tour around the park
Chatsworth maze garden
Chatsworth walled garden and maze



“The contiguous ground of the park without the sunk fence was to be harmonized with the lawn within; and the garden in its turn was to be set free from its prim regularity, that it might assort with the wilder country without. ” – Horace Walpole

As noted in my previous post on groundskeepers, roving, grazing sheep and cattle were beneficial in keeping the extensive grassy areas under control. The problem was in how to control where the animals roamed without erecting fences which would mar the natural flowing landscape. As Walpole says in the above quote, harmony was a key to Georgian garden design, as was curved, irregular asymmetry. A rigid fence, no matter how lovely, built in straight lines and sharp angles simply would not do!


The answer was an ingenious invention of a sunken wall and ditch. English garden designer Charles Bridgeman (1690–1738) is generally credited for introducing the idea, although remnants of a ditched wall had been installed at Levens Hall in Cumbria in 1689. Whoever dreamed up the idea initially, it wasn’t commonly used until the 18th century when garden design necessitated such a solution.

Simply put, a deep trench was dug (some up to 8 feet deep) and a solid wall (typically of brick or stone) was built against the side of the trench toward the house. The top of the wall was flat and smooth, the height perfectly level with the ground so that when one gazed across the park it was completely invisible. The other side of the trench gently sloped upward until at the same level as the ground on the wall-side of the trench. Grazing animals reaching the trench were unable to cross, and thus kept away from the protected lawns and gardens!

No one truly knows where the name Ha-Ha originated. Walpole surmised that the name derived from the response of ordinary folk on encountering these strange sunken walls, “…they then deemed so astonishing, that the common people called them Ha! Has! to express their surprise at finding a sudden and unperceived check to their walk.”


In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose. Ofttimes follies are so extravagant that they transcend the range of garden ornaments usually associated with the class of buildings to which it belongs. 

The term folly began as a popular name for any costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder and were often named after the individual who commissioned or designed the project. The connotations of silliness or madness in this definition is in accord with the general meaning of the French word folie. Another older meaning is “delight” or “favorite abode” and this sense included conventional, practical buildings that were thought unduly large or expensive. 


A Traditional Garden Folly For a Georgian Colonial House

The concept of the folly is highly ambiguous, the definition ultimately subjective or one could say it “lies in the eyes of the beholder”. The guidelines of what constitutes a folly are blurry at best. Most sources agree on these general descriptions: 1) no real purpose other than as an ornament, 2) they are buildings or parts of a building (to distinguish from statues, fountains, mazes, etc.), 3) often eccentric or unusual in design or construction, 4) an element of fakery exists.


Temple of Diana - Weston Park

Temple of Diana, Weston Park

 As you will see in reading through the list and definitions below that the guidelines for 18th to 19th-century follies in England were not strict. For instance, a tower does serve a purpose, even if that purpose is merely to enjoy the view, but in many cases the design of the tower fits the “eccentric or unusual” idea.

The first rush of folly construction in England seems to have been precipitated by Sir Thomas Tresham’s Rushton Lodge in the late 1500s (in slideshow below). Rushton Lodge was an exercise in expressing Tresham’s views on the symbolism of the number three as in the Holy Trinity. Hence, there are three sides to the lodge, three floors, three trefoil windows on each floor, and three smoke-holes in the chimney. Other such structures popped up here and there in England and France, but not until the elaborate garden parks of the 18th century did the concept flourish. Styles and types of follies ran the gamut and often melded differing cultural or period influences. That clarified, the categories and descriptions below give a general classification that is quite helpful.

CHINOISERIE: Garden buildings which used Chinese motifs in their decoration. Pagodas, steep Chinese bridges, and a few summer houses were built in this style.

DRY BRIDGE: A real bridge is a construction to enable one to get from one side of a river or lake to the other without getting wet. A dry bridge is a landscape object, built at a carefully considered location where it can enhance a landscape view, but spanning only a dip in the ground or shallow man-made waterway. 

GAZEBO: A small garden building usually open at the sides or lightly filled with latticework and slightly raised to give a view. Often circular or octagonal with a domed roof, they serve as a simple shelter and a resting place to admire the scenery. 

GROTTO: An underground (or partially underground) cave-like room that tries to convey the impression of gloominess and a lost ancient world. Frequently lined with shells and tufa (volcanic rock) and often including statues or masks of water gods. Water flowing through or down from the roof into a pool is quite common. 

HERMITAGE: A rustic building, usually built of roots, trunks with the bark left on, thatch, and rough-hewn stone, and made to give the impression that it might be inhabited by a hermit.

ICE-HOUSE: An early refrigerator, essentially a brick-lined hole in the ground filled full of layers of ice (from a nearby lake in winter) and straw, with peat packed between the layers. In order to keep them as cool as possible they were buried below ground, or artificial mounds were created to enclose them. While functional and necessary, (and thus not a true folly) an ice-house opened up landscaping possibilities to double as an ornamented garden building.

OBELISK: A tall thin pointed stone or brick building. Usually a memorial, on estates they are used as focal points at the end of a drive or walk with the obligatory inscription sometimes cooked up to fill the need rather than celebrating a genuinely historic occasion. Designed to impress, they are amongst the most extravagant of useless buildings as their solidity requires vast blocks of stone but their lack of any interior space means they can’t pretend to have a function. 

PROSPECT TOWER: A tower with a staircase inside and a platform at the top from which to see the view. Can be any shape but almost always has battlements and gothic windows, as if an old castle. These are often positioned at some distance from the house, a long walk and exhausting ascent to the top rewarded with a beautiful view of the parkland and house.

PYRAMID: The shape is derived from Egyptian tombs and many pyramids were built on country estates as grand tombs or mausoleums, although they didn’t always fulfill their function. 

ROTUNDA: A building with a circular base and a domed roof, typically held up with columns. They are usually open but may be partially enclosed, and often feature a statue in the center. 

SHAM RUIN: A ruin is a real building that has fallen into disrepair. A sham ruin is built to look like a real ruin in order to conjure feelings of nostalgia or awe. Sham ruins frequently sport stone gothic window openings, battlements, and stumpy towers. Some even use parts of real ruins to give them greater authenticity.

SUMMERHOUSE: Decorative garden building usually with windows, sometimes a door or just an open arched entrance. Ideal for taking tea or reading a book in the garden with sufficient shelter to keep the rain off. 

TEMPLE: A building based on an ancient religious building, often a model of a Greek or Roman temple. There are a few standard patterns for these which can be found over and over in estates of the 18th century with variations in size and detail. 


Root House at Badminton, 1760



Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, the maze

Maze, Labyrinth, Cascade, Alcoves, and more…

Random structures scattered around the grounds, no matter how interesting, were designed to enhance and augment the main focus of parklands and gardens: the vegetation and waterways. Landscape designers and gardeners strived to create a unique experience at every turn. A straight flowing river or one that curves and falls over rocks laid to musically babble the water? A flat wide-open gravel path lined with perfect hedges or a lane with natural ascents and descents meandering through a wild wood? Bushes and trees indigenous to England or flora grown from exotic seedlings nurtured in the orangery? In fact, the typical English park of the late Georgian Era included a mix of traditional and “modern” styles. Nevertheless, the desire to create something unique led to an endless number of possibilities, even with those fairly common features, such as a maze of hedges.


A labyrinth has winding, curved passages, forming a “unicursal” or one-way path from the outside toward the center. Walking through a labyrinth, you will change direction often but should not get lost or confused. Often the labyrinth is purposefully engineered so that it takes a long time to get to the middle, encouraging slow, meditative contemplation while navigating many twists and turns. Labyrinths are seen as thoughtful, peaceful spaces for quiet reflection.

A maze is filled with dead ends. Often there are puzzles that help you find your way and alleviate frustration, but the idea is to get lost a few times before figuring out the terrain and finding your way through. Two-dimensional mazes offer the ability to see the entire course at one time, though the hardest ones will take time to solve. Mazes tend to attract those more interested in solving puzzles and facing challenges.


Technically, there are only three types of fountains: those which have rising jets, those with downward falls, and those with a combination of the two. Diversity came in the thousands, if not millions, of ways to use natural flow and hydraulic pumps. Cascade, or downward fall fountains, have a far greater place in nature as rivers and streams, waterfalls, and rising springs. Man simply contained, rerouted, embellished, miniaturized, and finally emulated them using artificial pumping systems. Most of the great houses were situated to take advantage of water routes at higher levels and natural underground springs, hence waterfalls and cascades being a more common water feature in estate gardens. However, power driven pumps in various forms have existed for thousands of years — the first noted use in fountains dating as far back as Damascus in the 13th century — so jetting fountains were seen as well, especially in the formalized, symmetrical portions of the English landscape garden.


Coleton Fishacre – The D’Oyley Carte’s Coastal Garden

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, buildings and structures, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, history, Living in the UK, research, servant life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Modest Proposal: Might the Spinster Have Married?, a Guest Post from Collins Hemingway

As reported in last month’s blog about Jane Austen’s romantic attachments, biographers dutifully recount the story of Jane’s acceptance/rejection of a proposal by Harris Bigg-Wither, a young, brash man six years her junior, on Thursday-Friday, 2-3 December 1802.

The story goes that Jane and Cassandra journeyed to Manydown, the Bigg-Wither estate, for several weeks of leisure with the family. The Austen ladies were good friends with Harris’s sisters, especially Caroline and Alethea. On 2 December, Bigg-Wither surprises Jane with a proposal. Overwhelmed at the prospect of becoming mistress of a large estate, Jane accepts this proposal from a person with little to recommend him except wealth. She reconsiders overnight; recants her acceptance in the morning; then flees back to Bath in humiliation. (A woman could accept and reject a proposal then; a man could not withdraw one without the woman’s consent.)

What is distinctly odd about this history, however, is that this purported engagement and refusal, which would have created a scandal, does not appear to show up in any surviving contemporaneous letters or journals by anyone who knew Jane.

When I began to analyze the details of Austen’s life eight or nine years ago for historical fiction based on her life, I recognized that the references all went back to Caroline, daughter of her brother James and sister-in-law Mary, “the Steventonites”—so called because they replaced the Austens’ father and his family at the Steventon rectory when the elder Austen retired to Bath in 1801 and James took over as vicar. I knew Caroline sourced the story to her mother, but it wasn’t until some years later, when it hit me that Caroline was one of Austen’s youngest relatives, that I checked and learned that Caroline had not even been born when the proposal is supposed to have happened!

Manydown Park, where Jane Austen attended many balls, flirted with Tom Lefroy, and according to one niece accepted and rejected a marriage proposal






Recently, Helena Kelly, in her book “Jane Austen: Secret Radical,” points out the same odd circumstance: this major biographical event is reported only by Caroline, and only in 1870—68 years after the supposed incident—a lifetime! (I am in general agreement with Kelly’s take on Austen and her work in society, though I find her interpretations of the novels to be “eccentric.”)

Supposedly, after the disaster with Bigg-Wither, it was brother James who escorted the Austen sisters to Bath, so Mary would have been aware of the situation. Mary, however, was never close to Jane and died herself in 1843—26 years after Jane died, 41 years after the event, and 27 years before Caroline’s telling. Caroline was only 12 when Austen died—she recounts her last sad meeting with her aunt. Even if the Bigg-Wither topic arose in the conversations after her death, that still would have been 15 years after the events. Considering the reticence people have about speaking “ill” of the dead, it is easy to believe the topic well might not have come up until much later.

How is it this story is handed down by a niece too young to have known about it directly but not by the many other nieces and nephews who were alive? Caroline’s older brother, James Edward, was Austen’s first official biographer. He was 19 when Jane died–he attended her funeral on behalf of his father–yet he sources his younger sister for the tale of the botched proposal! He would have been a toddler when the proposal occurred, but if the story was retold from time to time within the family, wouldn’t he, half a dozen years older than Caroline,  have been more likely to have heard it than she? Why would he have to reference his sister’s knowledge?

Harris Bigg-Withers.jpgStories have become legends in less time than the gaps in this recounting!

Further, descriptions of Bigg-Wither by Caroline do not seem to match to the one or two portraits of him—he is supposed to be a very large, heavy young man, but the visual evidence shows him as relatively slim. See the image at the top, by the headline–he does not seem to be the hulking, brooding young man of Caroline’s description.

Notice something else: Cassandra, an actual witness to the mysterious coastal suitor, who was going to propose to Jane in the summer of 1801 but died unexpectedly, as described in my last blog, provides almost no details about the man. Nor does she mention Bigg-Wither’s proposal in 1828 when she’s reminded of the other (expected) proposal.

Cass seems to have relayed just enough information about Jane’s coastal “romance” to confuse rather than enlighten. Cass also destroyed the vast majority of Jane’s letters from this period, leaving no other evidence of the events. We know nothing about the letters except that Caroline calls them “open and confidential”–but she gives no indication she has seen them. Again, most of the letters were before Caroline’s birth or when she was a baby. Why would Cass have kept the letters about Tom Lefroy, which support the idea that he (or his aunt) had dumped Jane, while burning those about those later relationships, including one in which she allegedly dumped someone else?

Though the story of any embarrassing Bigg-Wither encounter likely would have circulated for years in the “Steventonite” family (niece Fanny coined the name), the incident is too specific for one being recounted twenty, thirty, or forty years later, as likely happened. Mary provides too many details. How would she have remembered the exact date of a proposal so long before about a sister-in-law she was not close to? (Mary did not seem much fond of anyone, though in fairness she did help Cass tend to Jane during Jane’s final illness.)

Meaning the provenance of this story is suspicious, at the very least.

(The oafish Bigg-Wither married someone else in 1804 and sired ten children.)

Now that we’ve covered all the proposals, what about a possible marriage? Shocking! But the question brings us to the one letter in which Jane Austen identifies herself as a married woman, the 5 April 1809 letter to the publisher Crosby (with her fairly common misspellings, she renders it “Crosbie”) in which she demands they either publish “Susan,” which they had bought six years earlier, or she would sell it to someone else.

The publisher quickly replies that they paid for the book (though not required to publish it) and if she sold it to anyone else “we shall take proceedings to stop the sale.” End of correspondence—though years later her brother Henry did buy the book back for Jane for the original 10£, enabling it to be published as “Northanger Abbey.”

Jane signs her letter to Crosby “Mrs. Ashton Dennis,” care of the Southampton Post Office. The publisher does not know her name—Henry handled the sale, and she was identified only as “A Lady.” The thinking is that she uses a different name to remain anonymous, and the one she uses spells out “MAD” to indicate her unhappiness at the delays. (And what prompted to her write the abrupt letter six years after the fact?)

That leads to an interesting problem. Jane has been in Southampton for some time; the post office knows her. In the autumn, she kept up a steady stream of correspondence with Cassandra, then at Godmersham, when Edward’s wife, Elizabeth, died unexpectedly after childbirth. How is Jane going to pick up a letter for a “Mrs. Ashton Dennis” unless that is now her name? Isn’t it also strange that, while Jane’s life is relatively well-known, the two proposals that have very poor provenance come in the period in which Cass destroyed almost all of Jane’s letters?

In this time, we have a three-and-a-half-year gap of Jane’s letters, 1801-1804; a year-long gap, mid-1805 to mid-1806; and a 16-month gap, February 1807-June 1808. We have only 13 letters—not quite 2 a year—from 1801 to 1808, where they begin again with some regularity. Besides the occasional passing reference to her in other people’s letters and diaries, we know nothing of Jane’s whereabouts or doings for this time.

Considering the confusion and inconsistency in reports of who she was involved with, and when—too many specifics in one major encounter (Bigg-Wither) and far too few in another (the mysterious clergyman described last time)—one must ask what was really going on. Were there multiple romantic encounters, each one ending disastrously, or perhaps one relationship that these inconsistent stories point to—or are designed to point away from?

When she signed her name as a married woman in 1809, was she MAD at the publisher about not publishing the book “Susan,” or MAD about some man the family later sought to hide?

41li51lisgl-_ux250_ Meet Collins Hemingway: Whether his subject is literature, history, or science, Collins Hemingway has a passion for the art of creative investigation. Hemingway’s fiction is shaped by the language of the heart and an abiding regard for courage in the face of adversity.

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

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

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



Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, publishing, research, writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Growth of Hampstead in 19th Century England

Hampstead is one of the villages that surrounded 19th Century London, but the village was founded long before that time. Founded during the Anglo-Saxon period, its name translates to “homestead.” Early records shows a grant by King Ethelred the Unready to the monastery of St. Peter’s at Westminster (AD 986). Until the late 1600s, Hampstead was very much a rural village catering to farming. However, the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666 drove many from London. Hampstead’s close proximity to the Capital provided many the convenience of London life with the “safety” of village life.



Fenton House, named for Philip Fenton, was built in 1693.  According to Wikipedia, “Fenton House is a 17th-century merchant’s house in Hampstead in North London which belongs to the National Trust, bequeathed to them in 1952 by Lady Binning, its last owner and resident. It is a detached house with a walled garden, which is large by London standards, and features roses, an orchard and a working kitchen garden. The interior houses the Benton Fletcher collection of early keyboard instruments, some of which are often played for visitors during operational hours, and collections of paintings (including the collection of Peter Barkworth, and loans of Sir William Nicholson paintings), porcelain, 17th-century needlework pictures and Georgian furniture. It also has fine portraits of Dorothea Jordan, William IV, George IV, Frederick FitzClarence and Adolphus Fitzclarence – one of Jordan’s daughters by William IV lived in the house.

The 17th-century brick mansion has a 300-year-old orchard, where around 30 types of apple trees flourish. Apple day, held in late September every year, gives members of the general public the opportunity to savor some of its rare and delicious apples, along with other goodies like apple-blossom honey.” (Fenton House)

Hampstead became a “spa” town when a certain Dr. William Gibbons touted the healing powers of the well water. The Trustees of the Well claimed the medicinal qualities of the chalybeate waters in the early 1700s. The “spa” was very popular until the early 1800s when competition by other spa towns drew the crowds away.

Kenwood House (Iveagh Bequest) Images |

Kenwood House (Iveagh Bequest) Images |

Several grand houses were built in the 18th Century in what was Hampstead proper. Burgh House was built in 1702. Burgh House became the home of the above mentioned Dr. Gibbons in 1720. The present wrought-iron gate still bears his initials. Later, Israel Lewis took possession of the house, and for a time it was known as Lewis House. 

Kenwood House, originally built in 1616, was rebuilt in the 1760s.  “The original house dates from the early 17th century when it was known as Caen Wood House. The orangery was added in about 1700. In 1754 it was bought by William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. He commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it from 1764–1779. Adam added the library (one of his most famous interiors) to balance the orangery, and added the Ionic portico at the entrance. In 1793-6 George Saunders added two wings on the north side, and the offices and kitchen buildings and brewery (now the restaurant) to the side.

Kenwood | English Heritage

Kenwood | English Heritage

“The 2nd Earl and Countess of Mansfield added a dairy to supply Kenwood House with milk and cheese. After two years of negotiations, the 6th Earl of Mansfield leased the house to the exiled Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia and his wife Countess Sophie of Merenberg in 1910.

“Lord Iveagh, a rich Anglo-Irish businessman and philanthropist (of the Guinness family), bought the house from the Mansfield family in 1925 and left it to the nation upon his death in 1927; it was opened to the public in 1928. The furnishings had already been sold by then, but some furniture has since been bought back. The paintings are from Iveagh’s collection. Part of the grounds were bought by the Kenwood Preservation Council in 1922, after there had been threats that it would be sold for building. In the late 1990s the house received approximately 150,000 visitors a year and an estimated 1 million people visited the grounds each year.” (Kenwood House)

A popular part of Hampstead is what is known as the Vale of Health. It was once a marsh known as Hatches Bottom, but it was drained in the 1770s. Hidden London tells us, “This part of Hampstead Heath was originally known as Gangmoor, and later as Hatches (or Hatchett’s) Bottom, after an early 18th century cottager. The Hampstead Water Company created a pond here in 1777, which drained enough of the formerly malarial marsh to allow houses to be built. For much of its early existence, Hatches Bottom was not regarded as a picturesque village but as an intrusive presence on the heath.

“The essayist Leigh Hunt lived here from 1816 to 1818 and regularly hosted meetings of writers and poets, who included Shelley, Keats and Byron. In 1851 the village had 57 adults and 30 children crammed into 18 houses.”

Tim Lambert in “A Brief History of Hampstead,” fills in the blanks. “From 1774 Hampstead was lit by oil lamps and from 1824 it was lit by gas.In the 19th century Hampstead continued to grow rapidly especially after the first railway station was built there in 1852. (Railways made it much easier for Londoners to live in Hampstead and commute to London). In the late 19th century Hampstead was, in the main, an affluent suburb of London. (Though some of its inhabitants were poor). 

Hampstead Heath (scene of duels in many Regency novels) Hampstead Garden Suburb Buildings

Hampstead Heath (scene of duels in many Regency novels) Hampstead Garden Suburb Buildings

“Hampstead is renowned for the famous writers who lived there. Keats (1795-1821) lived in Wentworth Place. (It is now called Keats House). Keats wrote the poem Ode to a Nightingale in the garden of the house. In 1915 D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) moved to 1 Byron Villas in the Vale of Health. The writer Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) lived at 17 East Heath Road. The famous artist John Constable (1776-1837) lived at 40 Well Walk. Furthermore John Galsworthy (1867-1933) who wrote The Forsyte Saga also lived in Hampstead. In the 19th century Hampstead Heath became a playground for Londoners. Fortunately it was preserved for the good of the public. In 1871 the Metropolitan Board of Works purchased Hampstead Heath and kept it as a public park. Hampstead became part of the county of London in 1889. Hampstead Garden Suburb was created after 1907. Sigmund Freud moved to Hampstead in 1938. He died in 1939, but the house he lived in is now a museum. On 10 April 1955 Ruth Ellis shot her lover David Blakely outside the Magdala pub in South Hill Park in Hampstead. Ruth was hanged on 13 July 1955. She was the last woman in Britain to be executed.” 

A Walk in Old Hampstead Village | Urban Pixxels

Houses England Hampstead Windows

Houses England Hampstead Windows

Posted in Anglo-Saxons, British history, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Inheriting a Peerage + Release of “The Earl Claims His Comfort”

Inheriting a Peerage During the Regency

The manner in which a peerage is passed from one generation to the next depends upon how it was created. A peerage/title can be created by a writ of summons, which means the individual is summoned to Parliament to present himself before the House of Lords to prove he is the proper heir, or by letters patent, which actually creates a new peerage and names the dignity in question. Peerages originally created by writ are generally baronies. A feudal barony was the highest degree of feudal land tenure. William the Conqueror established his favored followers as barons by enfeoffing them as tenants-in-chief with great fiefdoms. There were none of the other titles invented when baronies (except earls, which then were exclusively sons or cousins of the sovereign) were first established. The ones which survive are naturally the most ancient titles. A writ entitled the peerage to pass to the “heirs general,” not the “heirs male” as specified in almost all Letters Patent peerages.

Although some peerages are created for life and cannot be inherited, most peerages are created to be hereditary, to be passed from father to son or to another appropriate heir. The person holding the title cannot will it to another, even if, for example, he despised his eldest son, the son would still receive the title/peerage after his father’s death. [Remember this has nothing to do with wealth or unentailed property. The father could leave his despised son a debt-ridden estate and title, while leaving his wealth to whomever he pleased.] The terms of the original creation determines how the peerage passes from one individual to another. Generally, it passes from father to son.

images-1.jpg Yet, what happens if there is no son available to succeed the man? Let us look at the perfect scenario to explain this situation. William George Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (May 1790 – January 1858) was known as the “Bachelor Duke.” He intended to marry Lady Caroline Ponsonby, but she chose William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, over him; therefore, he never married. Without a legitimate son to succeed the 6th Duke, upon his passing, those in charge had to go back one generation, to the 6th Duke’s father, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748 -1811) and trace the next eldest direct lineal descendant.

Oops! Guess what? Although he was married twice (first to Lady Georgiana Spencer and then to Lady Elizabeth Foster – you remember that whole mess from the movie “The Duchess”) the 5th Duke of Devonshire had only the one legitimate son, William Cavendish, who was the 6th Duke of Devonshire.

Therefore, those seeking the 6th Duke’s successor had to go back one more generation to the 4th Duke of Devonshire, another William Cavendish (1720 – 1764). Now, the 4th Duke had two sons: William, who was the 5th Duke, and Lord George Cavendish. Lord George died while his nephew William served as the 6th Duke; otherwise upon William’s death, Lord George would have become the 7th Duke. However, Lord George produced a son, Mr. William Cavendish (1783-1812), who also died during the 6th Duke’s lifetime, but that particular Mr. William Cavendish produced a son, another Mr. William Cavendish (1808 – 1891), who was 50 years of age when the 6th Duke of Devonshire passed. That William Cavendish became the 7th Duke of Devonshire. [Note: If Lord George had no son or grandson, those in power would have continued to search through the descendants of the 3rd Duke, 2nd Duke, and 1st Duke of Devonshire to find an heir. The line passes from through the eldest of the title holders sons and then through his other sons and surviving legitimate male issue.] If there are no legitimate surviving male descendants, then the title becomes “extinct.”

“However, if there was a legitimate surviving male descendant of his father, the 3rd Earl of Devonshire, then that person would inherit the earldom. In this way distant cousins can sometimes inherit lesser titles while the highest peerage dies out. What’s most important to remember is that if a man inherits a peerage, it is because he is the eldest surviving legitimate male who can trace a direct (father to son) lineage back to an earlier holder of the peerage. In other words, he doesn’t inherit because he was the brother or the cousin or the uncle of his predecessor, but because his own father, or grandfather, or great-grandfather, or great-great-grandfather, etc., was an earlier holder of the peerage. [“Eldest” in this context doesn’t mean that he happens to be the oldest of several different living men who can trace a direct line back to an earlier holder of the peerage, but rather that his line is the eldest, i.e., eldest son of eldest son; all other lines senior to his have died out.]” (“Hereditary Peerages”)

Letters patent customarily state the order of descent, usually through the male line. Only legitimate children (meaning the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth—not necessarily the time of his conception) are permitted to succeed to a peerage.

Edward IV introduced a procedure in which the eldest son of a peer with multiple titles can sit in the House of Lords by virtue of one of his father’s titles. This is called a writ of acceleration.

“In remainder” means the person is a possible heir to a peerage. A title becomes extinct (the opposite to extant, alive) when all possible heirs (as outlined by the original letters patent) have died out. In other words, there is nobody in remainder at the death of the holder. A title becomes dormant if nobody has claimed the title, or if no claim has been satisfactorily proven to the Committee on Privileges of the House of Lords. A title goes into abeyance if there is more than one person equally entitled to be the holder.

A peerage can become “extinct.” It can become extinct “by attainder,” which means the king/queen revokes the peerage. This forfeiture of the peerage comes under Acts of Parliament and are the result of treason on the part of the title holder. The descendants of the person committing treason are considered “tainted by blood,” and, therefore, they cannot inherit the title. However, if all the descendants of the attainted peer die out, then an heir from a different branch of the family tree—one not affected by the accusations of treason—could inherit the title/peerage. An extinct peerage reverts to the Crown. The king/queen can choose to present the title to a member of a different family—either another branch of the the original title holder’s family or to a completely unconnected family. This new creation would require new letters patent and a new line of descent.


front cover-2 copyIntroducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books

– a 2016 Hot Prospects finalist in Romantic Suspense

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how a stranger’s life parallels his, while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon a road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

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“Cannot recall the last time I slept in my own bed,” he murmured to no one in particular as he stood to gain his bearings. The room swirled before his eyes, but Rem shook off the feeling. Of late, it was common for him to know a dull vibrating sound marring his thinking.

Levison Davids, the 17th Earl of Remmington, set the glass down harder than he intended. He had consumed more alcohol than he should on this evening, but as his home shire often brought on a case of maudlin, he had drowned his memories. He turned toward the door, attempting to walk with the confidence his late father always demanded of his sons. Lev was not trained to be the earl. His father had groomed Rem’s older brother Robinson for the role, but Fate had a way of spitting in a man’s eye when he least expected it.

Outside, the chilly air removed the edge from the numbness the heavy drink provided him, and for a brief moment Rem thought to return to the common room to reinforce the black mood the drink had induced. A special form of “regret” plagued his days and nights since receiving word of his ascension to the earldom some four years prior, and he did not think he would ever to be comfortable again.

“Storm comin’,” the groom warned when he brought Rem’s horse around.

“We’re in Yorkshire,” Remmington replied. “We are known for the unpredictable.”

Customarily, he would not permit the groom to offer him a leg up, but Rem’s resolve to reach his country estate had waned. He had received a note via Sir Alexander Chandler that Rem’s presence was required at the Remmington home seat, and so he had set out from France, where he had spent the last year, to answer a different call of duty.

Sir Alexander offered little information on why someone summoned Rem home, only that the message had come from the estate’s housekeeper. Not that it mattered who had sent for him. Tegen Castle was his responsibility. The journey from France had required that Rem leave an ongoing investigation behind, a fact that did not please him, even though he knew the others in service to Sir Alexander were excellent at their occupations. Moreover, the baronet had assured Rem that several missions on English shores required Remmington’s “special” skills, and he could return to service as quickly as his business knew an end.

He caught the reins to turn the stallion in a tight circle. Tossing the groom a coin, Rem kicked Draco’s sides to set the horse into a gallop.

As the dark swallowed them up, Rem enjoyed the feel of power the rhythm of the horse’s gait provided. He raced across the valley before emerging onto the craggy moors. At length, he skirted the rocky headland.

He slowed Draco as the cliff tops came into view. When he reached Davids’ Point, he urged the stallion into a trot. Rem could no longer see the trail, but his body knew it as well as it knew the sun would rise on the morrow. After some time, he jerked Draco’s reins hard to the left, and, as a pair, they plunged onto the long-forgotten trail. He leaned low over the stallion’s neck to avoid the tree limbs before he directed Draco to an adjacent path that led upward toward the family estate, which sat high upon a hill overlooking the breakwaters.

When he reached the main road again, he pulled up on the reins to bring the animal to a halt. Rem patted Draco’s neck and stared through the night at his childhood home, which was framed against the rising moonlight. It often made him sad to realize how much he once loved the estate as a child and how much he now despised it.

“No love left in the bricks,” he said through a thick throat. “Even the dowager countess no longer wishes to reside here. How can I?”

It was not always so. Although he was a minor son, Rem always thought to share Tegen Castle with his wife and children—to live nearby and to relate tales of happier days.

“But after Miss Phillips’s betrayal and then, likewise, that of Miss Lovelace, I possess no heart to begin again.”

In truth, of the two ladies, Rem had only loved Miss Delia Phillips.

“Fell in love with the girl when I was but fourteen and she, ten.”

He crossed his arms over the rise of the saddle to study the distant manor house.

“Perhaps Delia could find no solace here,” he murmured aloud.

Even today, it bothered him that Delia had not cared enough for him to send him a letter denying their understanding. He had learned of Delia’s marrying Baron Kavanagh from Sir Alexander, with whom Rem had served upon the Spanish front. Sir Alexander’s younger brother delivered the news in a cheeky letter.

“I suppose Delia thought being a baroness was superior to being Mrs. Davids. Little did she know I would claim the earldom. More is the pity for her.” A large raindrop plopped upon the back of his hand. “If we do not speed our return to the castle, my friend, we will arrive with a wet seat.”

He caught up the loose reins, but before he could set his heels into Draco’s sides, a shot rang out. By instinct, Rem thought to dive for the nearby ditch. Yet, the heavy drink slowed his response, and before he could act, Remmington knew the sharp sting of the bullet in his thigh.

Draco bolted forward before Rem had control of the stallion’s reins. He felt himself slipping from the saddle, but there was little he could do to prevent the impact. He slammed hard into the packed earth just as the heavens opened with a drenching rain. The back of his head bounced against a paving stone, and a shooting pain claimed his forehead. Even so Rem thought to sit up so he might take cover, but the effort was short coming. The piercing pain in his leg and the sharp sting claiming his vision fought for control. The blow to his head won, and Rem screwed his eyes closed to welcome the darkness.


Also check out Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy

– a 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense finalist

– a SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Award finalist for Historical Romance

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?


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How “Intimacy” Exacerbates Elizabeth Bennet’s “Lack” of Judgment

We have all been in the situation where our judgment is clouded by the “intimacy” we experience with another. How often do we read of the female attempting to tame the bad boy? How often have you had a friend who chose another you knew from the beginning was all wrong for him or her? How often have you attended a wedding and thought, “I’ll give it a year”? Why is it that when we hold a close relationship with another romantically do our opinions become clouded? Jane Austen exploits this idea in Pride and Prejudice.

Miss Bingley

Miss Bingley

When we look at Austen’s favorite heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, we find a woman of intelligence and of shrewd insights. For example, after her first meeting with the Bingley sisters, Elizabeth thinks them, “… had not been calculated to please in general; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and with a judgment, too, unassailed by any attention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve them. They were, in fact, very fine ladies; not deficient in good humor when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable when they chose it; but proud and conceited.” (Chapter 4) Of Miss Bingley specifically, she thinks: This information made Elizabeth smile, as she thought of poor Miss Bingley. Vain indeed must be all her expectations, vain and useless her affection for his [Mr. Darcy] sister and her praise of himself, if he were already self-destined to another. (Chapter 16)

Jane-and-Mr-Bingley-pride-and-prejudice-couples-6970674-451-170Of Bingley Elizabeth tells us that he “… was a good-looking and gentleman-like; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. … 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.” (Chapter 3)

pride_prejudice06Mr. Bennet shared the letter from his cousin Mr. Collins with his family, afterwards, Elizabeth makes this observation: Elizabeth was chiefly struck with his extraordinary deference for Lady Catherine, and his kind intention of christening, marrying, and burying his parishioners whenever it were required. 

“He must be an oddity, I think,” said she. “I cannot make him out. There is something very pompous in his style. And what can he mean by apologizing for being next in the entail? We cannot suppose he would help it if he could. Can he be a sensible man, sir?” (Chapter 13)

Elizabeth’s first impression of Anne De Bourgh includes these insights: “She is abominably rude to keep Charlotte out of doors in all this wind. Why does she not come in?” to which she adds, “I like her appearance,” said Elizabeth, struck with other ideas. “She looks sickly and cross. Yes, she will do for him [Mr. Darcy] very well. She will make him a very proper wife.” Later at Rosings Park, Elizabeth observes Miss De Bourgh further. “… she turned her eyes on the daughter, she could almost have joined in Maria’s astonishment at her being so thin and so small. There was neigh in figure nor face any likeness between the ladies. Miss De Bourgh was pale and sickly; her features, though not plain were insignificant; and she spoke very little, except in a low voice ….” (Chapter 28)

PP3.76Of the grand dame herself, Elizabeth has heard something of Lady Catherine De Bourgh from Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth’s courage did not fail her. She had heard nothing of Lady Catherine that spoke her awful from any extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere stateliness of money and rank she thought she could witness without trepidation. … Lady Catherine was a tall, large woman, with strongly marked features, which might once have been handsome. Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them such as to make her visitors forget their inferior rank. She was not rendered formidable by silence; but whatever she said was spoken in so authoritative a tone as marked her self-importance, and brought Mr. Wickham immediately to Elizabeth’s mind, and from the observation of the day altogether, she believed Lady Catherine to be exactly what he represented. (Chapter 29)

Elizabeth evaluation of the character of each of these individuals proves accurate. So, if she is so intuitive to the nature of others, why does she make so many poor judgments? The answer is the “intimacy” with which she operates in her interactions with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, and to a certain extent with her best friend, Charlotte Lucas. 

george-wickham-lost-in-austenElizabeth’s first observations of Mr. Wickham tells the reader: This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming. His appearance was greatly in his favor; he had all the best part of beauty – a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address. The introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of conversation – a readiness at the time perfectly correct and unassuming ….” After Wickham tells Elizabeth of Darcy’s abuse, we learn: Elizabeth honored him for such feelings, and though him handsomer than ever as he expressed them, as well as, Elizabeth allowed that he had given a very rational account of it. (Chapter 16)

Even when Mrs. Gardiner attempts to warn Elizabeth away from Wickham, Elizabeth still defends the man. “At present I am not in love with Mr. Wickham; no, I certainly am not. But he is, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable man I ever saw; and if he becomes really attached to me – I believe it will be better than he should not – I see the imprudence of it. Oh, that abominable Mr. Darcy! … but since we see every day that where there is affection young people are seldom withheld by immediate want of fortune from entring into engagements with each other, how can I promise to be wiser than so manpandp2_fitzwilliam1wy of my fellow-creatures if I am tempted, or how am I even to know that it would wisdom to resist? All that I can promise you, therefore, is not to be in a hurry. I will not be in a hurry myself to believe his first object. When I am in company with him, I will not be wishing. In short, I will do my best.” (Chapter 26)

Six Degrees of Jane Austen Films - Matters of Varying Insignificance

Six Degrees of Jane Austen Films – Matters of Varying Insignificance

Elizabeth thinks her friend Charlotte Lucas is “… a sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-sever, was Elizabeth’s intimate friend.” (Chapter 5) Because Elizabeth believes that Charlotte sees the world as does she, Elizabeth ignores the differences in their opinions and does not listen to Charlotte’s sage warnings. Charlotte honestly professes her opinions of marriage. “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterward to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” To which, Elizabeth responds: “You make me laugh, Charlotte; but it is not sound. You know it is not sound, and that you would never act in this way yourself.” (Chapter 6)

Later, when Charlotte announces her engagement with Mr. Collins, the news stuns Elizabeth. The possibility of Mr. Collins’ fancying himself in love with friend had not once occurred to Elizabeth within the last day or two; but that Charlotte could encourage him seemed almost as far from possibility as that she could encourage him herself; and her astonishment was consequently so great as to overcome at first the bounds of decorum, and she could not help crying out: “Engaged to Mr. Collins! my dear Charlotte – impossible!charlotte

To which Charlotte replies, “I see what you are feeling…. You must be surprised, very much surprised, so lately as Mr. Collins was wishing to marry you. But when you have had time to think it all over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done. I am not romantic, you know – I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and, considering Mr. Collins’ character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” Yet, even though Elizabeth wished her friend happy, she reflects poorly upon the match: It was a long time before she became at all reconciled to the idea of so unsuitable a match…. She had always felt that Charlotte’s opinion of matrimony was not exactly like her own; but she could not have supposed it possible that, when called into action, she would have sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage. Charlotte, the wife of Mr. Collins, was a most humiliating picture! And to the pang of a friend disgracing herself, and sunk in her esteem, was added the distressing conviction that it was impossible for that friend to be tolerably happy in the lot she had chosen. (Chapter 22) 

In Chapter 24, Elizabeth and Jane discuss Bingley’s desertion and Charlotte’s marriage. “To oblige you I would try to believe almost anything, but no one else could be benefited by such a belief as this: for were I persuaded that Charlotte had any regard for him, I should only think worse of her understanding than I now do of her heart. My dear Jane, Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man; you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel, as well as I do, that the woman who marries him cannot have a proper way of thinking. You shall not defend her, though it is Charlotte Lucas. You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavor to persuade yourself or me that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of ranger security for happiness.” 

pride-prejudice-541-copy-1Elizabeth most errs in her opinions of Mr. Darcy. It is quite clear she as interested in the gentleman as are all the ladies at the Meryton assembly, and his insensitive remarks set the stage for their relationship. “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Afterwards, Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings toward him. She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous. (Chapter 3)

She misjudges Darcy’s growing interest: “… how frequently Mr. Darcy’s eyes were fixed on her. She hardly knew how to suppose that she could be an object of admiration to so great a man, and yet that he should look at her because he disliked her was still more strange. She could only imagine, however, at last, that she drew his notice because there ws a something about her more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other person present. This supposition did not pain her. She liked him too little to care for his approbation.” (Chapter 10)

In Chapter 11, we find this exchange. “That is a failing, indeed!” cried Elizabeth. “Implacable resentment is a shade in a character. But you have chosen your fault well. I cannot laugh at it. You are safe from me.” To which Darcy replies, “There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.” Elizabeth jumps on the opportunity to criticize Darcy: “And your defect is a propensity to hate everyone,” while he replies with a smile, “And yours is willfully to misunderstand them.”

▶ My Immortal- Pride & Prejudice - YouTube

▶ My Immortal- Pride & Prejudice – YouTube

After the disastrous first proposal and Elizabeth’s initial refusal of Mr. Darcy, his letter of explanation make inroads into her feelings for the gentleman. Mr. Darcy’s letter she was in a fair way of soon knowing by heart. She studied every sentence; and her feelings toward its writer were at times widely different. When she remembered the style of his address, she was still full of indignation; but when she considered how unjustly she had condemned and upbraided him, her anger was turned against herself, and his disappointed feelings became the object of compassion. His attachment excited gratitude, his general character respect; but she could not approve him: nor could she for a moment repent her refusal, or feel the slightest inclination ever to see him again. (Chapter 37)

By the time she visits Pemberley, Elizabeth’s feelings have evolved. There was certainly at this moment in Elizabeth’s mind a more gentle sensation toward the original [Mr. Darcy] than had ever felt at the height of their acquaintance. The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of not trifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant? As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people’s happiness were in his guardianship; how much of pleasure or pain it was in his power to bestow; how much of good or evil must be done by him. Every idea that had been brought forward by the housekeeper was favorable to his character; and as she stood before the canvas on which he was presented and fixed his eyes upon herself, she thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she remembered its warmth, and soften its impropriety of expression. (Chapter 43)

Picture of Pride and Prejudice

Picture of Pride and Prejudice

After receiving Mrs. Gardiner’s letter, which described Darcy’s involvement in Lydia’s “rescue,” Elizabeth experiences both elation and regret. The contents of this letter threw Elizabeth into a flutter of spirits, in which it was difficult to determine whether pleasure or pain bore the greatest share. The vague and unsettled suspicions which uncertainty had produced of what Mr. Darcy might have been doing to forward her sister’s match, which she had feared to encourage as an exertion of goodness too great to be probably, and at the same time dreaded to be just, from the pain of obligation, were proved beyond their greatest extent to be true…. He had done all this for a girl whom he could neither regard nor esteem. Her heart did whisper that he had done it for her. But it was a hope shortly checked by other considerations; and she soon felt that even her vanity was insufficient, when required to depend on his affection for her, for a woman who had already refused him, as able to overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against relationship with Wickham. … but he had given a reason for his interference; … and though she would not place herself as his principal inducement, she could perhaps believe that remaining partiality for her might assist his endeavors in a cause where her peace of mind must be materially concerned. It was painful, exceedingly painful, to know that they were under obligations to a person who could never receive a return They owed the restoration of Lydia, her character, everything, to him. Oh how heartily did she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever directed, toward him! For herself, she was humbled; but she was proud of him – proud that in a cad of compassion and honor he had been able to get the better of himself. (Chapter 52)

So where do all these misconceptions lead us in our analysis of Pride and Prejudice. Obviously, “first impressions” are often faulty, a lesson Elizabeth is slow to learn. We realize that Darcy’s “prideful” demeanor leads him to be “prejudiced” against the possibility of Elizabeth being a suitable match. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s “prejudice” against all who do not conform to her way of thinking proves her “proud” and unrelenting. The problems are exasperated by Elizabeth’s emotional connection to those within her life. She views the Bingley sisters, Mr. Collins, and the De Bourghs quite accurately for they are only passing through her life. There is no true “connection.” But with Charlotte, Mr. Wickham, and Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth finds a vested interest. Her opinions of each prove faulty, and those opinions come from the close intimacy she cultivates with the person. Therefore, “intimacy” becomes part of the plot Austen carves out for the reader. 

Pride and Prejudicex600


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