“Murder of a Bastard Child,” an Historical Crime Against Children

In the 18th Century in England, what was the fate of a child born to a young woman pregnant out of wedlock? Alan Taylor in the British History Georgian Lives Facebook Group tells us, “The most common capital offence for women in the 18th Century was ‘murdering a bastard’- 98 women were hanged for this between 1735 and 1834! The vast majority of these women were in extreme poverty, had been abandoned by their partners and had no where to find shelter and food. Society at that time was very harsh in its judgement to these women condemning them for their immorality and even sending the mother and baby away and therefore denying them poor relief. The story of Elizabeth Harrard is one heartbreaking example. On December 21st 1739 she and nine other condemned men were transported From Newgate prison to Tyburn and there hanged. Her crime was that she had murdered her new born baby and thrown the body into a river. If you read her story in the accompanying article (see link below under NOTE), you will perhaps realise what drove her to this act and how little pity was shown to her in her condition.” 


The most famous account of attempted infanticide, in which babies were left exposed to the elements, is the story of Romulus and Remus (Wikimedia Commons)

The Greeks considered infanticide barbaric, but instead of outright killing their babies, they practiced exposure. Exposure would be just leaving the child.it was not considered murder because a passerby or a God could take pity on the child and save it. 
In Rome, exposure was common, in a letter from a man to his wife during 1 BC he says:  “I am still in Alexandria. … I beg and plead with you to take care of our little child, and as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it.” Another option would be to take the child to the family patriarch and they would decide whether the child should be killed or left to exposure. Usually babies with birth defects were killed. By 374 AD infanticide was illegal in Rome, but offenders were rarely ever prosecuted. Pagan German tribes also practiced a similar exposure to unwanted children. Many were left in the forest without food….this was especially common for children born out of wedlock.

Meanwhile, Christianity abhorred infanticide. In Apostles it was written, “You shall not kill that which is born”. In 318 AD Constantine I felt that infanticide was a crime. In 374 AD Valentinian stated that people must rear all children. The Council of Constantinople issued that infanticide was murder and in 589 AD the Third Council of Toledo worked on ending the Spanish custom of killing their children .

Child sacrifice was common among the Gauls, Celts, and Irish during the Middle Ages. “They would kill their piteous wretched offspring with much wailing and peril, to pour their blood around Crom Cruaich”, a deity of pre-Christian IrelandBut soon abandoning children on the doorsteps of churches and abbeys became more common than exposure. This gave birth to the world’s first orphanages. (History of Infanticide)

For many women delivering an unwanted baby, infanticide was the answer. Humanian speaks to the modern version of this heinous act. “Infanticide is the act of deliberately causing the death of a very young child (under 1 year old). In the past, and in many societies, it was a widespread practice, permitted by different cultures around the world. Nowadays, it is considered to be an unethical crime; however, it is still performed. In some cultures, children are not considered to be human beings until certain ceremonies have been performed (name-giving ceremonies or haircuts for example). Infanticide occurs rarely once those ceremonies have taken place but killing a child before them is not seen as a homicide. Infanticide is usually difficult to report, because in most cases these deaths are covered as stillbirths or children are just not registered at the civil registry after the birth. Indirect or passive infanticide begins with inadequate nutrition, neglect or careless parenting, especially when the baby gets sick. In many societies, especially in the past, infanticide was routinely used as a way to control and regulate the population. As such, it particularly affected female children, since having fewer women meant having a lower rate of reproduction (fewer children).

“Female infanticide is the most common form of infanticide, both nowadays and in the past. This practice is mainly due to the fact that, in some cultures, males are considered to be socially more valuable than women. Moreover, female infanticide is sometimes related to the control of the population. For example, the UN World Report on Violence Against Children conducted among 1,000 women in India revealed that infanticide was the cause of 41% of deaths among newborn girls.

“In China, infanticide is also practiced, mainly due to the one-child policy (even though it existed before), which states that each couple can have only one child. Many parents prefer to have an abortion before the birth, if they know that the child is a girl. However, among people who do not have this possibility, infanticide at birth can be performed. Female infanticide and abortions have caused a great imbalance between the sexes in some regions. In 2007, a UN report estimated that approximately 100 million girls worldwide had disappeared, 80 million of them in China and India. In the future, this could lead to an increase in girls trafficking or to forcing women to marry more than one man.”

A common capital crime in the 1700s in England was that of the murder of a bastard child. These were generally not still births or deaths from disease or some other natural cause. These were purposeful deaths: ones to rid a woman of the child she had never wanted in the first place. We must remember that contraception was not readily available or dependable to the majority of the population. Women accused of the crime had gotten rid of their infant children in a variety of manners: beaten to death, drowned, buried alive, poisoned, cutting their throats, etc. Women of the time, especially those living in poverty, had few resources available to them, and so many took drastic measures to survive. 

 Capital Punishment UK tells us, “Some seventy nine women were hanged for this crime between 1735 and 1799 and a further nineteen between 1800 and 1834.  The last being twenty four year old Mary Smith who went to the gallows at Stafford on the 19th of March 1834. It is not always possible from surviving records to know whether a child murder fell into this category or not.  Large numbers of women and girls continued to be sentenced to death between 1840 and 1922 for killing their infant children but were all reprieved. It wasn’t until the Infanticide Act of 1922 that the killing of a newborn baby by its mother was no longer classed as a capital crime and factors such as the disturbed mental state of a new mother were permitted to provide a partial defence to a murder charge.  The Infanticide Act of 1938 removed the death penalty altogether for women who killed their babies in their first year of life, stating ‘at the time of the act or omission the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child or by reason of the effect of lactation consequent upon the birth of the child.’ In some cases it was possible to show that a baby had not been born alive and the mother could then be charged with concealment of the birth but this did not carry the death penalty.”

 NOTE: The Capital Punishment UK site also discusses four cases of the murder of bastard children, those of Elizabeth Harrard, Sarah Jones, Ann Statham and Hannah Halley, if you are interested in how the law treated such cases.  I chose not to detail the cruelty here. 

The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying tells us, “Most societies agree that the drive to protect and nurture one’s infant is a basic human trait. Yet infanticide—the killing of an infant at the hands of a parent—has been an accepted practice for disposing of unwanted or deformed children since prehistoric times. Despite human repugnance for the act, most societies, both ancient and contemporary, have practiced infanticide. Based upon both historical and contemporary data, as many as 10 to 15 percent of all babies were killed by their parents. The anthropologist Laila Williamson notes that infanticide has been practiced by nearly all civilizations. Williamson concludes that infanticide must represent a common human trait, perhaps genetically encoded to promote self-survival.

“Neonaticide is generally defined as ‘the homicide of an infant aged one week or less.’ The psychiatrist Phillip Resnick further limits neonaticide to the killing of an infant on the day of its birth. Infanticide in general usage is defined as ‘the homicide of a person older than one week but less than one year of age.’ Filicide is defined as ‘the homicide of a child (less than eighteen years of age) by his or her parent or stepparent.'”

Read more: http://www.deathreference.com/Ho-Ka/Infanticide.html#ixzz59MQ3SoxS

The Discovery of a Mass Baby Grave Under a Roman Bathhouse 

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Recording of Births in the Church of England During the Regency

See Monday’s post on Churching of Women for how woman were treated after childbirth in the Church of England in many Western religions. “Churching” involved a celebration welcoming women back into the church/religion after they had given birth, even if the child was stillborn or passed shortly after birth or with no christening.

Today, we think of the recording of a birth as automatic. At most hospitals, the staff record such details ,and they are passed on to the proper authorities. The birth announcement appears in the local newspaper usually within a week of the actual birth. This was not so for the Regency. Birth announcements were not recorded during the Regency Era. Births were not always recorded in the parish registers. Generally, only the Baptism/Christening was recorded. Some clergymen listed the child’s age or birth date  when recording the  baptism, but most did not. Usually the child had to be breathing to be baptised and  given a name for the parish records, but that was not an “absolute” in the practice of recording births. [Note! Today the terms (baptism and christening) are interchangeable by many. A Christening is a naming, but the church believes baptism is to save the soul of the infant  and to enroll him in the church of believers. The secular name is incidental and just for records.]

According to Nancy Mayer Regency Researcher, “Most of the evidence upon which today’s perceptions of the era are founded is faulty. St Martin-in-the-Fields was probably the most fastidious of the parishes in those days, with the sextons recording in minute detail, everything about those they buried – and that included stillborns, abortives, infants (those who’d lived to draw breath), etc., etc.  Name, date of birth, date of death, address, sex, etc., etc.  No detail was missed.  But even in this parish there were anomalies based on the structure of burial fees – abortives were the cheapest burials. Chrisom’s came next.  Stillborns were the third cheapest, and from there, the fees increased the longer the individual lived.  So many infants who had lived through the first crucial week only to succumb to the infections that so beset newborns, were buried as stillborns because the family could not or did not want to pay the higher fees. But even with the stillborns and the Chrisoms, the father’s name was recorded by the sextons.  It was not until well after the Regency that the mother’s name was included.” Although it rarely happened, in reality, the parents did not need to present for the baptism. 

No ecclesiastical law forbid the baptism of a stillborn child. It was the expense of doing so that prevented many from recognizing their child’s existence.

I understand the confusion and grief following the lost of a child for I lost two children before I had my son. It bothered me deeply not to have access to the one I lost early on. I could not shake the idea that it would never have a name or a place in our family’s recorded history. However, many in the early 19th Century were developing what we now associate with the British public as a whole: the stiff upper lip. Grief was not shown in public. 

Other parishes were not as meticulous as St Martin-in-the-Fields. Generally, the person requesting the recording of the birth was at the “mercy” of the clergyman overseeing the parish. The clergyman’s opinions or those of the aristocrat providing his living could differ greatly from parish to parish. Some clergy would look poorly upon an abortive situation. An aristocrat might privately have a stillborn child baptised, but a public announcement of such would not occur. The recording of a child’s birth, or the lack thereof, is a major plot point in Book 2 of my Twins’ Trilogy, The Earl Claims His Comfort. Any “public” records, such as Debrett’s The New Peerage, would simply include the line stillborn daughter or stillborn son.

41VA23GR86LWe find an example of such in Chapter 1 of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Sir Walter Elliot picks up the Baronetage to read of his family history, “”ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH-HALL.
“Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester; by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov. 5, 1789; Mary, born Nov. 20, 1791.”

Many times the private family records, such as the family Bible, contained the name of the stillborn child. Parish records and private records did not always hold the same details. Often, especially in the male line, one might find two male offsprings with the same name in a private record, but the names of the children were listed as several years apart – the first one died at birth or shortly thereafter. 

As with everything else, there were those members of the clergy who accepted payment to record stillborns. Parents might, for example, argue that the Bible does not speak to forbidding the naming of stillborns. Babies could be baptised at home by any member of the household as long as water was used and the child was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This was a valid baptism  in most cases. 

431184283c0ccbfe915e11bf06d3477a Anciently, a chrisom, or “chrisom-cloth,” was the face-cloth, or piece of linen laid over a child’s head when he or she was baptised or christened. Originally, the purpose of the chrisom-cloth was to keep the chrism, a consecrated oil, from accidentally rubbing off. With time, the word’s meaning changed, to that of a white mantle thrown over the whole infant at the time of baptism. The term has come to refer to a child who died within a month after its baptism—so called for the chrisom cloth that was used as a shroud for it. Additionally, in London’s Bills of Mortality, the term chrisom was used to refer to infants who died within a month after being born. (Chrisom)

ATOHCrop2 In A Touch of Honor, Book 8 of the Realm Series, I used a different plot point associated with the recording of births and deaths. In that book, Lady Satiné Swenton dies in a terrible accident and the child she carried is also lost. The surgeon tending the body asks Lord Swenton if he wishes to have the stillborn buried with his mother. The mother and stillborn infant could be buried together as it was with Princess Charlotte’s child. In that case the child was not named. However, the father could insist on having the child listed in the death register and could have a name etched in the grave marker to recognize publicly the birth. The woman’s husband also held the option of having his wife and child buried in a private cemetery and act as he thought best for his family. 


The Church of England provides this tutorial for the ceremony: 

What Happens at a christening?

At a christening a child is baptized with water. This is the heart of a christening. There are several moments in the service which have a special meaning too. Follow each step to see what happens.

“…I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”


The vicar will welcome everyone and especially the child who will be christened and their family. There will be a Bible reading, and the vicar will also talk about what a christening means.

The promises

You and the godparents will make some important promises for your child in the service. You can see the full order of service here.  Everyone promises to continue supporting the child from this moment.

The vicar says: “…People of God will you welcome this child and uphold them in their new life in Christ?”

Everyone present says: “…With the help of God, we will.”

The sign

Often, this is the point in the service when parents and godparents will be invited to come out to stand at the front with the child. In many churches, a special oil may be used to make the sign of a cross on your child’s forehead. It’s a significant moment, which marks your child as belonging to God.

The vicar will say: “…Christ claims you as his own. Receive the sign of the cross.”

The water

Water which is blessed in the church’s font will be poured over your child’s head by the vicar. This is your child’s baptism. It’s a sign of a new beginning and becoming a part of God’s family.

The vicar says: “…I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Prayers and welcome

The vicar, or perhaps even someone else from the church, will pray for the child and for all those who will support them in their path of faith. Everyone present welcomes the child into the family of the church with words given in the service.

A candle

A candle will be given to the child at the end of the service.

The vicar says: “…Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God.”

Godparents play a special role in the ceremony and in the child’s life. The godparents were the ones to take the child to church, make the vows in his/her name, and say the name of the child for all the world to know. The godmother customarily holds the child during the ceremony. The child can be dipped into the baptismal font–first one side and then the other, but often water was poured on his head. Occasionally water was just sprinkled on or a damp cloth is used.  A cross is made with oil on the baby’s head to anoint the child. The rite in the Book of Common prayer of the day was used.

A female child was to have two female and one male godparent or sponsor, while a male child was to have two male and one female godparent or sponsor. Although they could serve the role, godparents were NOT automatically the child’s legal guardian of the child(ren) with the passing of a parent(s). A will would designate the legal guardian in such a scenario. 

During the Regency and beyond, royalty were often asked to be godparents to the children of peers, such as dukes or men who had positions at Court or were at Court often or were ranking members of Parliament. Quite often the royal godparents employed proxy stand-ins. When the child is 12 years of age, he/she would be confirmed; he/she would renew the promises made at his/her baptism for himself/herself.

You might wish to check out: 

10 Ways Christening Has Changed

Posted in British history, Church of England, Georgian England, Living in the Regency, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

The “Churching” of Women After Childbirth

61hN29vqkJL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Although it has largely fallen out of favor with Western religion, the concept of “churching” in the Church of England can be traced well into the 20th Century. (Margaret Houlbrooke. Rite out of Time: a Study of the Ancient Rite of Churching and its Survival in the Twentieth Century (viii + 152pp. + 15 plates, Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2011, ISBN 978-1-907730-10-8). Data from the book “is based on new primary research utilizing ecclesiastical archives and personal testimony of both women and clergy. It mainly deals with churching as practised by the Church of England.

“Much of the evidence-base is qualitative, but some quantitative data are also included, albeit they are not always presented and analysed to optimal effect. Particularly interesting is the study of parochial records for three counties between the 1880s and 1940s, which reveals that the number of churchings was equivalent to two-thirds of baptisms (64% in Berkshire, 63% in Staffordshire, 64% in London). The relevant statistics may be found on pp. 27, 33, 35, 47, 49 and 51 and in plates 9 and 10.” [“Churching of Woman] But what exactly is “churching of women”?

The Christian concept of Churching of Women finds it roots in the Jewish practice spoken of in Leviticus 12:2-8. It is a practice in which women were purified after giving birth. It is a blessing of sorts. The practice includes a “thanksgiving” for the woman’s survival of childbirth. It is performed in the case of a live birth, a stillborn, or even for an unbaptized child that has died. The ceremony draws on the symbolism associated with the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, which is found in the New Testament in Luke 2:22-40. Even though many Christians consider Mary to have given birth to Christ without being despoiled, she is said to have gone to the Temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the requirement of the Law of Moses. 

The custom specifies the ceremonial rite is to be used  to restore ritual purity.  The practice lies in the concept that childbirth makes a woman ritually unclean, meaning the presence of blood and body fluids.. This was part of ceremonial, rather than moral law. [Pope, Charles. “Lost Liturgies File: The Churching of Women”, Archdiocese of Washington]


The women are “reintroduced” to the religion/church/social responsibilities. This practice can be found across a number of cultures. All things having to do with birth and death are understood as somehow sacred. [Knödel, Natalie. “The Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth, commonly called The Churching of Women”, University of Durham. 1995] In agricultural societies, it is assumed that the practice comes from not permitting a new mother to return to the field too soon. [Marshall, Paul V., Prayer Book Parallels. The public services of the Church arranged for comparative study, New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1989]. In history, we find that women have typically been confined to their beds (or at a minimum, to their homes) for a period following giving birth. Forty days seems to be the customary number of days required for a woman’s “lying in.”Custom differs, but the usual date of churching was the fortieth day after confinement (or giving birth), in accordance with the Biblical date and Jewish practice. The Purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple are commemorated forty days after Christmas. During this time, a female relative took over the responsibilities of running the new mother’s household. If a relative was not available, a “monthly nurse” (a term used in the 18th and 19th centuries) could be hired. The custom of “churching” marked the end of the new mother’s “lying in” and welcomed her back to the community. 

“The rite became the subject of a good deal of misunderstanding as many commentators and preachers, in describing its scriptural antecedents, did not explain the concept clearly, as early as the 6th century protested any notion that defilement was incurred by childbirth and recommended that women should never be separated from the church in case it was seen as such. As a blessing given to mothers after recovery from childbirth, “it is not a precept, but a pious and praiseworthy custom, dating from the early Christian ages”. David Cressy points out that the ceremony acknowledged the woman’s labours and the perils of childbirth. At the conclusion of a month after childbirth, women looked forward to churching as a social occasion, and a time to celebrate with friends. For men it marked the end of a month during which they had to take care of the domestic affairs, commonly referred to as the ‘gander month.'” [“Churching of Women“]

“The service included in the English Book of Common Prayer dates only from the Middle Ages.  While the churching was normally performed by a priest in the parish church there were exceptions of women being churched at home. Prior to the English Reformation, according to the rubric the woman was to occupy the ‘convenient place’ near the parthex. In the first prayer book of Edward VI of England, she was to be ‘nigh unto the quire door.’ In the second of his books, she was to be ‘nigh unto the place where the Table (or altar) standeth.’ Bishop Matthew Wren orders for the diocese of Norwich in 1636 were that women to be churched would come and kneel at a side near the communion table outside the rail, being veiled according to custom, and not covered with a hat. In some parishes there was a special pew known as the ‘churching seat.’

“Churchings were formerly registered in some parishes. In Herefordshire it was not considered proper for the husband to appear in church at the service, or to sit with his wife in the same pew. The words in the rubric requiring the woman to come ‘decently appareled,’ refer to the times when it was thought unbecoming for a woman to come to the service with the elaborate head-dress then the fashion. A veil was usually worn. 

“In pre-Reformation days, it was the custom in English Catholic churches for women to carry lighted tapers when being churched, an allusion to the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin (February 2), celebrated as Candlemas, the day chosen by the Catholic Church for the blessing of the candles for the whole year. At her churching, a woman was expected to make some votive offering to the church, such as the chrisom or alb placed on the child at its christening.” [“Churching of Women”]


Presentation in the Temple, a representation of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple upon which the churching of women is based. (Hans Memling, c. 1470, Museo del Prado. Madrid). ~ Public Domain ~ via Wikipedia

Other Resources: 

“Churching of Women” 

“Churching of Women” from New Advent

“The Churching of Women” from The Church of England

“The Churching of Women – misogynist or not?” from Churchmouse 

“Why Women Stayed Away from the Church After Birth” from The Compass

Posted in British history, Church of England, customs and tradiitons, England, Great Britain, history, Living in the UK, marriage, marriage customs, medicine, religion, tradtions | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And the Winners Are…

The winners of an eBook copy of “The Mistress of Rosings Park” from my recent giveaways are . . .


Glenda M





Emails have been sent to each in order to claim the eBook. Check your inboxes.

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“The Mistress of Rosings Park” Has Arrived!

Today, my latest book baby takes its first breath. I am hoping my faithful readers will enjoy this latest tale of Jane Austen Fan Fiction.

Before I share an excerpt, permit me to give you some of the background. First, the tale is told completely from Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view, just as was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The reader does not know what Mr. Darcy is thinking, only something of his actions.

The action begins with Elizabeth’s visit to Hunsford Cottage. Mr. Bingley has not yet arrived in Hertsfordshire. There has been no Netherfield Ball or love at first sight between Bingley and Jane (not yet, anyway). Elizabeth has come to Kent to save her friendship with Charlotte (Lucas) Collins. However, upon her first visit to Rosings Park, she encounters a situation which will throw her into the path of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Lady Catherine’s nephew, a man her ladyship has come to despise, for Mr. Darcy means to remove Lady Catherine as the mistress of Rosings Park. For you see, my dear readers, Mr. Darcy did as the family expected. He married Miss Anne de Bourgh, who succumbed to her many “illnesses” shortly after their marriage. As Miss de Bourgh was to inherit Rosings Park, in fact, should have been the mistress of the estate for nearly seven years, Mr. Darcy, as the lady’s husband, is now the owner of the estate. He has provided Lady Catherine a year to remove to the dower house, but her ladyship refuses to budge.

When Charlotte Lucas is ordered to bed by the physician in order to save the child she carries, Elizabeth Bennet is “recruited” to assist with Lady Catherine’s transition to the dower house. Despite disapproving of Lady Catherine’s “hysterics,” Elizabeth holds some sympathy for the grand dame. After all, her own mother and any unmarried sisters will be displaced by Mr. Collins when Mr. Bennet dies. Elizabeth believes that a woman who has given the better part of her life as mistress of an estate should not be so easily displaced.

Enjoy this excerpt from Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s first meeting.

Some three hours later, Elizabeth asked one of the housemaids to sit with her ladyship while Elizabeth partook of a light meal in the morning room. “Please thank the cook for providing me a meal in here rather than taking a tray in Lady Catherine’s sitting room,” she told Mr. Sidney as he remained close to serve her. “I required a few moments to clear my mind.” In reality, she required those few moments to breathe. Charlotte had been correct about the stuffy air in Lady Catherine’s bedchamber. 

“How goes it with her ladyship?” the man asked. 

“Likely just as Mrs. Fischer has reported,” Elizabeth said diplomatically. “Doctor Wilson believes Lady Catherine shall be laid up for a week or a bit more, but there was no break of her leg, which is a blessing for someone of a particular age, or so I am told.” 

“Nicely put, Miss Bennet,” the man said with a slight turning up of the corner of his lips. 

Elizabeth ventured, “Do you think Lady Catherine would object if I chose a book from the library to entertain myself while I sit with her?”

Mr. Sidney seriously considered her request before stating his permission. 

With a nod of gratitude, after finishing her meal, Elizabeth made her way to the library. She was just beginning her search when a loud rap of the front knocker striking the door filled the empty hallways. 

Quietly, she tiptoed to the still open door to have a look at the visitor. Elizabeth knew it might be a return of the Collinses, but her instincts said it would be the unwelcome appearance of Mr. Darcy, and she was curious about the man. 

A second round of rapping occurred before Mr. Sidney appeared from a side hallway and rushed toward the sound. 

At length, voices could be heard below. Elizabeth could not make out every word, but the occasional phrase reached her ears. 

“The whole house is at sixes and sevens.” 

“My aunt is still at home?”

“Assist with the packing.” 

“Where is her ladyship?”

“An accident, sir.”

A murmured curse. 

“Perhaps you might speak to Miss Bennet,” Mr. Sidney was saying. 

Elizabeth did not wait to hear the gentleman’s response. Instead, she hurriedly grabbed a book from the shelf and rushed to be seated, pretending to read as she caught a steadying breath and stiffened her spine in preparation for her encounter with the oft-spoken-of Mr. Darcy. She settled her eyes on the page halfway through the first chapter, but did not carry her pretense of occupation as far as actually to read the book before her, but instead kept a sharper ear out for Mr. Darcy’s approach. 

Even as she listened intently for the gentleman to make an appearance, Elizabeth considered how calm Mr. Darcy’s voice had sounded when he had heard of his aunt’s presence at Rosings Park, as if he had expected nothing less from her ladyship. He did not raise his voice until he learned of the accident. In reality, Elizabeth had expected him to be furious, allowing her to name his obvious control as an intolerable sort of arrogance. Her opinion, as was her way, had formed quickly, before she set eyes upon the man.

She had no time to present a name to any further impressions before Mr. Sidney announced, “Mr. Darcy, miss.” 

Elizabeth’s idea of the gentleman’s arrogance was rather reinforced by the man’s appearance and the manner in which he carried himself. His presence filled the door, rather to say, it filled the empty room, despite its size. 

Square jaw, displaying the shadow of a beard from his day’s travel rather than perfectly clean as if he were appearing in a lady’s drawing room. His skin had been darkened by the sun; apparently, he spent a great deal of time in the fields. Tall. He was a man who announced his place in the world simply by walking into a room. Although a bit wrinkled, his dark coat, as well as his tailored breeches and highly polished boots declared him a man of means. His presence was so strong, Elizabeth felt a jolt of recognition—an elemental sizzle running through her as she rose to greet the gentleman. 

“Miss Bennet,” he said as he bowed properly. “I am to understand you have assumed the care of my aunt.” 

“Not exactly, sir,” she said with a hint of a smile. She had no reason to smile at the man, for she was certain she did not like him, despite his handsome face; yet, it felt natural to smile upon him. 

“Then perhaps you might explain exactly what is your role at Rosings Park,” he said rather coolly. 

“If you believe, sir, that your aunt’s accident is some sort of hum to delay Lady Catherine’s removal from her home, you are sadly mistaken, Mr. Darcy. I have viewed her injuries myself. They are quite real.” 

“If you stood witness,” Mr. Darcy continued in the same reserved tones as previously, “the account must be accurate.” He gestured to the seats. Elizabeth was not certain whether his remark was an insult or an observation, but she moved to the chair nevertheless. He continued, “Mayhap we might sit and you can explain your role at Rosings Park. Are you her ladyship’s companion? If so, you appear quite young for such an exalted position.” 

Elizabeth fought hard not to frown, but knew she did not succeed. “Today is only my second visit to Rosings Park,” she said evenly. 

“Yet, you believe it is your right to instruct her ladyship’s staff and sit in Lady Catherine’s library reading her books,” he accused. 

Her expression must have displayed the nature of her objections to his insinuations, for the gentleman’s eyebrow rose in speculation. 

“For your information, my cousin Mr. Collins holds the living associated with the baronetcy. I am a guest at Hunsford Cottage. I took your aunt’s acquaintance yesterday afternoon when I accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Collins to Rosings only to discover your aunt in a state of dudgeon as you have apparently ordered her from her home.” 

Mr. Darcy’s eyebrows tugged together in obvious disapproval. “My dealings with Lady Catherine are none of your concern. You are nothing to my aunt; therefore, nothing to me.”

Elizabeth responded in her best imitation of Lord Matlock’s quelling tones. “As Lady Catherine has yet to relinquish control of this house to you, sir, I shall continue to act in her ladyship’s stead until she is in a position to do so for herself. Lady Catherine was set to remove to Bourgh House today, actually to be gone before your arrival. As her accident prevents her from doing so, you can have no doubt of the obvious necessity for a change in your plans. Permit me to suggest that you choose the local inn for your residency in Kent until the plans for Lady Catherine to accept Bourgh House can be renewed.” 

She was satisfied with the calm in her voice and the command she portrayed in her words, but, infuriatingly, her visitor’s composure did not falter even one iota. 

His reply proved equally unsatisfactory. “As I do not recognize your place of authority in this household,” he began in harsh civility, “I will make the decisions for this estate and this manor house, Miss Bennet. Until I have established a reliable steward who can execute the management of the estate’s affairs properly, I will be in residence at Rosings Park. You may return to Hunsford Cottage and your cousin. It will be my domain to oversee Lady Catherine’s care.” 

Before she could organize her thoughts, the gentleman stepped to the door to present Mr. Sidney with orders. Elizabeth should have realized the butler had remained in the hall and had heard her exchange with Mr. Darcy and would, likely, carry the tale to those below stairs; however, she had not considered the obvious. Angry, as much with herself as she was the gentleman, Elizabeth groused beneath her breath, “Of all the arrogance!”

“I heard that,” Mr. Darcy said blandly from his place in the hall. 

Within seconds, the gentleman returned—too quickly for Elizabeth to regain her composure completely. “I ordered tea,” he announced. The man turned his full attention upon her, and Elizabeth fought hard not to fidget. “Might we sit again, Miss Bennet?” he asked in calm tones—tones Elizabeth actually admired, but never would she mention that fact aloud. “I can hardly sit in the presence of a lady, and, personally, I despise drinking tea while standing. The cup and saucer always feel much smaller when one stands about attempting to look comfortable than it does when one is seated. We will both be more agreeable if we are seated during our conversation.” 

“And I am less likely to slap your face when we are both seated,” she challenged. 

A small smile graced his lips. “Another noted advantage,” he remarked in maddening carelessness. 

Flushed in anger, Elizabeth sat heavily in the chair she had occupied when he entered the room. The gentleman followed suit, sitting with a flourish only a man accustomed to the finest of society could manage, with the exception that this particular man of society leisurely stretched his legs out before him. “Perhaps you might speak of what occurred in this house yesterday. I understand from Mr. Sidney that my Uncle Matlock called upon Lady Catherine. Were you witness to their discussion?”

“I was,” Elizabeth said with a lift of her chin. 

“And?” he prodded.

“And,” she spoke in a decidedly unfriendly manner, but she spoke the truth. “Lord Matlock chastised his sister for ignoring your request.” Before he could respond, Elizabeth added, “In my opinion, forcing Lady Catherine from her home names you as cruel.” 

Mr. Darcy corrected, “As Lady Catherine is the Dowager Lady de Bourgh, her ladyship’s home, once my late wife reached her majority and married, should have been Bourgh Hall, the dowager’s residence.” 

Elizabeth knew his reasons true; yet, the idea of a woman being forced from her home hit too close to her own vulnerability to allow the gentleman any level of rightness in her mind. “Could you not share Rosings Park with her ladyship?” she suggested. 

“I mean to set the estate on the path the late Sir Lewis de Bourgh had designed, in consideration of my late wife’s dying wishes.” 

“Is there not another to inherit?” Elizabeth asked, constantly aware Mr. Collins would displace her family someday. “Is there not a means to share this grand estate with your family?”

“My wife Anne inherited the property. The baronetcy was not devised to pass through the male line. Mrs. Darcy’s property reverted to me upon her death,” he explained.

“And what shall you choose to do with it? Will you leave it to another or live in it?” she demanded. 

Still and all, before the gentleman could answer, Mr. Sidney reappeared with John Lucas close behind him. “Mr. Lucas, Miss Bennet.” 

Either John did not see the gentleman coming to his feet or he was too consumed with his news to take note of Mr. Darcy. “Oh, Lizzy, I am sorry to bring bad news.” 

“Is Charlotte unwell?” Elizabeth asked, thinking of her friend’s news. 

“How did you know?” John questioned. His face was flushed, as if he had run to Rosings rather than walked. “Charlotte collapsed when we reached Hunsford Cottage. Mr. Collins sent for Doctor Wilson. Wilson has confined my sister to her bed.” 

Elizabeth wished to ask of the child, but could not do so before Mr. Darcy. Moreover, discussing Charlotte’s condition with Charlotte’s brother felt too personal. She would learn the truth at the cottage. “I shall fetch my things, and we may return to Hunsford immediately.” 

John finally glanced to Mr. Darcy. “I did not mean to interrupt, sir.” 

Elizabeth felt the necessity of the introduction. “Mr. Darcy, may I present Mr. Lucas, Mrs. Collins’s brother. Mr. Lucas is a member of the Dover militia and visits with his sister for the next few weeks.”

Mr. Darcy nodded in John’s direction, but the gentleman’s eyes remained on her. His eyebrows rose in question. “Lizzy?”

“I am Miss Elizabeth Bennet.” 

Mr. Darcy presented her a half-smile. “Elizabeth. The name suits you.” 

Elizabeth was uncertain what he meant and whether his words were a compliment or an insult; yet, she dared not ask. Instead, she said, “You have your wish, Mr. Darcy. Your aunt’s care is now in your hands.” 

John frowned dramatically. “You do not understand, Lizzy. I mean, Elizabeth.” 

“Miss Bennet,” Mr. Darcy corrected in firm tones. 

John’s frown deepened. “Miss Bennet is in Hertfordshire. She is Miss Jane Bennet,” he said with a bit of defiance. 

Mr. Darcy did not blink an eye when he said, “Yet, you are not in Hertfordshire at the moment. From what I can assume, your connections to Miss Bennet is your sister Mrs. Collins and both of you being from the same neighborhood in Hertfordshire. Correct me if I have erred. Do you hold a relationship with Miss Bennet beyond your sister and your families dwelling in close proximity?”

“I do not see where my and Miss Elizabeth’s relationship is any care of yours,” John said testily. 

“Miss Bennet is currently a guest in my house, and I would see her properly addressed,” Mr. Darcy said evenly. 

“You forget yourself, sir. I am not a guest at Rosings Park,” Elizabeth asserted.

“I have reconsidered your position in this household,” Mr. Darcy countered. “Lady Catherine will heal quicker if she has someone she trusts to see to her welfare. With the recent falling out between my aunt and me, I doubt her ladyship would do as I ask. More likely, she would question my motives or even the type of care she was receiving.” 

Elizabeth wished to ask of the supposed “falling out” between Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine, but the gentleman truly owed her no explanation. Instead, she argued, “I cannot possibly remain in a household with an unmarried gentleman—a man who is an acquaintance of less than an hour.” 

“But, Lizzy,” John began and stopped himself before Mr. Darcy could once again correct him. “Miss Elizabeth, Mr. Collins plans to send for my mother to assist Charlotte, which means there shan’t be enough room at the cottage for all three of us as guests. He begged me to ask that you be prepared to return to Hertfordshire in the morning.” 

Elizabeth knew instant disappointment. She had agreed to this visit specially to spend time with Charlotte and to mend fully the rift between them. Next to her sister Jane, Charlotte had been Elizabeth’s most loyal companion. “Naturally, I must return to Longbourn,” she said in lackluster tones. Placing a smile upon her lips, she recited the necessary assurances, “Again, permit me to fetch my things, and we may return to the cottage.” 

However, before she could act, Mrs. Fischer appeared at the door. “Miss Bennet, thank goodness you remain at Rosings Park. Her ladyship has awakened and is demanding to see either you or Mrs. Collins immediately.” 

“Mrs. Collins is indisposed,” Elizabeth explained after shooting a glance to Mr. Darcy, whose resolve had not disappeared from his countenance. 

“Then you must come, miss,” Mrs. Fischer declared. “Her ladyship is determined to remove from her bed. You must convince her it is too dangerous for her to disobey Doctor Wilson’s orders. 

Elizabeth again looked to Mr. Darcy. He nodded his agreement. “Go. We will decide the rest after you speak to Lady Catherine.” 

She pointed her finger at Mr. Darcy and John. “You two are not to argue in my absence.” 

Mr. Darcy smiled at her. “What topic would you suggest, Miss Bennet, for Mr. Lucas and me to discuss.” 

Elizabeth gestured with a sloping arc of her arm. “How am I to know?” she began as she headed toward the door, but she paused to turn back to the two men, each sporting a scowl upon his features. “Agriculture,” she announced. “Mr. Lucas commented earlier today on the condition of some of the fields and the pathways in the park. Perhaps, he may be of service to you, Mr. Darcy. At home in Hertfordshire, Mr. Lucas has assumed much of the care of his father’s modest estate.” 

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Linen Drapers During the Regency Era + a Teaser from “The Mistress of Rosings Park” You MUST Read + a Giveaway

Cloth manufacturing was one of the first industries in Great Britain. Wool and cotton fabrics were available with some ease. Cotton printed muslin was often found upon the backs of people of the age. By the end of the Regency era, Great Britain had imported 90 million pounds of cotton. Messrs. Harding Howell & Co in Pall Mall was one of the leaders of choice linen-drapers. In 1811, Jane Austen described a shopping excursion she made to a London establishment that sold handkerchiefs, gauzes, nets, veils, trims, and cloth as . . .

We set off immediately after breakfast and must have reached Grafton House by 1/2 past 11 -, but when we entered the Shop, the whole counter was thronged & we waited a full half an hour before we c’d be attended to. When we were served however, I was very well satisfied with my purchases.

It was not unusual for customers to haggle over the prices, but, by the Regency, the shoppers saw more “set” prices on items. Unfortunately, for the shopkeepers, they were “obliged” to extend credit to the aristocracy, which saw the privilege as a necessary part of their positions in Society. Being paid was purely on the backs of the shopkeepers, who often went bankrupt with little recourse, for peers could not be sent to debtors’ prison for non-payment.

Harding Howell & Co – This print displays the large inventory of the shop. Please note the assistants were all males, who served the female customers. ~ From Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics (1809) ‘Harding, Howell, & Co.s grand Fashionable Magazine, No. 89, Pall Mall’ (Plate 12: Vol. 1, No. 3, March 1809)

By the beginning of the 19th Century, it is estimated that 200 different shops could be found in London. These shops kept long hours, generally, 12-hour days. The shopkeepers and their assistants often lived on the premises. Warehouses were located in Covent Garden. Mercers and linen drapers could be found in Cheapside. Shops lined the streets with shopkeepers living above. We know that ladies of Society shopped on Oxford Street an Bond Street in Mayfair. Men frequented the shops and gentlemen’s clubs in St. James. Newer styled shops sprung up along the Strand.

Cheapside 1813, East India House on the left ~ Cheapside’, published 1813 in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts Vol 9, Plate: 44.

Those of us who love Pride and Prejudice can easily recall Caroline Bingley’s disdain when speaking of Elizabeth Bennet’s unsuitable pedigree to Mr. Darcy.

“Yes; and they have another [uncle], who lives somewhere near Cheapside.”

“That is capital,” added her sister, and they both laughed heartily.

“If they had uncles enough to fill all Cheapside,” cried Bingley, “it would not make them one jot less agreeable.”

“But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world,” replied Darcy. (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 8)

From Jane Austen’s World, we learn, “Shop keepers advertised through circulars, trade cards, newspaper notices, or board-men, who were employed to roam the streets. In the 1760’s, the large shop signs that had once hung over shops and identified the shop’s merchandise to a populace that largely could not read were deemed hazardous. They were removed by law, but a few managed to survive, as this account in the Book of Days describes:

In Holywell-street, Strand, is the last remaining shop sign in situ, being a boldly-sculptured half-moon, gilt, and exhibiting the old conventional face in the centre. Some twenty years ago it was a mercer’s shop, and the bills made out for customers were ‘adorned with a picture’ of this sign. It is now a bookseller’s, and the lower part of the windows have been altered into the older form of open shop. A court beside it leads into the great thoroughfare; and the corner-post is decorated with a boldly-carved lion’s head and paws, acting as a corbel to support a still older house beside it. This street altogether is a good, and now an almost unique specimen of those which once were the usual style of London business localities, crowded, tortuous, and ill-ventilated, having shops closely and inconveniently packed, but which custom had made familiar and inoffensive to all; while the old traders, who delighted in ‘old styles,’ looked on improvements with absolute horror, as ‘a new-fashioned way’ to bankruptcy.


The Mistress of Rosings Park: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary [arriving Friday, January 8, 2021]

I much prefer the sharp criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses. – Johannes Kepler 

When she arrives at Hunsford Cottage for a visit with her long-time friend Charlotte Collins, Elizabeth Bennet does not expect the melodrama awaiting her at Rosings Park. 

Mrs. Anne Darcy, nee de Bourgh, has passed, and Rosings Park is, by law, the property of the woman’s husband, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy; yet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is not ready to abandon the mansion over which she has served as mistress for thirty years. Elizabeth holds sympathy for her ladyship’s situation. After all, Elizabeth’s mother will eventually be banished from Longbourn when Mr. Bennet passes without male issue. She inherently understands Lady Catherine’s “hysterics,” while not necessarily condoning them, for her ladyship will have the luxury of the right to the estate’s dower house, and, moreover, it is obvious Rosings Park requires the hand of a more knowledgeable overseer. Therefore, Elizabeth takes on the task of easing Lady Catherine’s transition to dowager baronetess, but doing so places Elizabeth often in the company of the “odious” Mr. Darcy, a man Lady Catherine claims poisoned her daughter Anne in order to claim Rosings Park as his own.

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Excerpt from Chapter Nine: As part of her duties to aid Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s transition to the dower house at Rosings Park, Elizabeth must oversee the refurbishing of the rooms. The scene below should tease you into wanting to read more. ENJOY!

“Miss,” one of the workers interrupted Elizabeth’s thoughts. “We’s mean to walk up to the manor house for arn midday meal.” 

Elizabeth glanced up to the clock and noted it was nearly half past time for the men to leave. “I apologize. I lost track of the hour. Please hurry along. I did not mean to keep you.” 

“Wud ye care to walk up with us?” he offered. 

“I thank you, but I had my sisters send me a basket when they returned earlier. I shall be kindly kept busy in your absence.”

The man nodded his understanding. “We shan’t be overlong.” 

“Enjoy your meal and your rest,” she said in parting. 

Within minutes, the house was silent, and Elizabeth allowed herself a few moments to breathe. She felt as if she had held her breath since . . .  “Since taking Mr. Darcy’s acquaintance,” she admitted softly to the empty room she had claimed as hers while overseeing the house’s refurbishing. Despite saying otherwise, she had silently fumed over his refusal to attend the assembly and, naturally, stand up with her. Her anger and her shame had kept her awake for most of the night. “Well, no more,” she declared as she stood. “The man has no hold over me.” 

Catching up her sketchbook, she headed for the stairs. She had continued to outline and sketch what must be completed before Lady Catherine could take possession of Bourgh House. She wished to be free of this responsibility as quickly as the business could know an end. She desperately missed her home at Longbourn and the good sense of her father. 

Reaching the family wing, Elizabeth took a peek into the sitting room she had worked on previously. Thankfully, the room had been properly aired out. She had sent for the draper: He was to arrive at three of the clock. She had provided Lady Catherine several suggestions on the colors to be employed in the room. Elizabeth had ordered the walls to be painted a soft cream color. Today, she would order the royal purple cloth Lady Catherine had insisted should remain in both the bedchamber and the sitting room. “Hideous,” she remarked under her breath. “At least, her ladyship has agreed to the lilac, leaf green, and gold accents I suggested,” she said in satisfaction, as she surveyed the room another time. 

She had previously made the necessary notations for the guest rooms upon this storey. “The master’s suite is all that remains. Obviously, those rooms can be the last to know refreshening. Lady Catherine can make the final decisions on those particular rooms. I shall, for now, simply order a thorough cleaning and fresh paint.” 

Decision made, Elizabeth crossed to the door she had entered but three days prior. “No Mr. Darcy to encounter this time,” she warned the hitch in her breath as her hand touched the latch and the image of a very virile man crowded her mind. 

Feeling quite foolish, she made herself turn the mechanism and enter the room. However, a few steps in, she paused instinctively to inhale the slight scent of the cologne Mr. Darcy wore. The pleasant aroma lingered, and, like it or not, Elizabeth found herself closing her eyes to savor the moment. “You are a foolish woman, Elizabeth Bennet,” she murmured in self-chastisement.

Although her reason disagreed, she allowed the idea of dancing with a handsome gentleman, who may or may not be Mr. Darcy, to fill her mind. She turned in a small circle, her feet performing a dance she had, in reality, never danced, at least, not with a gentleman—only with her sisters and her Uncle Gardiner. The Meryton Assembly Hall musicians had never once played a “waltz,” such as those on the Continent were familiar, only a “country waltz,” which bore little resemblance to the dance many of Society had added to their evening entertainment, despite the dance being called “scandalous” by more than a few of Society’s matrons. 

Practicing the steps in her head before executing the move, she stepped awkwardly into the first part of the form. Slowly. Meticulously. Elizabeth picked up the tempo, turning more and more quickly until with one final turn she found herself in the embrace of a real-life gentleman. 

Her eyes sprung open to reveal a living, breathing version of the man she had been imagining: Mr. Darcy. “Sir,” she said in testy tones. “Release me at once!”

As if she had never spoken, his large hand briefly caressed her cheek, before lifting a loose curl to rest behind her ear. She waited for him to say something. To curse her as she had demanded. To fling her from him or to force her toward the waiting bed. Instead, he urged her into the dance pattern. 

“You are omitting the half-step immediately preceding the turn,” he whispered into her hair. “Allow me to demonstrate. Walk. Walk.” He directed her backward. The skirt of her day gown rubbed against the cloth of his work trousers. 

Elizabeth knew she should protest. Should slap his all-knowing features. Should rush from the room to the safety of her sisters’ bosoms. Should purchase a ticket on the next coach departing for Hertfordshire. She did none of these. Despite knowing she risked her reputation, she permitted the gentleman to guide her in a tight circle.

He tugged her to a soft stop. “Here,” he instructed. “Step back, but at a slight angle in anticipation of the turn: Do not transfer all your weight to that foot.” 

“My Uncle Gardiner never demonstrated such a step,” she protested, despite noting the step Mr. Darcy suggested would make it easier for her to move into the turn.

The gentleman still held her closer than any man had ever dared to hold her previously. He said, “I am not familiar with your Mr. Gardiner. Has he performed the waltz at a ball hosted by a Society grand dame?”

Elizabeth frowned. “No. My uncle does not associate with such high flyers socially.” 

Mr. Darcy’s expression remained implacable. “I have.” 

He was once more ruining the experience of being close to him. He seemed to possess a knack for turning her world upside down. Sometimes she wondered if his disdain was purposeful. Surely, he could not be ignorant of his offensive mannerisms. Had no one dared to speak truthfully to his manners? “Then, lead on, Macduff,” she huffed in irritation. 

“I sense your displeasure with me again, Miss Elizabeth,” he said with a scowl. 

“Why must you be such a prat, Mr. Darcy?” she accused. “I was enjoying the moment. Were you not?”

She thought she noted an odd emotion crossing his features, but it was so quick, she could not name it. As he had been previously, Mr. Darcy was better at disguising his thoughts than was she. 

“More than I should,” he said softly. His words were accompanied by his actual retreat. He dropped his hand from her waist and took a pronounced step backward. “I must apologize for my actions, Miss Elizabeth. It was never my intention to place you in a compromising situation. If it is your wish, I would offer you my hand.” 

Other Resources:

Lancashire Cotton Times

Regency Shopping ~ Fashion and Fabrics


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Female Inheritance and the Release of “The Mistress of Rosings Park” + a Giveaway

Under English law, women were subordinate to their husbands. It was expected that the woman was under the “protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord.” The law stated the old adage of “two shall become one.” She was her husband’s “feme covert.” Any property she owned—real or personal—came under his control. A married woman could not draft a will or dispose of any property without her husband’s consent.

Women rarely inherited property. She could inherit “personal” belongings such as, furniture, jewelry, clothing, moveable goods, etc. But that does not mean that a woman could NOT inherit real property (which means she could inherit land, or what we now call “real estate”). The practice of primogeniture under English law presented the oldest son with the real property upon the death of the father. [Note: Matrilineal primogeniture, or female-preference uterine primogeniture, is a form of succession practiced in some societies in which the eldest female child inherits the throne, to the total exclusion of males. The order of succession to the position of the Rain Queen is an example in an African culture of matrilineal primogeniture: not only is dynastic descent reckoned through the female line, but only females are eligible to inherit.] Daughters could only inherit in the absence of a male heir. The law of intestate primogeniture remained on the statue books in Britain until the 1925 property legislation simplified and updated England’s archaic law of real property.

Aware of their daughters’ unfortunate situation, fathers often provided them with dowries or worked into a prenuptial agreement pin money, the estate which the wife was to possess for her sole and separate use not subject to the control of her husband, to provide her with an income separate from his.

In contrast to wives, women who never married or who were widowed maintained control over their property and inheritance, owned land and controlled property disposal, since by law any unmarried adult female was considered to be a feme sole. Some of the peeresses, in their own right had property, as well as the title which the husband couldn’t touch. Still, inheritance through the female of a peerage by patent was  extremely rare and usually only  put into the patent while the 1st peer was alive. Usually, the patents didn’t allow for female inheritance. It was rare for a woman to be able to inherit a peerage created by patent. The Duke of Marlborough had his patent changed when it was obvious he would not have a son, but that was a rare occurrence. Most females succeeded to a lesser peerage created by writ. Once married, the only way that women could reclaim property was through widowhood.

The dissolution of a marriage, whether initiated by the husband or wife, usually left the divorced females impoverished, as the law offered them no rights to marital property. The 1836 Caroline Norton court case highlighted the injustice of English property laws, and generated enough support that eventually resulted in the Married Women’s Property Act.

Lately, England has considered what is cleverly known as the “Downton Abbey” law. The Bill is so called after the anomaly of female succession at the heart of ITV’s Downton Abbey, in which the character of Lady Mary, the eldest daughter of the drama’s fictional earl, was unable to inherit the family seat because it had to pass to a male heir. The bill adds the rank of “baronets” to those titles in which females can inherit.

Like many in the JAFF community, I often write how Anne De Bourgh can inherit Rosings Park. I do so again in my latest novel, The Mistress of Rosings Park. But how is that possible? As mentioned above, Anne can inherit if she does not marry. By English law, she could inherit when she reaches her majority at age 21. I customarily add something in Sir Lewis’s will that has her wait until she is 25. I did not do so this time, but it is possible. Please consider the “chance” that Sir Lewis anticipated Lady Catherine’s “unwillingness” to be removed from the reins of Rosings Park, and provided Anne a bit of time to find a strong husband who would depose her ladyship. Yet, in reality, it is also possible for Anne to inherit because her father’s title is one of baronet. The rank of “baronet” was created by James I, who founded the hereditary Order of Baronets in England in 1611 to be conferred on 200 gentlemen with large, profitable estates on the condition they funded the salaries of 30 soldiers for the war with Ireland. In these early baronetcies, it was written into the letters patent from the monarch when the titles were created that women could inherit if there was no male heir. The last baronetess, Dame Anne Maxwell Macdonald, whose ancestors became baronets in 1628, died in 2011 at age 104. Therefore, Anne De Bourgh could be the next baronetess of Rosings Park and our “dear” Lady Catherine would then become the dowager baronetess and need to remove to the dower house. Imagine how that would go over, and you have the idea behind The Mistress of Rosings Park. Throw in a husband for Anne in the form of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and you have the gist of the tale, but not all the twists and turns I adore adding.

The Mistress of Rosing Park: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary

I much prefer the sharp criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses. – Johannes Kepler 

When she arrives at Hunsford Cottage for a visit with her long-time friend Charlotte Collins, Elizabeth Bennet does not expect the melodrama awaiting her at Rosings Park. 

Mrs. Anne Darcy, nee de Bourgh, has passed, and Rosings Park is, by law, the property of the woman’s husband, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy; yet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is not ready to abandon the mansion over which she has served as mistress for thirty years. Elizabeth holds sympathy for her ladyship’s situation. After all, Mrs. Bennet will eventually be banished from Longbourn when Mr. Bennet passes without male issue. Elizabeth inherently understands Lady Catherine’s “hysterics,” while not necessarily condoning them, for her ladyship will have the luxury of the right to the estate’s dower house, and, moreover, it is obvious Rosings Park requires the hand of a more knowledgeable overseer. Therefore, she takes on the task of easing Lady Catherine’s transition to dowager baronetess, but doing so places Elizabeth often in the company of the “odious” Mr. Darcy, a man Lady Catherine claims poisoned her daughter Anne in order to claim Rosings Park as his own.

Enjoy this excerpt:

And what, in that case, would become of Charlotte’s future? Elizabeth would not enjoy viewing Charlotte living in poverty. As Charlotte’s friend, she could not help but to wonder the extent of the living Lady Catherine had presented to Mr. Collins. Elizabeth knew some vicars lived on as little as thirty pounds per year. She suspected Mr. Collins received more, but how much more? It would take somewhere around one hundred pounds per year for the illusion of a modest lifestyle, which was what Elizabeth had observed at Hunsford Cottage. However, it was well understood that the right of presentation could be bought and sold. Was her father’s cousin receiving any of the tithes?  She would write to her father and ask him what he knew of Mr. Collins’s position. 

Like her mother, Elizabeth had made assumptions regarding Lady Catherine’s presentation of the living; none of the Bennets, perhaps with the exception of her father, had thought to question Mr. Collins’s constant praise of Lady Catherine’s generosity—just periodically roll their eyes at his foolishness mannerisms.

Now, since viewing her ladyship’s lack of care of parts of the estate, Elizabeth thought perhaps having Lady Catherine as Mr. Collins’s patroness might not be such a blessing, after all. She could not image her father’s cousin had come away from his days at Oxford with glowing reports that would draw the notice of any among the aristocracy. Then how came Mr. Collins to her ladyship’s notice? Perhaps he was acting in the place of another, more in the role of curate, and had not told anyone of the fragility of his position. Elizabeth made a silent promise to remain at Rosings to determine if she might be of service to her friend and mend the gap that had brought a breach in said friendship nearly a year prior and to learn the truth of Mr. Collins’s role in Hunsford’s future. 

Her thoughts were thusly engaged on what she might do to assist Charlotte, beyond taking over some of her friend’s duties at Hunsford Cottage, when the “play” before her shifted with the entrance of new character. 

“The Earl of Matlock, my lady,” the butler announced unexpectedly. 

Along with the Collinses, Elizabeth scrambled to her feet to curtsey. She had never been presented to an earl, and the idea pleased her, for she thought both her father and her sister Jane would find Elizabeth’s recollection of the encounter amusing. As the earl crossed the room, totally ignoring anyone but Lady Catherine, both Mr. Collins and Charlotte slowly and silently drifted toward the corner of the room which Elizabeth occupied. The earl’s ample figure filled the room with its stoutness and with the gentleman’s obvious importance. In Elizabeth’s opinion, there was a strong likeness between his lordship and Lady Catherine. They both had the same aristocratic features, but in Elizabeth’s opinion, the cut of their noses and jawlines was more attractive on the gentleman than they were on her ladyship. 

“What the deuce are you doing, Catherine?” he demanded of his sister without even an acknowledgement of Elizabeth’s or the Collinses’ presence in the room. 

The invisible servant, Elizabeth thought. She had often heard her father say those words in a derisive manner when observing others’ treatment of the working class. Now, she fully understood his contempt. The earl completely ignored her presence in the room, marking her place in his esteem, despite her being a gentleman’s daughter. 

“I expected to discover you removed to the dower house,” the earl continued. “Never thought you would take it upon yourself to set up such an uproar.” 

“I have not had enough time to make my move official,” Lady Catherine protested. 

“Nonsense,” the earl countered. “Anne, rest her soul, passed some fourteen months prior. Darcy has provided you more than enough time to vacate the manor house. Sir Lewis left everything to Anne. This house and estate have been your daughter’s, not yours, for some seven years. Rosings Park does not belong to you. It never has. From the day Anne met her majority, Rosings no longer was yours to oversee. You must come to terms with this situation. My God, you are a Fitzwilliam. We do not condone such hysterics. In her kindness, Anne erred in allowing you to remain in the role of the Mistress of Rosings Park, but, you must understand, legally, you cannot remain at the manor house. Darcy has the right to demand your withdrawal. If you do not comply, he can have the magistrate force you from your home. Save your dignity, Catherine, and do what is necessary. Such would be our father’s expectations for his eldest daughter.” 

“Darcy,” Lady Catherine hissed. “I am certain I have learned to detest that name! How can it be lawful for him to claim everything simply because he was Anne’s husband? I am Anne’s mother. Should I not have some rights to a home I have nourished and cherished since my wedding day? Darcy has only visited Rosings when it was necessary. He holds no allegiance to the estate.”

“It was your wish for Darcy to marry your daughter,” the earl reminded his sister in cold tones. “You cannot deny that it was so. When George Darcy was still alive, Darcy’s father denied the connection, but, with George’s death, you again began to badger the boy into marrying Anne. You knew Darcy would never make Rosings Park his home seat when his ancestral home is in Derbyshire, and the life blood of that estate runs through his veins. You wanted Rosings for yourself. And that is exactly who you must blame for this fiasco.” 

“He carried Anne off to Derbyshire, without even as much as a by your leave,” her ladyship argued. “Darcy was to protect her, not kill her. You know he poisoned Anne.” 

Elizabeth could not disguise her gasp of surprise. However, before anyone took notice of her presence in the room, Charlotte caught Elizabeth’s hand and tugged her further along the passageway. 

“You are to forget what you just heard,” Charlotte warned. “This is none of your concern. None of mine or Mr. Collins’s concern beyond our duty to Lady Catherine as her tenants. We owe my husband’s living to her ladyship.” 

Although Elizabeth would not soon forget the remark nor her questions regarding Mr. Collins’s pandering to Lady Catherine, she understood the unspoken words: Mr. Collins’s living depended upon what occurred between Lady Catherine and the unknown gentleman by the name of Darcy. “Certainly, Charlotte,” she whispered. “You are correct. I shall do nothing to jeopardize your position in the neighborhood.” 

“Mr. Collins and I will be expected to assist her ladyship,” Charlotte reiterated. “It grieves me not to be in a position to entertain you properly.” 

Elizabeth dutifully said, “I shall be content to walk the park and to learn something of the Kentish countryside.” 

Charlotte nodded sharply. “It shan’t be a total solitary endeavor. My brother John has been presented leave from his duties with the Dover militia. He thought to return to Hertfordshire, but I convinced him to visit with me instead. I hope you will not mind that I have asked him to spend time with us at Hunsford Cottage.” 

Elizabeth prayed Charlotte did not mean to push for an alliance between Elizabeth and John. She knew her mother and Lady Lucas often connived to place Elizabeth in John Lucas’s way. She adored the young man, but only in a “brotherly” manner. She had not set her cap for him. 

“Devilish rum business,” Lord Matlock’s voice reached them again before Elizabeth could respond. “But Darcy has his rights. You chose to force his hand, and, now, you must live with your manipulation. Our nephew married Anne. It is not his fault your daughter died in a little over half a year of pronouncing her vows. Even though they held nothing more than familial affection for each other, who is to say they might have made the best of it for the remainder of their days—mayhap they would have had a half-dozen children. That might have satisfied you to have grandchildren about you. Might have softened your nature. However, I do not think such a marriage would have made either Darcy or Anne happy. Like it or not, Catherine, they did not suit. Darcy adored his parents, and, whether you wish to recognize it or keep fooling yourself, George Darcy and our younger sister Anne were happy together. They loved each other deeply. Your belief that he should have chosen you instead of Anne—that you should have been mistress of such a breathtaking beautiful estate as Pemberley—is what drove you to force Darcy and your daughter together. You made your bed, now, you must lie in it.” 

“Why did you not say all this beforehand—before my Anne’s marriage?” Lady Catherine demanded. 

“I did say it, as did Lady Matlock, and my sons. You simply chose not to listen because you wished to be mistress of Rosings Park and use your courtesy title of ‘Lady Catherine’ from your reign as the daughter of an earl, rather than become the Dowager Lady de Bourgh,” the earl clarified. “Demme it, Catherine, with Anne’s passing, you did not even need to take on that dreaded stigma of ‘dowager.’ You could have simply been ‘Lady de Bourgh,’ a baronetess in your own right.” A long silence followed before Lord Matlock asked with a hint of sympathy, an emotion missing earlier from his voice. “Darcy is not the vindictive type. The boy says he has plans for Rosings Park that will provide you additional funds as part of your widow’s pension for the remainder of your days. Permit Darcy to tend the estate. It is admirable how you have handled Sir Lewis’s holdings for so long, but the political environment has placed even the wisest of land owners in this great kingdom at a disadvantage. If you heard half of what I do in the House of Lords, you would gladly step back from this charge. Permit Darcy to shoulder the responsibility. Accept the use of the dower house and enjoy your days without all these duties hanging over your head. Better yet, choose Bourgh Hall and join Society in London. There was a time you enjoyed the Season and all it brings. Allow the boy to do the work and claim what is your due. You served your husband well. No one can say otherwise.” 

“Do I possess a choice?” her ladyship grumbled in what sounded of sarcasm. 

“None whatsoever,” Lord Matlock pronounced in a cold tone. His lordship clapped his hands together as if the business was finished. “Should I summon your butler and your maid to assist in your removal to Bourgh House?” 

“As yet, I have not one foot in the grave. I am capable of removing to the dower house without your supervision. My staff is quite efficient. Moreover, Mr. and Mrs. Collins will make certain my orders are completed in a timely manner.” 

“Mr. Collins?” the earl asked. 

Charlotte shoved her husband toward the still open door just as Lady Catherine declared, “Mr. Collins.” As if she suddenly recalled their presence in the room, the mistress of Rosings Park called out, “Mr. Collins? Where are you?”

“Here, my lady.” Collins bowed deeply as he stepped into the framed doorway. 

“Tell his lordship you mean to assist me in this ugly business,” Lady Catherine ordered. 

Elizabeth watched in amusement as Mr. Collins swallowed hard. He bowed again, nearly falling over in his obeisance. “Mrs. Collins and my cousin Miss Bennet will consider it not only our Christian duty, but, also, our pleasure to be of assistance to Lady Catherine in whatever manner necessary.” Mr. Collins motioned Charlotte and Elizabeth to join him in the doorway. 

Elizabeth was just in time to note how the earl rolled his eyes when Mr. Collins bowed a third time in less than a minute. Dutifully, Elizabeth followed Charlotte in a curtsey. 

Having recovered some of her renowned bravado, Lady Catherine said, “I have only been notified this very day that the necessary cleaning and painting at Bourgh House has been completed. As Darcy initially indicated I might remove at my leisure, I did not press the workers in their task.” 

Elizabeth thought her ladyship’s reasoning foolish to assume, but she made no comment where her opinion would not be welcomed. 

Lord Matlock shook his head in a disapproving manner, however, confirming Elizabeth’s opinion without it being voiced. 

Lady Catherine quickly added in excuse, “I have not heard from Darcy for nearly a month.” 

Lord Matlock overrode her objection by saying, “I dare say Darcy means to be in Kent by tomorrow, and I doubt you are not aware of his arrival. The boy has not one spontaneous bone in his body. We both know Darcy is not the type to appear without notice. You were informed, but chose to ignore the message. You have wasted your time, your ladyship. You have acted in denial of the inevitable.” 

“Yet, there is no means for me to leave Rosings for, at least, another week.” 

“You cannot demand that Darcy stay at the local inn. It would be little-minded to demand he do so. You will make everyone in the family, including you, uncomfortable. Making them choose sides will not be a wise choice if you cherish your dignity.” He returned his gloves to his hands. “Yet, I doubt you much care for the opinion of others. You never did. Therefore, as I am not required in this matter, I will return to London.” 

“Will you not, at least, stay for tea?” her ladyship countered. 

“My countess has a supper planned this evening. If I press my horses, I could be there in time for the first course.”

Lady Catherine drew herself up in obvious indignation. “Then you held no intention to be of service to me.” 

“I would have stayed if you were not so headstrong, but I do not care to argue with you. You cannot be swayed. As to the supper, Lindale promised to assist his mother, but you know the nature of my eldest son.” With that, the earl brushed past Elizabeth and the Collinses without even a nod of his head in recognition. A quick glance to Lady Catherine noted a crestfallen expression for the briefest of moments, which was quickly replaced by aristocratic arrogance.

A pregnant moment passed before Charlotte found her voice and moved forward to curtsey again to Lady Catherine. “With your permission, your ladyship, I shall ring for tea, and we will assess how best to proceed in solving your dilemma.” 

“Yes . . . yes,” her ladyship stammered. “You are very kind, Mrs. Collins. It appears even my own brother means to see me removed from the house that has been my home for nearly thirty years.” 

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When Was a Presentation of a “Living” Not for Life? + Release of “The Mistress of Rosings Park” + a Giveaway

One of my editors for The Mistress of Rosings Park presented me a question that I thought I should address to all, not just to her. In my story, Mr. Darcy assumes control of Rosings Park after the death of his wife, the former Anne de Bourgh. I understood what I planned to happen to Mr. Collins’s “living,” the one presented to him by Lady Catherine, but still my editor pointed out that she understood that a living was for life and could not be rescinded. That is a common belief, but there were means around the situation.

First, we must acknowledge that to hold a living, meaning retain it for life, the man had to be a rector as in residing in the rectory, vicarage, or parsonage, the “free” home presented to him along with his employment and his duties. A rector had the legal right to the living and could not be forced out unless he had acted in some manner against the church or his duties to his parishioners. Do recall there were NO pension plans upon which an elderly rector could hang his hat. For a variety of reasons, it was important to keep the living as a life term. The rector had the right to lay claim all the money associated with the living.

The income allotted to the rector came from two sources: (1) glebe land, meaning a small farm, a tradition carried forward from mediaeval times when the parish priest was responsible for growing his own food. By the Regency era, the rector would customarily made an arrangement with a local farmer to manage the land in return for part of the crop produced thereon or he let it out to a farmer and used the rent money to purchase the food he required for his household. Naturally, any extra produce could be sold to others, resulting in more income. (2) Tithes, a church tax in the amount of 10% charged against certain land holdings, different properties in the parish, and the crops produced. The rector was expected to collect these tithes himself, meaning he was a “tax collector” who often had to deal with those who defaulted on their payments. These taxes were paid on specific days each year—usually two days, but sometimes quarterly payments were arranged. The person owing the tax would bring it to the rector’s home, where he was served a good meal and plenty to drink in return.

A vicar, on the other hand, could only lay claim to the income allowed him by the rector. A vicar was a “deputy” for the rector, usually meaning a rector was not willing to serve the parish himself. This usually happened if the rectorship was owned by a college or other institution or by a lay-person.

A rector and a vicar could be considered curates for that particular word referred to the ordained person who “cured” the souls of the parish, but, by the Regency era, it had come to a different definition. A curate was a salaried assistant, deputy or locum, who was paid a stipend or salary by the rector or vicar to whom he reported. One might recall in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion,” Captain Wentworth’s brother was a curate. A perpetual curate, a term also found during the Regency was a curate with no allegiance to a rector or vicar. He was employed through an endowment or a charity. He received a salary, but nothing from the tithes.

In Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, we learn: ” Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society; the greatest part of his life having been spent under the guidance of an illiterate and miserly father; and though he belonged to one of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms, without forming at it any useful acquaintance. The subjection in which his father had brought him up had given him originally great humility of manner; but it was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head, living in retirement, and the consequential feelings of early and unexpected prosperity. A fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant; and the respect which he felt for her high rank, and his veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his authority as a clergyman, and his rights as a rector, made him altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility.”

Austen’s father was a rector of Deane and of Steventon in Hampshire. Orphaned at the age of nine, George Austen (and his sister Philadelphia) were taken in my Uncle Francis Austen, a rich man. After attending Tonbridge School and St John’s College, his uncle purchased the living at Deane for him. His cousin presented him the living at Steventon, which was turned over to his son James when he retired.

The point is, Jane Austen understood the legality of a “living.”

So, how do I remove Mr. Collins if he has been presented a living, for a living is for life?

During the Georgian era, receiving a living depended upon patronage or influence. The patron or patroness, in this instance, “presented” the living to a clergyman. HOWEVER, it was still up to the diocesan bishop to accept or deny the presentation. The only exception would be a “gift” of the living from the bishop himself. Remember the right of presentation could be bought or sold. The rich and influential would use this “loophole” as a means to hold the living for younger sons. Granting patronage occurred where there was the most advantage. The livings held by Oxford and Cambridge were reserved to provide a career for fellows of the university or alumni. Landed gentry presented their holdings to family members or favorites of the family.

So, I ask you: What if Lady Catherine who likely has no right to Rosings Park (unless Sir Lewis left it to her in his will, rather than to leave it to his daughter Anne or have it pass to another person in the male line of succession) presents Mr. Collins with a living, but the diocesan bishop never approved of the presentation? Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my!!!

For additional reading on the Clergy during Austen’s time, you might find this piece from Elaine Owen on the Austen Authors’ blog valuable. I certainly did.

Enjoy this short excerpt from The Mistress of Rosings Park, currently on preorder and available on 8 January 2021.

Late June 1813

“That dreadful man will arrive tomorrow,” Lady Catherine de Bourgh bemoaned. “And I have had no opportunity to remove to the dower house.” 

“There. There,” Mr. Collins commiserated. “Mrs. Collins and I will assist you. Your situation, if I may be so bold to say, is a true travesty, my lady. A travesty indeed.” 

From her position in a chair in the corner of the room, Elizabeth Bennet watched in mild amusement as her father’s cousin attempted to calm the latest round of hysterics displayed by the grand dame of Rosings Park. Mr. Collins, who continually genuflected before his patroness, was a comical creature without even attempting to be so. Elizabeth said a silent prayer of blessing that the man had not become her husband; yet, she again pitied her long-time friend, Charlotte Lucas, who had readily accepted the man’s proposal out of fear of becoming a burden to her family. 

In truth, Elizabeth had been surprised to receive an invitation for a visit to Kent from the Collinses. She suspected Mr. Collins had agreed in order to prove to Elizabeth she had made a mistake in refusing him. The situation had been poorly played by all, and her relationship with Charlotte had suffered greatly. Their bond had been badly shaken by her friend’s acceptance of Mr. Collins’s hand, a man who had proposed to Elizabeth and been rejected fewer than two hours prior to his proposal to Charlotte.

The scene of the man’s insolent superiority played through Elizabeth’s head as she watched Mr. Collins attempt to soothe Lady Catherine’s vexations. 

“I am not now to learn,” replied Mr. Collins with a formal wave of his hand, “that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favor; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. I am, therefore, by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long.” 

“Upon my word, sir,” Elizabeth had cried, “your hope is rather an extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies, if such young ladies there are, who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world to make you so. Nay, were your friend, Lady Catherine, to know me, I am perfectly persuaded she would find me in every respect ill-qualified for the situation.” 

Elizabeth had been correct. At home, it was Jane and Mary who tended to their mother’s “nerves.” Elizabeth would certainly not be as solicitous to Lady Catherine’s vapors as were the Collinses. She was more likely to tell the woman to “saddle up.” Even so, she understood the Collinses’ position in this melodrama.

Earlier, Charlotte had explained that Rosings Park had passed to Lady Catherine’s daughter when the young woman reached her majority, although it appeared to Elizabeth as if her ladyship had continued to run the estate. Miss Anne de Bourgh had married and had removed to her new husband’s estate. Much to the chagrin of all concerned, reportedly, Miss de Bourgh had passed within months of her marriage, and the property now belonged to the lady’s husband. However, Lady Catherine had yet to abdicate her rule over the estate, which was none of Elizabeth’s business, but, if anyone had been foolish enough to ask, she would agree the estate could use a different hand on the helm. Despite the manor house being a true showcase, on her short walk of the grounds yesterday after services, she had noted how the parkland and the formal gardens did not reflect the same style of care as did the house. 

Elizabeth instinctively glanced to the window which overlooked the undulating lawn. She would love to claim a long walk in the park, but, if Mr. Collins meant to tend to Lady Catherine’s hysterics, the possibility of doing so was slim. It was not as if she could simply pardon herself and leave for a stroll about the grounds while her cousin was thus engaged. She realized this was an important moment in Mr. Collins’s life, for, if Lady Catherine was no longer in control of Rosings Park, what became of Mr. Collins’s living? Obviously, Lady Catherine had presented Mr. Collins the Hunsford living, but had the diocesan bishop accepted the presentation? If not, Mr. Collins’s position could be called in question. 

And what would become of Charlotte’s future? Elizabeth would not like to view Charlotte living in poverty. She could not help but to wonder how much was the living Lady Catherine presented to Mr. Collins worth? Elizabeth knew some vicars lived on as little as thirty pounds per year. She suspected Mr. Collins received more, but how much more? It would take somewhere around one hundred pounds per year for the illusion of a modest lifestyle, which was what Elizabeth observed at Hunsford Cottage. However, it was well understood that the right of presentation could be bought and sold. Was her father’s cousin receiving any of the tithes?  She would write to her father and ask him what he knew of Mr. Collins’s position. Like her mother, Elizabeth had made some assumptions regarding Lady Catherine’s presentation of the living; none of the Bennets, perhaps with the exception of her father had thought to question Mr. Collins’s constant praise of Lady Catherine’s generosity. After viewing her ladyship’s lack of care of parts of the estate, Elizabeth thought perhaps having her ladyship as Mr. Collins’s patroness might not be such a blessing, after all. She could not image her father’s cousin had come away his days at Oxford with glowing reports. Perhaps he was acting in the place of another, more in the role of curate, and had not told anyone of the fragility of his position. Elizabeth made a silent promise to remain at Rosings to determine if she might be of service to her friend and mend the gap that had split their friendship nearly a year prior and to learn the truth of Mr. Collins’s role in Hunsford’s future. 

Her thoughts were thusly engaged on what she might do to assist Charlotte beyond taking over some of her friend’s duties at Hunsford Cottage when the “play” before her shifted with the entrance of new character. 

“The Earl of Matlock, my lady,” the butler announced unexpectedly. 




I much prefer the sharp criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses. – Johannes Kepler 

When she arrives at Hunsford Cottage for a visit with her long-time friend Charlotte Collins, Elizabeth Bennet does not expect the melodrama awaiting her at Rosings Park. 

Mrs. Anne Darcy, nee de Bourgh, has passed, and Rosings Park is, by law, the property of the woman’s husband, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy; yet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is not ready to abandon the mansion over which she has served as mistress for thirty years. Elizabeth holds sympathy for her ladyship’s situation. After all, Elizabeth’s mother will eventually be banished from Longbourn when Mr. Bennet passes without male issue. She inherently understands Lady Catherine’s “hysterics,” while not necessarily condoning them, for her ladyship will have the luxury of the right to the estate’s dower house, and, moreover, it is obvious Rosings Park requires the hand of a more knowledgeable overseer. Therefore, Elizabeth takes on the task of easing Lady Catherine’s transition to dowager baronetess, but doing so places Elizabeth often in the company of the “odious” Mr. Darcy, a man Lady Catherine claims poisoned her daughter Anne in order to claim Rosings Park as his own.


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“First Footing” It Into the New Year

I come very proud Scots, and, in my family, New Year’s (or Hogmanay as it was once called) played a popular part of my childhood. Although I admit to overspending at Christmas, something psychological as being raised poor, I am not one to overindulge, other than a bit of plum pudding and a small mincemeat pie for each of the the twelve days of Christmas. However, I find the traditions of New Year’s more fulfilling because beyond the singing and dancing and drinking too much there is something hopeful in the tradition, and, as 2020, has proven to be all that we despise, 2021 holds the promise of a “new” year. 

scottish-new-year-first-footing-in-edinburgh-the-principal-streets-G38G86.jpgPrior to the Reformation 1560, Christmas in Scotland, then called “Yule,” was celebrated in a similar fashion to the rest of Catholic Europe. However, the Reformation transformed attitudes to traditional Christian feasting days, including Christmas, and led in practice to the abolition of festival days and other church holidays; the Kirk and the state being closely linked in Scotland during the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. [Christmas in Scotland: Christmas Around the World. World Book. 2001. p. 23.]

In the 1600s, many Scots rejected Christmastide celebrations as Papist excesses. Christmas in Scotland was traditionally observed very quietly, because the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church, for various reasons never placed much emphasis on the Christmas festival. Christmas Day only became a public holiday in 1958, and Boxing Day in 1974. The New Year’s Eve festivity, Hogmanay, was by far the largest celebration in Scotland. The gift-giving, public holidays and feasting associated with mid-winter were traditionally held between 11 December and 6 January. However, since the 1980s, the fading of the Church’s influence and the increased influences from the rest of the UK and elsewhere, Christmas and its related festivities are now nearly on a par with Hogmanay and “Ne’erday.” [Christmas in Scotland] The season’s highlight is still Hogmanay, the Scottish term for December 31 and all the “party” it entails. Indeed, the celebrations are so intense that most businesses remain closed until January 3. 

It is believed that many of the traditional Hogmanay celebrations were originally brought to Scotland by the invading Vikings in the early 8th and 9th centuries. These Norsemen, or men from an even more northerly latitude than Scotland, paid particular attention to the arrival of the Winter Solstice or the shortest day, and fully intended to celebrate its passing with some serious partying. In Shetland, where the Viking influence remains strongest, New Year is still called Yules, deriving from the Scandinavian word for the midwinter festival of Yule. [The History of Hogmanay]

HistoryofScotlandScottishAuldLangSyneHogmanay traditions have been adopted by many cultures. Did you realize that Scotland gave us “the bells” that chime in the New Year, the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” as soon as those bells cease tolling, and the taking of a “cup o’ kindness” —or several—in the hours that follow. 

New-Years-Eve-Traditions-First-Footing-Scotland.jpgFirst Footing is also a Scottish tradition, which can still be found on the Isle of Man and in the northern shires of England. In first footing, a tall, dark-haired man is selected to be the first person to cross over the threshold of a home. He brings “good luck” and “good fortune” to the family. He customarily enters through the house’s front door, ushering in his hopes and goodwill for the upcoming year. He would exit through the rear door of the house, taking with him all the ill and lost hopes of the previous year. On his visit, he carries ceremonial gifts—a lump of coal, salt, a piece of shortbread and/or black bun, coins, and a wee dram of whisky—which brings warmth, food, financial stability,  luck and prosperity for the coming year.

The preference for dark coloring dates back to the days of the Viking invasion. As Historic UK explains, back then, “’a big blonde stranger arriving on your door step with a big axe meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year!’ (The choice of a man surely has a less surprising explanation: misogyny.) Even on the Isle of Man, ‘a light-haired male or female is deemed unlucky to be a first-foot or qualtaagh.’ If first footing ever takes root on this side of the Atlantic, where Viking invasion has never been a real and present danger, let’s dispense with this part of the tradition and fight racism and sexism by designating dark-haired women as America’s official New Year’s threshold crossers.

01b-new-years-2011-hogmany-in-scotland.jpg“The firework displays and torchlight processions now enjoyed throughout many cities in Scotland are reminders of the ancient pagan parties from those Viking days of long ago.

“The traditional New Year ceremony would involve people dressing up in the hides of cattle and running around the village whilst being hit by sticks. The festivities would also include the lighting of bonfires and tossing torches. Animal hide wrapped around sticks and ignited produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective in warding off evil spirits: this smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay.

“Many of these customs continue today, especially in the older communities of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. On the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, the young men and boys form themselves into opposing bands; the leader of each wears a sheep skin, while another member carries a sack. The bands move through the village from house to house reciting a Gaelic rhyme. The boys are given bannocks (fruit buns) for their sack before moving on to the next house.

Torchlight-Hogmanay-3.jpg“One of the most spectacular fire ceremonies takes place in Stonehaven, south of Aberdeen on the north east coast. Giant fireballs are swung around on long metal poles each requiring many men to carry them as they are paraded up and down the High Street. Again the origin is believed to be linked to the Winter Solstice with the swinging fireballs signifying the power of the sun, purifying the world by consuming evil spirits.”

Additional Resources: 

First Footing – a New Year Tradition

First Footing – the Scots New Year tradition that sees them welcome tall, dark-haired men into the house

How to Celebrate a First FootingHow to Celebrate a First Footing

Start the New Year Off Right with Scotland’s “First Footing”

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Celebrating the Release of “Fated Hearts, A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play” and the Gift of a Happily Ever After for Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”

Fated Hearts, A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play

Release Day: December 29, 2020

Thank you so much for having me as a guest today, Regina! 

My contribution to the Tragic Characters in Classic Literature Series is a retelling of Macbeth. The real Macbeth had a fairly successful (though of course, bloody) reign in eleventh century Scotland, even making a pilgrimage to Rome. 

More dramatic are Shakespeare’s hero and his lady, characters truly unfit to star in a Regency romance novel. Heavens! Not only do they not have a Happily-Ever-After, they both die! 

And so, with the complete artistic license and abundance of hubris we series authors are claiming, I set about bringing Lord and Lady Macbeth back from the dead and setting them in Regency England.


Fated Hearts takes place twenty years after Macbeth’s and his lady’s “demise”, i.e., the failure of a disastrous lawsuit, allegations of infidelity, and a divorce that sent Macbeth off to fight in the wars with France and his wife into a hole of depression that has taken years to climb out of. 

With Napoleon vanquished, Macbeth is on half-pay in London, seeking employment. His ex-wife has traveled there also, on the chance of confronting him and introducing him to the daughter he disavowed. Meanwhile, an old villain has also appeared to plague them. Older and wiser, they meet again in London in March 1815 during the worst of the Corn Riots, in a week that ends with the arrival of news that Bonaparte has escaped from Elba. 

While the hero and heroine were easy to identify, lining up the rest of the characters for my retelling was harder. I decided to dispense with Duncan’s second son, as well as the entire MacDuff family, and, to lighten the tone, I added the characters of their daughter Lucie, and Macbeth’s servant. 

Here are the main characters:  

Major Finnley Macbeth, Baron of Calder, late of the Highland Regiment that served in the Peninsular War. 

Greer Douglas, the former Greer Macbeth, Baroness of Calder. The real Lady Macbeth’s name was believed to be Gruoch.

Lucie Macbeth, their feisty daughter. The real Macbeth had a stepson named Lulach. 

Duncan, in my story, is the late Earl of Menteith, who Macbeth sued unsuccessfully twenty years earlier. His son, Malcolm, now holds the title, and is being threatened by the villain. 

Giles Banquo, is a cousin to both Duncan and Macbeth. 

What about the witches? 

Shakespeare’s Scottish play revolves around the characters’ bloody thirst for power incited by the strong paranormal element, the prophesying of the witches. A Romance Hero wouldn’t go about killing people to get his hands on a title—so I decided to give that task over to the villain. 

To add in the paranormal element, the backstory includes a “witch” whose prophecy incites the villain, plus our hero has enough of the Sight to sense when the people he loves are in danger. 

Those Men in Kilts and other Scottish Issues

Developing the story required some research into the deployment of the Highland regiments and uniforms, an enjoyable rabbit hole with men in kilts! Here’s a link to my blog post on this subject. In short, in Wellington’s Peninsular campaign, the rank-and-file wore kilts but the officers wore trousers. 

In my first draft, I referred to the hero and heroine as “lord and lady”. But, I stumbled across some information about the Lord Lyon and Scottish titles and realized I’d better do a bit more research. My discoveries required some revising, but on the plus side, the ways in which Scottish baronial titles can be conveyed worked very well into the story. Wikimedia has a fascinating article on this subject. 

Fated Hearts, A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play


Plagued by hellish memories and rattling visions of battle to come, a Scottish Baron returning from two decades at war meets the daughter he denied was his, and the wife he divorced, and learns that everything he’d believed to be true was a lie. What he can’t deny is that she’s the only woman he’s ever loved. They’re not the young lovers they once were, but when passion flares, it burns more hotly than ever it did in their youth.

They soon discover, it wasn’t fate that drove them apart, but a jealous enemy, who played on his youthful arrogance and her vulnerability. Now that old enemy has resurfaced, more treacherous than ever. When his lady falls into a trap, can he reach her in time to rescue this love that never died? 


A crush was what they called these suffocating occasions, and the term was apt. 

Major Finnley Macbeth, Scottish baron and late of his majesty’s Highland Brigade, shifted his weight from the leg that still ached like the devil, and scanned the room for his quarry, an undersecretary in the Home Office who he’d met at the army’s winter quarters in Frenada. 

From his spot near a damask covered wall, he measured each breath, trying to calm his rising unease. The heavy scent of perfume mixed with fine beeswax and hothouse florals unsettled more than his stomach. The shimmering silks and waving plumes threatened to stir the disquieting visions plaguing him lately. 

Fire, explosions, rain, the screams of men and horse. 

He squeezed his hands into fists. These were not the hellish memories of the recent past, dammit, but rattling visions of some battle yet to come. 

Or not. Foretelling the future was for Travellers and crones, wasn’t it? Not battle-hardened men like himself.

He inhaled slowly, holding the breath for a count, and then eased the air out. Best keep his purpose in mind—he was here to track down Sir Thomas Abernathy, lately arrived in London, and rumored to be attending this rout. 

His gaze swept the room, seeking the distinctive bald pate. In spite of his own forty-three years, his eyesight was still keen enough to make out a sniper or spot the dust of a fleeing stag. Keen enough as well to relish the deep décolletages and clinging, delicate, almost transparent skirts on display this night, a vision far more cheering than the one the Sight was showing him. 

A more modestly clad woman stood alone halfway across the ballroom, her back turned to him, surveying the room as he was doing. 

A memory stabbed him, laced with an old shame. He’d once known a lass with hair like this, so abundant, so near to black. The lady tonight had crowned all the loveliness with dark feathers, like a glorious cormorant. His hand itched to pull out those feathers and rake his hands through the tumble of hair, as he’d once done…

He caught a steadying breath. It couldn’t be her. He’d simply been without a woman too long.

And these visions plaguing him of he knew not what? That foolishness grew from naught but fatigue, the wages of war, and the steady company of too much death. Napoleon had been defeated. He must put the memories of battle and that more distant passion aside. The lovely lady with feathers atop her head was only a stranger wondering where her man had got to. 

Yet he couldn’t turn away. As he watched, she pivoted one way, and then the other, allowing a glimpse of dangling earbobs and a firm chin. 

Drawn to her, he stepped out on his bad leg just as she turned. 

Pain shot through his hip. The room threatened to fall away but he held onto the pain, let it shore him up whilst he swore a silent curse. 

It was her.

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Meet Alina K. Field:

Award winning and USA Today bestselling author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but prefers the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California, where she shares a midcentury home with her husband and a spunky, blond rescued terrier. She is the author of several Regency romances, including the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner, Rosalyn’s Ring. Though hard at work on her next series of romantic adventures, she loves to hear from readers!

Website: https://alinakfield.com/ 

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The Books in the Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series:

The Monster Within, the Monster Without by Lindsay Downs – November 7, 2020 (Frankenstein)

I Shot the Sheriff by Regina Jeffers – November 30, 2020 (Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham)

The Colonel’s Spinster by Audrey Harrison – December 8, 2020 (Pride and Prejudice)

Fated Hearts by Alina K. Field – December 29, 2020 (Macbeth)

The Redemption of Heathcliff by Alanna Lucas – January 1, 2021 (Wuthering Heights)

The Company She Keeps by Nancy Lawrence – January 11, 2021 (Madame Bovary)

Captain Stanwick’s Bride by Regina Jeffers – February 19, 2021 (The Courtship of Miles Standish)

Glorious Obsession by Louisa Cornell – February 26, 2021 (Orpheus and Eurydice)

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