Announcing the Winners of Regina Jeffers’s “A Dance with Mr. Darcy” Giveaway

winners_are.png These are the winners from the various giveaways associated with the release of A Dance with Mr. Darcy. All winners were chosen by Each date will have two winners of eBooks of A Dance with Mr. Darcy listed and will be updated regularly

March 21 – Every Woman Dreams Blog: Historical Handfasting as a Plot Point in “A Dance with Mr. Darcy” 

Gerri Bowen 


March 22 – Every Woman Dreams Blog: Was an Annulment Possible in the Regency?


Lynn Bischoff

March 24 (ends at midnight March 26) – Every Woman Dreams Blog: St. Agnes Eve, a Plot Point in “A Dance with Mr. Darcy”

March 24 (ends March 28) – Darcyholic Diversion 

March 27 (ends March 30) – Austen Authors 

March 28 – Every Woman Dreams Blog: Mythical Handfasting 

March 29 – Every Woman Dreams Blog: The History of St. Agnes Eve 

March 31 – Every Savage Can Dance 

A Dance With Mr Darcy copy

Posted in book excerpts, book release, British history, Church of England, eBooks, Georgian Era, giveaway, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, marriage, marriage customs, Pride and Prejudice, romance, Scotland, servant life, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Brother Can You Spare a Dime? a Guest Post from Brenda J. Webb + a Giveaway

We have had LOTS of interest in this post, so Brenda Webb and I thought we would highlight it again today. Brenda has generously added a giveaway to the post. Comment below to be part of the giveaway of two Kindle eBooks – winner’s choice of any of Brenda’s books. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Tuesday, March 28. 

One thing I love about writing Regency stories is that you learn a lot doing research. A new term I came across while I was writing Darcy and Elizabeth – A Promise Kept was money box. Like most, I had heard of a piggybank, but I had not heard the term money box. It seems both of these names were used during different periods in time, though the term money box was used most often until the late 19th century.

After reading about them, I went in search of pictures, and it quickly became evident that common money boxes of the early 1800’s were just plain ugly. Still, I decided to incorporate a money box into my latest story and share some of the pictures and information with you.

Pottery-money-box Tudor-Green-Ware
Pottery-money-box Tudor-Green-Ware

The practice of collecting coins by putting them in ceramic vessels dates back to ancient China. At some point, a clever bureaucrat must have figured out that using ceramic jars with a small slit near the top as their only

Crude yellow clay Money box 16th century
Crude yellow clay Money box 16th century

opening would ensure all taxes collected would be turned over to the tax authority. The populace dropped their taxes (coins) into the jar, and once finished, the collector had only to deliver the coin-filled jar.

By the Tudor period, the practice of ceramic boxes had spread to England where they were called money boxes or money jars. We most often think of a box as a square or rectangular container, but in its earliest meaning, a

box was a receptacle made of any material, in any shape, which held drugs, perfumes or valuables. Therefore, it was perfectly logical to call the pottery vessels in which coins were kept money boxes.

During the Regency period, a wide range of money boxes were still in use, primarily by servants and their children. They were cheaply produced, of various shapes and sizes, but typically 10-15 cm tall and round, usually glazed in brown or green, had a penny sized slot cut into them and a characteristic ‘knob’ molded on top. Nearly all servants used one to hold spare coins collected over the course of the year. By tradition, on Boxing Day, they would smash the box and use the money to enjoy themselves and buy a new box for the coming year. For that reason, these money boxes were also known as Christmas boxes and rattling boxes.

16th or 17th Century Money Box
16th or 17th Century Money Box 

Boxes were also purchased by the middle and lower classes as gifts for babies and young children.

It was customary for a parent or god-parent to give a baby a money box into which they placed a few coins to start the child’s savings. Each year, on the child’s birthday or name day, family and friends might make gifts of coins, which would be dropped into the child’s money box.

1586 -1603 English Money Box
1586 -1603 Money Box 
Dutch Delft Dog circa 1700
Dutch Delft Dog circa 1700

As they got older, children might also earn a few coins from time to time which they also slipped into their money box. Typically, the money box was entrusted to the child’s mother, who would safeguard it and present it to the child when they came of age. Though it seems the upper classes seldom bothered with money boxes, it is always possible that a doting and/or eccentric relative might give a more expensive money box to a child and slip coins into it each year on that child’s birthday as well.

Because the nature of the money box dictated it had to be destroyed to access the coins, most were made quickly and sold cheaply. Making square or rectangular objects was more labor-intensive; thus, for centuries most were made in the shape of simple jars with a small finial or button on the top. By the turn of the eighteenth century, potters began making them domed-shaped with decorated surfaces. After being coated with a yellow glaze, these pineapple-shaped boxes sold well, and with the use of simple designs, colored glazes and cheap child labor, many potters developed a steady business. 

With the advent of ceramic molding, various shapes became inexpensive to create; thus, chicken shaped boxes were turned out in great numbers. Having a palette of white, yellow, red and brown glazes, they looked quite realistic. Then, as the nineteenth century began, dogs, cats, cows, sheep, elephants and lions joined the line-up. Buildings, primarily ceramic cottages and castles, were available at the beginning of the Regency period and by 1820, were increasingly more elaborate and expensive. Afterward, they were purchased more for household ornaments than for vessels in which to save money.

Very few money boxes have survived since they were smashed when their owner wanted the coins contained within, but I have included some photos of the nicer and more interesting ones below—some from other countries.

A Fabergé silver money box, Moscow, 1908-1917, the lid inset with 1 poltina silver coin of Empress Anna Ioannovna (dated 1732), the sides with trompe l'oeil casket straps, gilt interior
A Fabergé silver money box, Moscow, 1908-1917, the lid inset with 1 poltina silver coin of Empress Anna Ioannovna (dated 1732), the sides with trompe l’oeil casket straps, gilt interior


A rare English earthenware pottery stoneware saltglaze money bank.  Decorated with relief molded images of a portly gentleman with a tankard of frothing ale, windmills and dogs. The side of the box has an image of a huntsman on horse chasing a fox.
A rare English earthenware pottery stoneware saltglaze money bank. Decorated with relief molded images of a portly gentleman with a tankard of frothing ale, windmills and dogs. The side of the box has an image of a huntsman on horse chasing a fox.

Money Box Heads

Early Staffordshire Money Box Heads In the early 19th century, circa 1820, these were a tuppence a ton, widely made and given to children to encourage savings. However, as the only way to get the money out was to smash them, not many have survived.


Did you have a piggybank when you were a child and, if so, did you save for a specific purpose? I remember saving my money for our summer vacations and how thrilling it was to buy a souvenir that I selected. It would take several days before I would choose which one I simply had to have! How about you? Do you have any piggybank memories to share? I’d love to hear about them.

Information in this post came in part from:  and

51gzVysYGSL._UX250_.jpg Meet Brenda J. Webb  ~ Before my obsession with all things Jane Austen, I worked as an administrative assistant to the president of a CPA firm. No longer working in that industry, thankfully, I enjoy spending time with my family and indulging my love of storytelling.

Born on a farm in Cullman, Alabama, I proudly admit to being a country girl, and after years of living in the city, I have finally achieved my dream of moving back to the country. My husband and I now reside on a three acre mini-farm, sporting chickens and numerous rescued dogs and cats.

Always a voracious reader, I rediscovered Jane Austen books after watching the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie. Searching for everything relating to Miss Austen, I eventually stumbled into the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. After reading many of other people’s stories, I decided to try my hand at writing a tale that kept coming to mind and began posting that story on online.

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Posted in British history, Georgian England, Regency era, tradtions | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments

St. Agnes Eve, a Plot Point in “A Dance with Mr. Darcy” + Excerpt + Giveaway

A major turning point in my latest Austen-inspired vagary, A Dance with Mr. Darcy, comes when Lydia convinces Elizabeth to join in the St  Agnes Eve festivities.

stagnesandlamb.jpg But who was St Agnes? And why would we still celebrate her? Meredith Ringel in a 2004 piece says, “The Theme of ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ in the Pre-Raphaelite Movement,” explains, “On the twenty-first of January in what is customarily believed to be the year 304 A.D., a thirteen-year-old Christian girl, Agnes of Rome, was martyred when she refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods and lose her virginity by rape. She was tortured, and though several men offered themselves to her in marriage, either in lust or in pity, she still refused to surrender her virginity, claiming that Christ was her only husband. She was either beheaded and burned or stabbed (sources vary), and buried beside the Via Nomentata in Rome. She became the patron saint of virgins, betrothed couples, and chastity in general, and iconographers almost always represent her with a lamb, which signifies her virginity. The eve of her feast day, January 20th, became in European folklore a day when girls could practice certain divinatory rituals before they went to bed in order to see their future husbands in their dreams. Fifteen hundred years after her death, St. Agnes’ Eve would translate itself into one of the richest and most vivid literary and artistic themes in historys.

“Of all the works, artistic or literary, that use the subject of St. Agnes’ Eve as its basis, John Keats’s narrative poem ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ written in 1819 is undoubtedly the most famous. There appears to be only one other poem that also uses this theme, which is Alfred Lord Tennyson’s much shorter ‘St. Agnes’ Eve,’ first published in 1837. Within the realm of painting however, six well-known Victorian artists chose to depict scenes from the poems, and five illustrated versions of Keats’s poem have been published using the drawings of five different illustrators, who, again, lived in the Victorian era or the early twentieth century. Of the paintings, two were painted by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, from  William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and one by a Pre-Raphaelite Associate, Arthur Hughes.” 

The Catholic version of the St Agnes’s tale varies somewhat. “When she was 12 or 13, the beautiful Agnes of Rome became the object of a rich young man’s devotions. His parents — his father being the prefect of Rome — offered her riches if she would make a match with their son, but Agnes had already decided to consecrate herself to Jesus. The Golden Legend, written in A.D. 1275 by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, attributes to her these beautiful words:

Go from me thou fardel of sin, nourishing of evils and morsel of death, and depart, and know thou that I am prevented and am loved of another Lover, Which hath given to me many better jewels, Which hath fianced me by His faith, and is much more noble of lineage than thou art, and of estate. He hath clad me with precious stones and with jewels of gold, He hath set in my visage a sign that I receive none other espouse but Him, and hath showed me over-great treasures which He must give me if I abide with Him.

“I will have none other spouse but Him, I will seek none other. In no manner may I leave Him, with Him am I firm and fastened in love, which is more noble, more puissant and fairer than any other, Whose love is much sweet and gracious, of Whom the chamber is now for to receive me where the virgins sing merrily. I am now embraced of Him of Whom the mother is a virgin, and His father knew never woman, to Whom the angels serve. The sun and the moon marvel them of His beauty, Whose works never fail, Whose riches never minish, by Whose odour dead men rise again to life, by Whose touching the sick men be comforted, Whose love is chastity.

“To Him I have given my faith, to Him I have commanded my heart; when I love Him then am I chaste, and when I touch Him then am I pure and clean, and when I take Him then am I a virgin. This is the love of my God.

She was threatened to be exposed as a Christian, but still refused, whereupon she was, indeed exposed and ordered to choose between sacrificing to pagan gods or being thrown into a brothel. She refused to be taken to a Roman temple to Minerva (Athena), so was stripped naked and thrown into the brothel, where the men who visited were stricken in their hearts and couldn’t bear to look upon her. All, it is said, but one man — the prefect’s son. He mocked the more sensitive men, pushed his way into the brothel, and was struck blind when he tried to look at her. In any case, her modesty was kept intact by her long hair (legendary accounts have it that an angel came to bring her a white robe to cover herself).

“The Golden Legend says that the prefect heard what happened to his son and ran to the brothel, accusing Agnes of cruelty and enchantment, whereupon she raised the young man from the dead. He then wanted to let Agnes go, but fearing being banished, put a lieutenant in his place who first tried to kill Agnes by a fire which didn’t harm her, and then ended up killing her with a sword.

“No matter the exact circumstances of her death, her remains were laid in a tomb on the Via Nomentana, and Constantine built a basilica there at the insistence of his daughter, Constantina, who was buried next to her in a separate mausoleum in A.D. 354 (Pope Honorius — A.D. 625-638 — later remodelled the shrine). It is said in the Golden Legend that when her parents and friends were visiting her tomb one night,

“They saw a great multitude of virgins clad in vestments of gold and silver, and a great light shone tofore them, and on the right side was a lamb more white than snow, and saw also St. Agnes among the virgins which said to her parents: Take heed and see that ye bewail me no more as dead, but be ye joyful with me, for with all these virgins Jesu Christ hath given me most brightest habitation and dwelling, and am with him joined in heaven whom in earth I loved with all my thought. And this was the eighth day after her passion.

It is surprising that the medieval Catholic fast on the eve of her feast, and prayers seeking her intercession, should survive, even in a mangled form, into Protestant England. But in Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Durham, little rites, such as the herbs in shoes continued to be acted out, well into the late 19th century.


Now that you know more of St Agnes, enjoy this scene from A Dance with Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary.

A Dance With Mr Darcy copy.jpgA Dance with Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary will be released on March 25, 2017. It will be available in both eBook and print formats from Amazon, Kobo, and Nook.

The reason fairy tales end with a wedding is no one wishes to view what happens next.

Five years earlier, Darcy had raced to Hertfordshire to soothe Elizabeth Bennet’s qualms after Lady Catherine’s venomous attack, but a devastating carriage accident left him near death for months and cost him his chance at happiness with the lady. Now, they meet again upon the Scottish side of the border, but can they forgive all that has transpired in those years? They are widow and widower; however, that does not mean they can take up where they left off. They are damaged people, and healing is not an easy path. To know happiness they must fall in love with the same person all over again.


“I cannot believe you convinced me that this is wise,” Elizabeth grumbled as Lydia tugged her along the dark path. “I should be in my bed. Resting. Tomorrow will be another busy day.”

“I think it is exciting,” Lydia professed, as she half skipped along the path like some school girl. “Why did we never participate in something this adventurous when we were in Hertfordshire?”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes in amusement. “Likely because Vicar Williamson would first have an apoplexy and then have shown up to drive us to our homes with a switch in one hand and a silver cross in the other.”

“Mr. Williamson might not have approved, but I imagine Mama would have,” Lydia countered.

Elizabeth laughed, the first time she had done so since Mr. Darcy’s withdrawal. “I hold no doubt Mrs. Bennet would have turned this ritual into a grand affair.”

The path widened, and she was surprised to find more than a dozen girls waiting along the edge of a roughly turned field. “My goodness,” she whispered to Lydia. “I did not expect so many would participate.”

Clara clung close to Elizabeth’s side. “Not be enough men in the area, ma’am, that not be spoken for. We’s got to do what we kin.”

“I suppose,” Elizabeth allowed. Looking about her, she recognized many women she encountered on a regular basis: the daughters of shopkeepers and farmers, widows, and spinsters.

“It is almost midnight,” Mrs. Schiff called. “If you did not bring grain with you, Mr. Keener left a sack sitting by the elm tree. Claim what you need and join me at the field’s edge. Hurry, ladies.”

Despite her earlier feeling of acting the role of fool, Elizabeth could not help but to be caught up in the enthusiasm. It felt wonderful to be away from the responsibilities of the inn for a few minutes. Mr. Darcy had purchased Mr. Charles’s services for a month, and so she knew the inn would not suffer in her absences. As Mr. Darcy had provided the man a half year’s wages, Mr. Charles made the effort to please.

She scrambled to claim two fistfuls of grain to wrap in a handkerchief she carried specifically for that particular purpose. Laughing, she jostled with two of the village girls before the bag. With her share wrapped tightly in the cloth, she joined the other women.

Mrs. Schiff instructed, “Line up at arm’s length apart. Leave your lanterns here to guide your return.”

Elizabeth took up a position beside the Widow Schiff, who was likely fifty in years. When Lydia had insisted that Elizabeth attend tonight, she had assumed she would be the eldest in the group, but there was a mix of young girls just coming into their womanhood and women in full bloom. The others women followed Mrs. Schiff’s orders. Elizabeth noted that Lydia was further along the line, as were Clara and the other two girls employed by the inn.

Mrs. Schiff’s voice silenced the chatter. “Do not permit the grain to fall too quickly from your fingers. We are planting the roots of love. One handful of the seeds to cross the field and the one handful on our return to these spots. Everyone knows the chant?”

Elizabeth did not, but she was a quick learner. With giddy anticipation, she gathered a handful of the grain. Mr. Keener’s field would receive an early planting.

“Drop the seed before you step upon it to drive it into the loose dirt,” Mrs. Schiff instructed. “We must plant the seeds on St. Agnes Eve, which means by midnight. Only then can the blessed saint send us the men we deserve. That being said, we should begin.” The Widow Schiff squared her shoulders and stepped forward.

Elizabeth followed, concentrating on dropping the seeds. Around her a chorus of voices took up the required chant:

Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,

hither, hither, now repair;

Bonny Agnes, let me see

the lad who is to marry me.

Elizabeth smiled at the chant’s simplicity, but soon she too was saying the lines as she dropped the seeds and firmly stepped on each. Reaching the other side of the field, she turned to match her steps to those of Mrs. Schiff and girl upon her left. She could hear Lydia giggling, but Elizabeth ignored the urge to join her sister’s merriment; instead, she embraced the idea that a young Christian girl from 4th century Rome could be the answer to her prayers. She knew she would absolutely dream of Mr. Darcy, as she had done every night since she realized he was the man who would most suit her in temperament. With each step, she became more convinced that this girlish ritual was God’s way of telling her what she already knew: Happiness is not finding the right person, but being the right person. Her life had not ended with her marriage to Forde McCaffney, but rather she had found completeness. She had fulfilled her purpose, which was to save her family. Although she did not require Mr. Darcy to complete her, she desired the man above all others. In Genesis the scriptures said, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. But the halves did not equal the whole, which is what Mr. Darcy meant in his speech regarding his half life. If a person enters a marriage as a “half,” then the marriage will be doomed.

Upon their return to the inn after the planting of “seeds of love,” Clara reminded their group, “Do not forget to add a sprig of rosemary to yer shoes and place them on either side of the head of yer bed.”

Lydia still danced along the road ahead of them. “I left rosemary on the kitchen table for each of us,” she announced with glee.

Elizabeth caught her sister’s hand and tugged Lydia closer. “So long as you did not also leave dumb cake upon the table for us to consume, I will be happy to claim my warm bed marked by rosemary-filled shoes,” she teased.

Lydia shivered in disgust. “Even to know my true love, I would not eat dumb cake.”

Elizabeth slid her arm around her sister’s shoulders. “It is excellent that Mrs. Bennet knew nothing of dumb cake, or she would have fed it to us yearly.” Her words were laced with amusement.

“Oooh!” Lydia pretended to gag. “We should send her the receipt. Perhaps Kitty requires a bit of St. Agnes’s kindness to know a gentleman’s regard.”

“If you tell Mama to bake a cake of equal parts flour, salt, and Kitty’s bodily waste, our sister will walk from Hertfordshire to Scotland, if need be, to exact her revenge.”

Lydia sobered in reflection. “It might be worth the trouble just to see Kitty again. I sorely miss her and Jane and Papa and Mama, and even Mary.”

Elizabeth understood perfectly. “It is a shame we have yet to view Jane’s children or to take the acquaintance of Mary’s young man. There was a time I thought never to leave Longbourn, and now we have been gone some five years. It would be wonderful to return to those innocent days when the worst to happen to us was a spat with another sister over a ribbon.”

Lydia slid her arm about Elizabeth’s waist so they could more easily match their strides. “I would like to be aware of my choices if we could return to the past. I cannot help but think that if I had waited, God would have crossed my path with that of Sir Robert. The gentleman is not so handsome as was Mr. Wickham, but he is ten times the man my husband proved to be.”

Although Elizabeth did not speak the words aloud, she wondered if either of them would ever know happiness. Only a quarter hour earlier, she had thought the planting of seeds symbolic of the blossoming of a great love, but now she was not so certain. More than likely, both she and Lydia would again know disappointment.


Fish Eaters    

The Victorian Web    

If you wish to read all of John Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes,” you may do so HERE.

Now for the GIVEAWAY. There are two eBook copies of A Dance with Mr. Darcy available. Leave a comment below to be entered into the giveaway. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Sunday, March 26. 

Posted in book excerpts, book release, books, customs and tradiitons, eBooks, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, legends, legends and myths, medieval, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, research, Scotland, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Was an Annulment Possible in the Regency? + Release of “A Dance with Mr. Darcy” + Giveaway

 One of the “what ifs” in my latest Pride and Prejudice vagary, A Dance with Mr. Darcy, revolves around Lydia’s marriage to Mr. Wickham. What if the marriage could be voided? What would it entail to break her bond to the gentleman?

In my tale, after less than two months of marriage, Mr. Wickham has sent Lydia home to Longbourn. She believes he did so to protect her, for he was to be sent to the Continent with the Newcastle forces of King George’s Army. In reality, Wickham has abandoned her. He means to ditch her permanently. We must understand that during the Regency, Wickham’s doing so would indicate to the world that his wife was immoral. Realizing the shame Lydia’s new situation brings to the family, Elizabeth has accepted a man who is cruel and abusive, but who agrees to allow Elizabeth to bring Lydia with her into his household. The problem is that Lydia is in a state of perpetual limbo. She cannot remarry as long as  Mr. Wickham lives. She has no future. And divorce at this time was expensive, very public, and literally, an act of Parliament.

However, Lydia attracts the attention of Sir Robert Karn, an Englishman living on the Scottish border, and he means to discover a way to release her from Mr. Wickham. Sir Robert considers an annulment or to have the marriage voided, but the reasons for an such an action were not easy to achieve.

So how did one go about getting an annulment? Annulments were only granted if one or both of the couple were not of age, were too closely related (Remember first cousins could marry, but a man could not marry the sister of his late wife, so “related” was not always as clear cut as we might think in modern times.), the gentleman was impotent at the time of marriage, one of the pair had committed fraud, one or both could be considered insane at the time of marriage, or one of the pair was already married to another. Even if one of the couple was not of age, if they did not stop living together when they became of age (12 for women and 14 for men), then they were still considered married. I think it’s worth mentioning that the fraud, force, or lunacy had to have occurred during the wedding ceremony (or before, if it pertained to the permission granted to a minor), not after the couple were lawfully wed. Even wealthy peers were stuck with a spouse if problems arose only after the ceremony. For example, both the 11th Duke of Norfolk and the 4th Earl of Sandwich were stuck in unfortunate marriages when their wives went insane. In the Duke of Norfolk’s case, his wife was locked up before giving him an heir, so that the dukedom eventually passed to his cousin.

In the Regency period, fraud as a means to voiding the marriage rested in the question of parental permission. The fraud was not the type where a person misrepresented himself by saying he owned property that he did not or held a title that he did not. Lying about circumstances was not fraud. Being drunk at the wedding was not a cause as long as one knew what he was doing. And insanity had to previous to the wedding–simplemindedness came under that category as well. 

Also the idea of forcing someone into a marriage changed over the 19th century. At first force was considered only as more than a reasonable man could withstand. Over the period of time, the courts acknowledged that women were weaker and less force was necessary to overpower them. One had to literally run away or protest at the ceremony or at the signing of the register or in some other way express one’s denial of acceptance. The court did not take into consideration such things as a threats.

annulment.jpg Marriages could be annulled if the spouse was a previous in-law or if one was impotent. I know you have seen it in numerous romance novels, but non-consummation was not grounds for an annulment. Consummation could strengthen a claim of marriage in Scotland and could throw doubt over a claim of being forced into marriage, but non-consummation was not grounds. The church always assumed that the couple would get around to it sooner or later if they were able.

Impotence and real frigidity, on the other hand, were grounds as was a physical deformity of the necessary parts. An impenetrable hymen was also grounds, though that could be fixed by a surgeon.

Invalid marriages were those by minors by license without proper permission or the situation involved bigamy.

English law did not require consummation. Scottish law used it as proof in clandestine marriages, but only if the other forms were not followed. The Consistory court of the Church of England handled annulments.  This was located in London. The Courts within Doctors Commons were very much associated in the public mind with the making and unmaking of marriage from the 17th century forward. Gradually the London Consistory Court assumed a virtual monopoly in matrimonial suits and became the most important matrimonial court for the whole of the country. It became the court of first instance for most matrimonial cases.

The Hardwicke Act simplified the betrothal contract. It was generally believed that 15 and 16-year-old girls were too young to marry. However, the law still allowed parents to marry off children as young as seven. The children could request an annulment at age 12 for girls or 14 for boys as long as the pair had not been intimate. By the Regency period, the idea of force and “own free will” was beginning to change, but change came slowly to the law and especially to the ecclesiastical law. 

* * *

Now that you know more of Regency era annulments, enjoy this scene from A Dance with Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary.

A Dance With Mr Darcy copy

The reason fairy tales end with a wedding is no one wishes to view what happens next.

Five years earlier, Darcy had raced to Hertfordshire to soothe Elizabeth Bennet’s qualms after Lady Catherine’s venomous attack, but a devastating carriage accident left him near death for months and cost him his chance at happiness with the lady. Now, they meet again upon the Scottish side of the border, but can they forgive all that has transpired in those years? They are widow and widower; however, that does not mean they can take up where they left off. They are damaged people, and healing is not an easy path. To know happiness they must fall in love with the same person all over again.


“Well…well,” Sir Robert said in what sounded of satisfaction. “Now I know which former Bennet sister interests you.”

Darcy withdrew his eyes from the sway of Elizabeth’s hips as she sidestepped her way toward the kitchen. “Will that be another obstacle to our friendship?” he asked with a skeptical lift of his brow.

Sir Robert returned to his breakfast. “Most certainly not, for I prefer the younger.”

Darcy found himself frowning. It was not that he wished another admirer for Elizabeth’s charms, but he could not help but challenge the gentleman’s reasoning. “Mrs. McCaffney is the superior sister.”

Sir Robert shrugged his indifference. “Perhaps for you,” he declared. “But I possess a mother and two elderly aunts to keep my feet upon the right path. What I lack is a bit of spontaneity.”

“Does not the lady possess a husband? Speaking of which, is not Mr. Wickham about?”

Sir Robert put down his fork to study Darcy carefully. “Are you attempting to persuade me that you know nothing of Wickham or the ladies since last you encountered them?”

Darcy did not approve of Sir Robert’s accusation. “I am not the type of man to gossip,” he countered. “But if you must know, I have not seen any of the Bennet sisters or Mr. Wickham since we parted during the first part of November of ’13.”

“You appear quite certain,” Sir Robert said suspiciously.

Darcy recalled the day perfectly. He had argued with his aunt regarding the suitability of Miss Elizabeth to be his wife. “I suffered a serious carriage accident around that time. It was after my cautious return to society some six months later that Mr. Bingley informed me of the marriages of both Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth. I held no knowledge of the Bennet family’s fortuitous joinings until then.”

“Fortuitous?” Sir Robert accused. “And what may I ask did Mr. Bingley share of the future of the Bennet sisters?”

“Not much beyond the notice of the marriages of the two eldest,” he confessed. “Bingley encountered the Bennets’ neighbor Sir William Lucas in London. I fear Bingley was most upset at the loss of Miss Bennet.”

“The gentleman held no right to injury. It was Mr. Bingley’s choice to abandon the lady,” Sir Robert argued.

Darcy spoke through tight lips. Sir Robert’s censorious tones had Darcy’s backbone stiffening. “I suppose it was Bingley’s fault. I knew nothing of my friend’s withdrawal from Hertfordshire until some five months after the marriages of the Bennet sisters. The accident was severe enough that the surgeon provided me regular doses of laudanum, a medication I despise even when it is required. It was after my recovery began and my withdrawal from the opiate that I learned that the Bingley sisters had persuaded their brother to cry off from his proposal to Miss Bennet and to refuse his option to retain Netherfield as his estate. Miss Bingley informed me with some satisfaction that her brother provided Mr. Bennet with five hundred pounds to satisfy the Bennet family’s claim to retribution.”

Sir Robert shoved his plate aside as if in disgust. “Then you are truly ignorant of what occurred?”

Not certain whether to be offended or amused, Darcy suggested, “Perhaps you should enlighten me. Clear my nescience.”

Sir Robert presented Darcy a pitying look, one meant as acceptance of a bedraggled stray seeking a warm place to spend the night. “You shan’t like what I must disclose,” he announced. “But before I speak of the Bennet sisters, you should know that I was familiar with your name, although not your face, before today’s meeting.” He raised his hand when Darcy thought to respond. “I will explain all. Just bear with me.”

Darcy placed his fork upon his plate. He wished to know how the incomparable Elizabeth Bennet came to this existence and what the man knew of him. “Then I would demand to know both tales.”

Sir Robert curtly nodded his agreement. “You must understand I heard very little of what I am about to share from Mrs. McCaffney, so you will likely possess questions for which I hold no answers.”

“I comprehend that Mrs. McCaffney would be more tight-lipped than would be Mrs. Wickham. From my previous observations, such are their particular personalities,” he said to fill up the space between them.

Sir Robert smiled at Darcy’s attempt at tactfulness. “I knew I would enjoy our acquaintance when I first laid eyes upon you. Mrs. McCaffney has never made the effort to introduce me to another, so I assumed she held you with some regard. I am pleased to be proved correct.” He removed a flask from a pocket in his jacket and added a splash of what smelled of brandy to his tea, as well as to Darcy’s. “You will thank me for my forethought,” he assured when Darcy’s frown found a place upon his forehead. With an ironic smile upon his lips, the man began. “Some six weeks into their marriage, Mr. Wickham sent his wife home with a letter to Mr. Bennet stating that the dastard would not be returning for his lady. Only a few days short of her sixteenth birthday, Mr. Wickham abandoned his wife to a life of perpetual widowhood.”

“What brought Mr. Wickham to such a decision?” Darcy demanded. “What did Wickham do regarding his commission? The agreement was—“ He suddenly recalled that Elizabeth knew nothing of his involvement in Wickham and Miss Lydia’s marriage.

“Do not fret,” Sir Robert assured. “Mrs. Wickham has yet to comprehend your role in the matter. The lady shared with me how you tracked her and Mr. Wickham down and assisted her uncle in arranging her marriage, but I doubt if she has said so to Mrs. McCaffney, for Mrs. McCaffney has never uttered a word to speak to your involvement, and she and I have had numerous conversations upon the subject of the Wickhams’ marriage. I am the one who has placed the pieces of the puzzle together. Lydia thinks her husband asked you, his former companion, to stand up with him after Mr. Bennet pleaded for your intercession in the necessary negotiations for her marriage to the man. She assumes your long standing knowledge of Mr. Wickham’s habits caused her father to seek your assistance. I must admit that it took me several attempts on the subject before your interference made sense. I assumed you either had your heart set on Lydia and would not see her harmed or it was one of her sisters who stirred your passion.”

Darcy ignored Sir Robert’s probing. “Does the family possess any knowledge of Mr. Wickham’s whereabouts?” He wondered why Colonel Fitzwilliam had not mentioned the situation to him. Did his cousin have no knowledge of Wickham’s duplicity, or had the colonel shielded Darcy during his recovery? A letter would be on its way to Fitzwilliam as quickly as the weather permitted its delivery.

Following a sip of his tea, Sir Robert said, “Now that is an enigma. According to Mrs. Wickham, her husband met with an elderly, but immaculately dressed, woman the day before he announced Lydia’s departure for Hertfordshire. Afterwards, the lieutenant announced the necessity of his wife’s return to her parents’ household. He claimed the soldiers training at Newcastle were being sent to the Continent, and she could not remain alone in the city.”

Darcy summarized, “And so Mrs. Wickham returned to Meryton, thinking her husband treasured her safety.”

“It was only after Mr. Bennet read the lieutenant’s letter did the family understand Mr. Wickham’s true intentions of ‘returning’ his wife to her family.”

Darcy sat forward in tense anticipation. “Did not the Bennets protest?”

“By the time Mrs. Wickham traveled from Northumberland to Hertfordshire, and then their Uncle Gardiner made a journey to Newcastle, there was little the Bennets could do. According to Wickham’s commanding officer, the lieutenant volunteered to be part of the unit serving as reinforcements and being shipped to the Spanish-French border.”

Darcy’s mind raced with how well Wickham had executed another scheme. “Such does not sound of Mr. Wickham’s nature. If caught in the line of fire, he would fight to live, but he is not the type to volunteer for what was likely a death sentence,” he surmised.

Sir Robert nodded his agreement. “It was not. Within a week of Mr. Wickham’s arriving on the Continent, the lieutenant deserted his post. No one has heard of or seen the man since.”

“Wickham is a man who lives by his wits, and his not contacting anyone in England makes little sense. Surely he must have cohorts who aided him in this farce!”

Sir Robert’s expression was more troubled than Darcy cared to observe. “One of the few things Mrs. McCaffney shared in a moment of anger at her poor sister’s fate came when Mrs. Wickham described the woman who met with Mr. Wickham. Mrs. McCaffney told me in private conversation that the woman who met with Mr. Wickham resembled the relation of a gentleman she once knew. As you are the only gentleman of whom she has spoken of beyond Mr. Bingley, I assumed it was you. I formed the distinct impression that Mrs. McCaffney blamed herself for her sister’s fate.”

Now for the GIVEAWAY. I have two eBook gifts of A Dance with Mr. Darcy available to those who comment below. The giveaway ends at midnight EDST on Friday, March 24. 

Posted in Austen Authors, book excerpts, book release, customs and tradiitons, excerpt, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era, Regency romance, research, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

Historical Handfasting as a Plot Point in “A Dance with Mr. Darcy” + Excerpt + Giveaway

Although Darcy and Elizabeth do not come to their Happily Ever After in A Dance with Mr. Darcy through handfasting, it is a subject of discussion. They are in Scotland, and handfasting was a more common practice there. But what was handfasting?

hf3 Historically, marriage toward the latter part of the medieval period in Scotland could be executed by the exchange of consent between a man and a woman. This was what we say in the modern setting, i.e., “I Edward take you Margaret to be my wife.” During the medieval times, witnesses were not necessary to make the marriage valid. Basically, this marriage by consent held true from the early 1200s to the Reformation. This was a practice of canon law, essentially the Roman Catholic Church, not civil law. Oddly, this practice went against the earlier precepts of parental consent and the marriage only being binding after it was consummated. However, the Catholic church argued that these “clandestine” marriages, as they were termed, were as legal and as binding as were those performed by a priest.

Some of these practices changed with the Council of Trent (1563). Roman Catholic law then insisted upon a priest performing the marriage for it to be legal. However, Scottish Reformation did not get around to “reforming” the marriage laws as quickly as did other Protestant countries. Both the Protestant Kirk and Scottish civil law did not change. Consent between the couple remained as the basis for a legal joining. That being said, the Protestant Kirk did not approve of “clandestine” marriages, any more than did the Catholic contingent. Many Scottish Protestants attacked the practice, calling it a form of “fornication” and declaring it illegal.

So, how does this apply to “handfasting”? In late medieval Scotland (and northern England), “handfasting” was a term for “betrothal.” In A. E. Anton’s “‘Handfasting’ in Scotland” (The Scottish Historical Review, October 1958), we learn:

“Among the people who came to inhabit Northumbria and the Lothians, as well as among other Germanic peoples, the nuptials were completed in two distinct phases. There was first the betrothal ceremony and later the giving-away of the wife to the husband. The betrothal ceremony was called the beweddung in Anglo-Saxon because in it the future husband gave weds or sureties to the woman’s relatives, initially for payment to them of a suitable price for his bride but later for payment to her of suitable dower and morning-gift. The parties plighted their troth and the contract was sealed, like any other contract, by a hand-shake. This joining of hands was called a handfæstung in Anglo-Saxon, and the same word is found in different forms in the German, Swedish and Danish languages. In each it means a pledge by the giving of the hand.

42de8778344bbcd5a555f3be0709922f “… The joining of the hands became a feature of betrothals in Scotland and in England during the medieval period. A Scottish protocol narrates that on 24 July 1556, the Vicar of Aberdour ‘ministrat and execut the office anent the handfasting betwix Robert Lawder younger of the Bass and Jane Hepburn docter to Patrick Errl Botwell in thir vordis following: “I Robert Lawder tak thow Jane Hepburne to my spousit wyf as the law of the Haly Kirk schawis and thereto I plycht thow my trewht and syklyk I the said Jane Hepburne takis you Robert Lawder to my spousit husband as the law of the Haly Kirk schaws and therto I plycht to thow my trewth,” and execut the residew of the said maner of handfasting conforme to the consuetud usit and wont in syk casis’ What this ‘consuetude’ was may be gathered from a protocol on the sponsalia of David Boswell of Auchinleck and Janet Hamilton, daughter of the Earl of Arran. After the consents had been exchanged ‘the curate with the consent of both parties with their hands joined betrothed the said David and Janet who took oath as is the custom of the Church’. In fact, the ceremony of joining hands became so closely associated with betrothals in medieval times that in Scotland, and apparently the north of England, the ordinary term for a betrothal was a handfasting. The use of the term in this sense persisted in Elgin as late as 1635.”

One catch in all this is the idea that if a couple had sex after becoming handfasted, they were no longer betrothed, but rather legally married. Handfasting could result in marriage if the couple made their consents to marry or if the pair enjoy conjugal relationships. If they did not exchange consents and did not have marital relationships, they were not married (simply betrothed, which means the betrothal could still be broken).


For more on Handfasting, visit Sharon L. Krossa on Medieval Scotland   

“Handfasting History” 

“History of Marriage in Great Britain and Ireland”  via Wikipedia

* * *

Enjoy this scene from A Dance with Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary

A Dance With Mr Darcy copyThe reason fairy tales end with a wedding is no one wishes to view what happens next.

Five years earlier, Darcy had raced to Hertfordshire to soothe Elizabeth Bennet’s qualms after Lady Catherine’s venomous attack, but a devastating carriage accident left him near death for months and cost him his chance at happiness with the lady. Now, they meet again upon the Scottish side of the border, but can they forgive all that has transpired in those years? They are widow and widower; however, that does not mean they can take up where they left off. They are damaged people, and healing is not an easy path. To know happiness they must fall in love with the same person all over again. 


Although he did not think it possible for anyone to alter Elizabeth’s decision, Darcy was thankful to have his sister in residence at Alpin Hall, for Georgiana made a concerted effort to keep his mind off the misery that awaited him at Pemberley when he returned to Derbyshire. Despite his cousin’s objections, she had sent Fitzwilliam riding for Newcastle in search of information on Mr. Wickham’s disappearance.

“It has been five years, Georgiana,” the colonel protested. “I can learn more by addressing letters to the scoundrel’s former commanding officers.”

“You will do both,” she insisted. “Those in London overseeing the war’s end will simply examine their files on Mr. Wickham, while those remaining in Newcastle area will possess a more personal story to share, and you must be there to learn their tales. No one can deny such an imposing figure as my husband,” she added with a genuine smile.

Fitzwilliam sighed good-naturedly. “It is a good thing, Mrs. Fitzwilliam, that your husband holds you in affection.”

“It is an excellent thing, sir,” she responded with a blush to her cheeks. Darcy watched the pair with envy lodging in his heart. He would never know such contentment. Even if he could learn Wickham’s fate, it would not ensure that Elizabeth would reconsider his proposal.

In Fitzwilliam’s absence, Georgiana accompanied him as Darcy called in upon Daven Hall each day to learn more of the estate. While he examined the books and the various structures upon the property, his sister met with the housekeeper and toured the various rooms to note necessary repairs and required refurbishing. He was grateful for Georgiana’s presence. It was good to be with family. His hours alone at Pemberley had only added to his compounded sorrow.

“Dance with me, William,” his sister pleaded one evening, as she rose from the bench before the pianoforte. She had entertained him after supper with a variety of musical pieces. He always knew such pride when she performed, for he recalled the exact date when Georgiana claimed confidence in her performance. It was the evening at Pemberley when Elizabeth and her relations joined him and the Bingleys. Elizabeth encouraged Georgiana’s playing and remained by his sister’s side throughout the evening.

“I believe my dancing days are over,” he replied.

“Nonsense.” Georgiana caught his hand and attempted to tug him to his feet. “Perhaps you can no longer hop about in a reel or do a quickstep in a country dance, but surely you can manage a minuet or a waltz. Now, stand for me, William.”

“Georgiana, this is ridiculous,” he protested, but he permitted her to pull him upward.

Once he stood stiffly before her, she placed a hand upon his shoulder and waited for his hand to claim her waist. “Should I hum a tune?”

“I will likely send us tumbling to the floor,” he grumbled as he positioned his hand at her side.

Georgiana giggled. “It has been too many years since we took a tumble together.”  She nudged him into a slow step forward while continuing her tale. “I loved it when you would come home from school on holiday, for you would spend hours entertaining me. Do you recall how often I soiled my dress attempting to keep up with you and Fitzwilliam and Lindale or you and George Wickham? I was often quite clumsy and would tumble down the hill, but you always took the blame and Father’s punishments.”

“You were but a babe and always so thin. I could not permit you to know an evening without your supper,” he said in serious tones.

Georgiana’s cheeks dimpled with an impish smile. “You would sneak into the schoolroom and teach me something of how to swing a cricket bat or how to block a thrust from an opponent’s sword.”

“We destroyed a good many of your parasols. Your governess was never happy when you and I were about a new adventure,” he repeated in tenderness.

“Then you would sprawl upon the floor while I showed you my dolls or the new letters I had learned or a drawing. You would praise my efforts,” she said in contentment. “You were always so patient with me. I could not have asked for a better brother.”

Darcy halted their progress to place a kiss upon her forehead. It was only then that he realized they had made a full turn and then some about the room. “You have played me with your compliments,” he said in a tease. “You still have the means to divert me.”

She rose on her toes to place a gentle kiss upon his cheek. “I wish you to know happiness, William, but first you must again believe in your dream.”

Darcy attempted to keep the frown from his features. “I do not know whether I dare. Her husband passed two months after I married Amelia. If I had waited—had rejected Lady Matlock’s manipulations—if I had made it my business to learn more of Elizabeth’s life, things could now be different. She admitted to loving me, Georgiana; yet, she still sent me away. How can I keep hope alive when so much has changed between us? Sometimes, love is not enough.”

“Love is always enough,” Georgiana countered. “It must be, for the world would turn in upon its head without love. You must simply trust that Mrs. McCaffney knows your heart. The lady is the complementary part of your soul. She will support you upon your journey in the same manner as I supported your steps in our waltz.”

Now for the GIVEAWAY. I have two eBook copies of A Dance with Mr. Darcy available. To enter leave a comment below. The giveaway will end on Friday, March 24, at midnight EDST. 

Posted in Austen Authors, book excerpts, book release, books, customs and tradiitons, eBooks, excerpt, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, marriage, marriage customs, medieval, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, Regency romance, religion, Scotland, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Newbury Acres (a modern retelling of Austen’s Northanger Abbey) by Sarah Price

Today, I am hosting another of my fellow Austen Authors, Sarah Price. Sarah is one of the “queens” of Amish literature, and she often mixes it with a bit of Jane Austen. 

Most of the time, when people mention Jane Austen, they immediately think of Pride and Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility. True diehards will mention Emma and Persuasion. Mansfield Park only occasionally creeps into the discussion.

Personally, I enjoyed Northanger Abbey much more than Persuasion and Mansfield Park. But, in my experience, very few people ever bring up Northanger Abbey.

Why is that?

Perhaps it’s because Northanger Abbey was the first book that Jane Austen wrote, but the last one she published. Her style of writing clearly had evolved over the years, as well as her ability to dissect human behavior within the social structure within Regency era upper class.

Or perhaps it’s because Northanger Abbey has a very different storyline. Jane Austen was making a satirical commentary on the Gothic novels that were popular at the turn of the 19th century. Despite the satire, Jane Austen’s first novel is a love story that, in many ways, is the most believable and true-to-life of all her novels.

Consider both John Thorpe and Henry Tilney, the former who is rather forward in his affections toward Catherine, while the latter is much more restrained, leaving Catherine Morland wondering whether or not he does care for her as more than a friend. Underlying the romance is John Thorpe’s quest to better himself—he thinks Catherine will inherit money—as opposed to Henry Tilney, who has money but is rather understated about it.

I don’t know about you but, in my life, far too often I encounter fortune seekers, people who look for quick “Get Rich” schemes or try to rise to fame and fortune by taking short cuts. In some circles, especially with the younger generation, it’s expected that they will be rich and, when forced to work for it, they baulk. Of course, there are always examples of people who are willing to work hard and sacrifice. But I’m sure that most people have one or two John or Isabella Thorpes in their lives.

As an author, I encounter many people who have the Thorpe Syndrome. They like to take from others but rarely give and, if they do, no matter how reluctantly, it’s usually with a caveat for something in exchange. In a strange way, it’s comforting to me to realize that the Thorpe Syndrome is not new, that such personalities existed in Jane Austen’s time.

And that is what I love the most about Jane Austen’s novels. They are timeless classic, books that transcend time and culture. People who read her novels can relate to the story lines, the characters, and the emotions that Jane Austen evokes in us. And, to me, that’s what a great book ought to do.

51xUurxScTL.jpg Newbury Acres: An Amish Retelling of Northanger Abbey 

Once again, author Sarah Price provides a lively and inspirational retelling of a classic romance by Jane Austen. In Newbury acres, a young Amish woman is invited to vacation with her neighbors at the sleepy vacation town of Banthe near Lake Moreland for several weeks. Catherine loves to read Amish romance novels and daydreams of one day living such a romance. At Banthe, she makes new friends but quickly learns that some people are not what they seem and occasionally have hidden agendas. To make matters worse, she finds herself daydreaming about Henry Tillman while thwarting the romantic advances from John Troyer. Catherine’s naiveté gets her into all sorts of trouble, especially when she continues her vacation with the Tilmans at their large farm in Newbury Acres.

Will the end of her vacation translate to the end of any possible romance with Henry Tilman? Or will she finally find that storybook ending that she so longed to live?

Newbury Acres is both a satirical parody of Amish romance novels and the story of a young Amish girl’s maturation into womanhood.

These are the other books in her Austen-inspired series: 

51SlkIGbhWL._UY250_.jpg Mount Hope: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park 

514ASkzRUiL._UY250_.jpg Second Chances: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion

51M3zKN70YL._UY250_.jpg The Matchmaker: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma

51N3TRTAVsL._UY250_.jpg First Impressions: An Amish Tale of Pride and Prejudice

51wBNiwCc0L._UY250_.jpg Sense and Sensibility: An Amish Retelling of Jane Austen’s Classic 

Meet Sarah Price

51HdLW4KRrL._UX250_.jpg ECPA Christian Fiction Bestsellers: First Impressions (June 2014, July 2014), Second Chances (October 2015), Secret Sister (December 2015), Sense & Sensibility (March 2016)

Follow her on social media:
Blog        Facebook             Amazon Author Page       Austen Authors
Pinterest @sarahpriceauthr
Twitter: @SarahPriceAuthr
Instagram: @SarahPriceAuthor

During the early 1700s, the Preiss family arrived in America aboard an old sailing vessel called the Patience. The family left Europe, escaping Catholic persecution for their Anabaptist beliefs. Sarah Price comes from a long line of devout Mennonites, including numerous church leaders and ministers throughout the years. Her involvement with the Amish dates back to 1978. Her writing reflect accurate and authentic stories based upon her own experiences with several Amish communities.

Ms. Price has advanced degrees in Communication (MA), Marketing (MBA), and Educational Leadership (A.B.D.). Ms. Price was a former full-time college professor. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she now writes full-time.

Posted in Austen Authors, book release, Guest Post, Jane Austen | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chanticleer International Book Award Finalist “The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin”

The Old Bailey: 1800 by Rudolph Ackermann at Museum of London

The Old Bailey: 1800 by Rudolph Ackermann at Museum of London

When I was writing my most recent cozy mystery, The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin, I spent many hours in research on the Regency era court system for a long trial scene occurs within the book. Correct verbiage and procedures were important. I used such resources as P. D. James and T. A. Critchley’s The Maul and the Pear Tree (a history of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders); The Trial of James Thomas Earl of Cardigan Before the Right Honourable The House of Peers, In Full Parliament, For Felony, On Tuesday The 16th Of February 1841; and Charles Marsh Denison’s The Practice & Procedure of the House of Lords.

In the early 19th Century England, 80% of those charged with a crime were men, which was a sharp increase from the mid-1700s, up some 20%. Much of the change came from the perception that women did not commit serious crimes. Most crimes committed by women were handled through other agencies. Generally, women were brought forward for thefts, kidnapping, being involved with a brothel, coining, and offenses involved in childbirth (most dealing with abortions, concealing a birth, and infanticide). Men were most likely charged with rape, attempted rape, sexual offenses, robbery, sodomy, murder, etc. Notice that the “male” crimes were of a more violent nature, a perception inherited from classical ideology, Christian values, and contemporary medical views from the 18th Century. (Old Bailey)

A jury trial was common point of law in England from the Middle Ages forward, but the early 1800s saw a sort of pother spearheaded by Robert Peel (who liberalized criminal law when he served as Home Secretary). According to Old Bailey Online, “He set about consolidating and simplifying statue law and consolidating the procedures for selecting jurymen. He also extended the provision of expenses for prosecutors and witnesses, and gave magistrates the power to bail the accused. His reforms were continued by the Whig government that came in to pass the Great Reform Act. Most notable among the Whigs’ legal reforms was the Prisoners’ Counsel Act (1836).”

Some of the points of law for those brought before a Regency-based court were…
**It was the victim’s role to identify the culprit in a crime for there was no organized police force.
**Magistrates generally questioned those arrested in “rotation offices.”
**Magistrates would assign a prisoner over to the prison if the testimony warranted it.
**Magistrates also bound over witnesses for the prosecution.
**Magistrates did not seek confessions from the accused.
**Sessions for the City of London and for Middlesex preceded the court proceedings.
**Newgate Prison served London; New Prison served Middlesex; and Gatehouse Prison served Westminster.
**A grand jury decided whether the indictments were to be brought to trial.
**Grand juries had little training in the law and were often lacking in information.
**Prisoners were expected to plead “not guilty” before the court. This came about because if the prisoner confessed to the crime, the punishment was preset by law. There was no “wiggle room ” for extenuating circumstances.
**Juries heard several cases in one setting, customarily six to eight at a time. New juries were not called for each case.
**The juries delivered their verdicts after the trials were conducted. It was all the cases heard and then all the verdicts delivered. The jurors did not leave the room to confer; they simply huddled together. Men of some education (customarily tradesmen) set on jurors with enough regularity that they could advise the others on points of law based on their experience. After 1737, the jurors were seated together rather than on either side of the prisoners’ bench.
**Trials averaged only 30 minutes in length.
**There were separate juries for London and Middlesex. Because of the number of case in the early 19th Century, additional juries were added.
**Defendants were responsible in proving their innocence. Barristers could address points of law, but the accused was in charge of cross examining witnesses. The judges could also cross examine the witnesses.
**Witnesses summoned by the prosecution were required to attend the proceedings, but those for the defense were not.
**There were few routes to appeal at the time.
**A writ of error was possible only to the wording of the indictment or to irregularities in the court proceedings, but this was a VERY expensive move. It was not easy to achieve. (Old Bailey: Proceedings)
PoMDC Cover-2-2The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery

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

Dutifully, Darcy and Elizabeth rush to Georgiana’s side when the major general leaves his wife and daughter behind, with no word of his whereabouts and no hopes of Edward’s return. Forced to seek his cousin in the slews of London’s underbelly, at length, Darcy discovers the major general and returns Fitzwilliam to his family.

Even so, the Darcys’ troubles are far from over. During the major general’s absence from home, witnesses note Fitzwilliam’s presence in the area of two horrific murders. When Edward Fitzwilliam is arrested for the crimes, Darcy must discover the real culprit before the authorities hanged his cousin and the Fitzwilliam name knew a lifetime of shame.
Barnes and Noble
Excerpt (Scene: The opening of the trial against Major General Edward Fitzwilliam.)
When instructed to report to the room set aside for witnesses for all the proceedings, Darcy refused, and he kept Georgiana with him. He would never permit his sister to sit in a room and fret over what was going on within the courtroom; she meant to support Edward in this matter, and Darcy meant for Georgiana to see it through to the end.

Moreover, in the gallery, Georgiana would be surrounded by family and friends rather than by strangers, and it was not as if either he or his sister would speak out against the major general. The proceedings would not sway their allegiances.
All matter of humanity packed the viewing area, and dread found a home in Darcy’s stomach.

“Fitzwilliam will be brought in with the other cases on the docket,” Darcy explained in soft whispers. “All the cases are heard before the jury and judges announce the verdicts. You will be exposed to more than Edward’s case today.”
Elizabeth squeezed the back of Georgiana’s hand.

“We shall be well, Mr. Darcy,” his wife assured as Georgiana nodded her understanding. “Mrs. Fitzwilliam and I discussed the possibilities.”

After an hour of waiting, the guards brought in the prisoners. In addition to Edward, there were two thieves—one accused of stealing from his master and the other of being a pickpocket, a third man charged with intent of rape, and a fourth accused of threatening behavior. Each prisoner was in chains. From where Darcy stood along the wall, he heard the countess gasp and Elizabeth sob.

Needless to say, the authorities anticipated the sensationalism of Edward’s case and kept the other proceedings short, while providing the public a taste of normalcy. Despite his disheveled appearance, the major general stood tall and proud and stone-faced. It pleased Darcy to observe how his cousin prepared mentally for the battle ahead: Darcy never knew more pride in the man’s connection; however, from the buzz of excitement, which brought a collective murmur from those in attendance, Darcy feared the worse could not be averted. Even the judges appeared apprehensive.

In a break with the customary order, the judges dispensed with the other four cases quickly, even meting out the punishments before opening the proceedings against the major general. The disruption from the normal added to the spleen gathering in Darcy’s throat. He glanced to his sister, who paled, but who appeared as stone-faced as her husband. Darcy’s heart went out to her; Georgiana entered her marriage with great hopes only to be brought low.

At length, only Edward remained from those accused of crimes. Darcy thought some in the crowd would depart after the judges excused the other cases, but it appeared more interested parties pressed into the space. However, when Mr. Jenkins, the prosecutor assumed his place before the room, silence reigned.

“Major General Edward Fitzwilliam was indicted by the magistrates’ court of Middlesex for the willful murder of Isles Vaughn, Sarah Vaughn and infant Drey on 5 October; the willful murders of Louis Thorne, Willow Thorne, and Mildred Winthrop on 9 October; and the willful murders of Theodore Weldon, Samuel Urick, and Fanny Urick on 17 October. At the time of the Coroner’s Inquisitions, Edward Fitzwilliam was not a suspect in the Vaughn or the Thorne case, no suspect being named; he was, however, a suspect in the cases after the Inquisition based on evidence from London’s citizenry.

“It is my duty as Counsel for the prosecution to lay before the court evidence to support the indictment against the prisoner at the bar.”

All eyes in the audience followed Darcy’s to where Edward stood erect and solemn countenanced.

“The crime of murder,” Jenkins continued, “is a crime against the laws of God and of men. England, as a God-fearing country abhors the deliberate taking of life and has decreed a punishment of death for those proved to have exacted harm upon another.

“The crime of murder rarely lends itself to witnesses; therefore, the prosecution will offer testimony of a more plausible nature: a series of circumstances, which lead clearly to the guilt of the prisoner at the bar.”

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