What Do You Love About Austen’s “Persuasion” and Captain Fredrick Wentworth?

Back in February, Karen Cox hosted a panel of Austen-inspired authors, who have written Persuasion-based tales. The panel included Laura Hile, author of the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy, So Rough a Course, So Lively a Chase, & The Lady Must Decide; Regina Jeffers, author of Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion; Susan Kaye author of the Frederick Wentworth, Captain books None But You and For You Alone; Melanie Stanford, author of Sway, and Shannon Winslow, author of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. If you are interested in the responses of my fellow authors, you may read Karen’s post to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of the release of her book, Find Wonder in All Things, HERE. The original panel discussion was posted to Goodreads. 

That being said, below are Karen’s questions and my responses. 

CFWP CropWhat do you love about Persuasion and why? Is it your favorite Jane Austen novel? If not, where would you rank it?

Needless to say, Persuasion offers the reader Austen’s most mature voice. Although we acknowledge her genius in earlier novels, in Persuasion, Austen has mastered character development, the providential incident to advance the plot, and the universal truths that mark all of humanity. We, the readers, view the world through the lens of an English landscape. In this novel, Austen perfected the art of showing the full gamut of emotions plaguing life in its simplest forms: The interesting things in life can happen at home.

I grew up in the turbulent 50s and 60s when there was a strong awareness of social change, and although they cannot control the “how” and the “why,” in Persuasion, the upwardly mobile naval officers symbolize this change. Anne Elliot faces a future with Wentworth with the fear of another war. Such fears and pride spoke to me. I came from a military family, and I lived through the Korean and Vietnam wars, with a front row seat to those who served. I knew people, such as Wentworth and Anne, whose marriage had a national, as well as a domestic, significance. Therefore, Persuasion remains one of my favorite Austen tales. I do not think I could exist without hearing Elizabeth Bennet’s declaration to Lady Catherine to marry Darcy and to celebrate the brilliance of their unequal marriage. Nor could I abandon the intelligent, masterful, ruthless, yet generous and considerate hero I discovered in Wentworth. It depends upon my mood, which one I tackle.

What made you want to write a variation of Jane Austen’s last novel?

Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion was my third novel for Ulysses Press, which had joined the Jane Austen Fan Fiction rage of the first decade of the 2000s. I had already written a retelling of Pride and Prejudice (Darcy’s Passions in 2008) and a sequel to Pride and Prejudice (Darcy’s Temptation in 2009). Because I adore Persuasion and always taught it when I was still in the classroom. I pitched it to Ulysses, and they accepted the story.

Also, at the time, I was in the midst of reading Debra White Smith’s Austen novels. Her Possibilities is a modern Christian-based version of Persuasion. It is set in Charlotte, where I live, and I thought it would be a good thing to write my own version, a retelling of Persuasion from Captain Wentworth’s point of view.

Do you think Jane Austen would consider Wentworth to be “gentlemanly”? Why or why not?

I am a big believer that happiness is a result of merit — of acting with humanity and grace — of performance with tenderness of manner. I first read Pride and Prejudice at the age of twelve, and I immediately fell in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy, for he loved a woman for her mind, as well as her comely countenance. Next, I met Mr. Knightley. Although I was quite taken with how tenderly he treated Emma, I must admit I was a bit put out by the age difference between the pair, for at the time I did not understand the reasons men chose younger wives during the era. Finally, I found Captain Wentworth. As I said above, I come from a military family. In fact, I am a naval brat, and so Wentworth became a steady favorite. In truth, some of his least “appealing” qualities — being headstrong and intractable — were qualities I admired in the strong-willed men with whom I interacted upon a daily basis. I witnessed the devotion of the sailors upon the naval base upon which we lived to their families and to our country. I knew admiration for the men they had become.

Wentworth is likely, by birth, the son of a clergyman (based on his brother being a curate), which in Austen’s society would provide him “gentleman” status and a gentleman’s education, but moreover, he performs as a gentleman. For instance, he patiently consoles Mrs. Musgrove and listens attentively to the woman’s remembrances of Richard Musgrove. Although he knows he does not affect the girl, Wentworth is willing to marry Louisa Musgrove, for he acted foolishly by flirting with her. He takes note of Anne’s fatigue upon the return walk from Winthrop and arranges for her to ride with his sister and Admiral Croft. I think Wentworth is Austen’s most perfect hero, for he lacks perfection. He transforms himself into the man Anne Elliot deserves.

Do you think Wentworth never got over Anne? Or do you think he fell in love with her again when he returned eight years later?

I always felt that Wentworth achieved his exalted position — his acclaim — because he wished to prove Sir Walter and Lady Russell had erred. His success was a matter of pride. Although Sir Walter did not withhold his consent to Anne and Wentworth’s marriage, he “[gave] it all the negative of great astonishment, great coldness, great silence, and a professed resolution of doing nothing for his daughter.” (Persuasion 28) Lady Russell spoke to Anne of Wentworth’s “spending freely, what had come freely” and the fact he had nothing of consequence to show for his previous prize money act at his motivation. This was Wentworth’s wake-up call. Wentworth was insulted to be judged as a “failure” by his betters.

As to whether Wentworth falls in love with Anne again, I am of a mind to think there is a thin line between love and hate. Upon his return to the area, Wentworth thought to despise Anne, but slowly Providence, or Fate, or whatever one wishes to call it, chips away at his resolve. He notices that other men recognize Anne’s goodness and her blossoming attractiveness — specifically Mr. Elliot. He is “obliged to acknowledge that only at Uppercross had he learned to do her justice, and only at Lyme had he begun to understand himself.” (262)

What was the biggest challenge you faced as you wrote your Persuasion-inspired story?

I think Persuasion possesses an overtone of “sexuality” not found in other Austen’s novels. At the concert venue, Wentworth says, “The day has produced some effects, however; has had some consequence, which must be considered as the very reverse of frightful,” and we view the captain’s emotional rollercoaster. He embraces the unexpected turn of events. He begins to realize the consequences of desires and malleability. Wentworth fears displaying his jealousy. His feelings for Anne frighten him. Nothing in his experience has lessened his affection for Anne.

That being said, finding a proper balance between strong emotions and an “Austenesque” approach was the most difficult part of writing this variation. In truth, I toned down some of the scenes when I re-released the story. Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion is currently out of print from Ulysses Press, but my contract with Ulysses permits me to self publish the book. Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion is available from all book sources.

Let’s face it, most Austen-inspired fiction is based on Pride and Prejudice. What would you tell a reader to convince her to cast her reading eye from Mr. Darcy to Captain Wentworth?

Despite those who idealize the relationships found in Austen’s novels, especially the one between Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, I am of the opinion that Austen’s works do not provide us with paragons of suitable male and female roles. Therefore, Wentworth is as noble and as flawed as Mr. Darcy, Austen’s most popular hero, but Wentworth also possesses the ill-considered nature of George Wickham. In Persuasion, the codes and values of the Napoleonic era are changing. The novel addresses not only self-realization for women, but also for men. Anne and Wentworth prove to be models of emotional stability. Julia Prewitt Brown in “Jane Austen’s England” says, “Anne and Wentworth inherit the England of Persuasion, if only because they see it, and will experience it, as if really is: fragmented and uncertain. For the first time in Jane Austen, the future is not linked with the land.”


CFWP Crop2.jpg Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion: Austen’s Classic Retold Through His Eyes

The love affair behind Jane Austen’s classic, Persuasion, rests at the heart of this retelling from Captain Frederick Wentworth’s point of view.

He loved her from the moment their eyes met some eight years prior, but Frederick Wentworth is determined to prove to Anne Elliot that she made a mistake by refusing him. Persuaded by her family and friends of his lack of a future, Anne sent him away, but now he is back with a fortune earned in the war, and it is Anne, whose circumstances have brought her low. Frederick means to name another to replace her, but whenever he looks upon Anne’s perfect countenance, his resolve wavers, and he finds himself lost once again to his desire for her. Return to the Regency and Austen’s most compelling and mature love story. Jeffers turns the tale upon its head while maintaining Jane Austen’s tale of love and devotion.







Upcoming News:

PoMDC Cover-3 copy.jpg Captain Wentworth plays a key role in my Austen-inspired mystery, The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin, where we see him team up with Colonel Fitzwilliam in post war England. A novel involving the two is in the works.

Also, a new release in 2017 involves Anne and Wentworth, but is set in colonial America. Last year, I did the same with Darcy and Elizabeth when I created Darius and Eliza in The Road to Understanding, set upon the Great Valley Road between Virginia and eastern Tennessee.

Posted in Austen Authors, British Navy, eBooks, historical fiction, interview, Jane Austen, language choices, Living in the Regency, Persuasion, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Class in Jane Austen “Emma”

emma gwyneth paltrowThere are those who claim Emma represents Jane Austen’s literary accomplishment. I am not of that persuasion, although I think my indifference comes more from the fact I do not find Emma Woodhouse a character I admire, than it does from Miss Austen’s ability to craft a tale. In Edward Austen-Leigh’s A Memoir of Jane Austen, he says that Austen, too, thought Emma not a character that many would like. Emma Woodhouse transforms from snobbish girl to mature woman in the length of the novel, which describes her path to self-knowledge.

So, what do we know of Emma’s character? First Miss Woodhouse…
** is 21 years of age
** believes in the rightness of her opinions
** is clever
** is handsome of countenance
** is rich (an oddity in Austen’s heroines)
** is snobbish about class structure
** possesses the tendency to permit her imagination free rein
** manipulates the path of Love for many of her acquaintances
** is the mistress of her father’s house since age 16
** dominates the affable Mr. Woodhouse
** thinks well of her abilities and judgments

Emma_1996_TV_Kate_BeckinsaleEmma is the younger of Mr. Woodhouse’s daughters. She resides with her father at Hartfield; Woodhouse is the second highest ranking man (behind Knightley) in the neighborhood. Mr. Woodhouse (like Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice) comes from an ancient and well-respected family. Like Georgiana Darcy, Emma Woodhouse has a dowry of 30,000 pounds. Her sister Isabella is married to Mr. John Knightley, a lawyer in London and the brother of Mr. George Knightley.

The setting of this novel is more limited than many of the others. Highbury is the center of Emma’s world. People come and go, but Emma never leaves the beloved village where she reigns as the “queen” of society. This constriction creates a quandary for Emma. She would prefer not to associate with those below her social class, but if she acted as such, she would possess no social life whatsoever.

Mr. George Knightley is the ideal country squire. He takes his responsibilities to his land (Donwell Abbey) and to his dependents seriously. He is known for his benevolence to others. The Knightleys and the Woodhouses are the upper echelon of society in Highbury.

One of the things that might appear as out of step with many Regency novels (but is more to the truth of the day) is the fact that Mr. Knightley does not keep a stable of horses. He prefers walking to riding, and when horses are required for his carriage, Knightley lets them. This is a sore point for Emma, who thinks Knightley acting so has people not recognizing his proper place in society. Emma feels that Knightley encourages too much familiarity with those below him.

stovel-figure4Knightley’s interactions with people is in sharp contrast to Emma’s opinions. Knightley is cognizant of social distinctions, but he presents respect to those who are deserving of it. For example, whereas Emma objects to Robert Martin’s position as a tenant farmer on Knightley’s land, Knightley calls Martin superior to Harriet Smith, saying that Martin is a “respectable, intelligent, gentleman-farmer.” Knightley claims Harriet without intelligence and without connections. His words are not disdain, just the truth. Even though Harriet possessed beauty and a sweet nature, her illegitimate parentage would keep her from aspiring to a man above Martin’s station in life. In contrast, Knightley declares Jane Fairfax an appropriate companion for Emma. He judges Miss Fairfax as intelligent, beautiful, and accomplished (although the woman is without a fortune).

Emma is offended by Mr. Elton’s offer of marriage because she feels Mr. Elton should not think himself her equal socially. This situation predisposes Emma to find the new Mrs. Elton as vain and possessing too much self-importance.

Emma’s snobbish attitude is very evident when she tells Harriet:

“A young farmer, whether on horseback or on foot, is the very last sort of person to raise my curiosity. The yeomanry are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing to do. A degree or two lower, and a creditable appearance might interest me; I might hope to be useful to their families in some way or other.”

Emma even goes so far as to tell Harriet that it pleases Emma that Harriet refused Martin. “I could not have visited Mrs. Robert Martin of Abbey-Mill Farm.”

Below the Knighleys and Woodhouses, we find Mr. and Mrs. Weston. Mr. Weston spent time in the military, but his fortune comes from trade. The Eltons are also part of this middle ground. All we know of Mr. Elton’s past is that he is “without any alliances but in trade.” As a vicar, he has received a gentleman’s education and Elton is accepted in the finer homes in the area. Mrs. Augusta Elton comes to her marriage with a dowry of 10,000 pounds via her parents’ fortune in trade. Some find it ironic to hear Mrs. Elton speaking of her sister’s family – a family by the name of Sucklings. The Sucklings flaunt their wealth with a large estate near Bristol and a barouche-landau. In this social sphere, we also find Mrs. Bates, who is the widow of a clergyman. Although the woman’s marital status keeps her in the company of the wealthier families, Mrs. Bates and her unmarried daughter reside in let rooms above one of the shops in Highbury. Even so, the Bateses depend upon “the kindness of others” for the luxuries of life. Mrs. Goddard is the last of this class. She is mistress of the village school.

Some of Emma’s neighbors are part of the “upwardly mobile” class. These include the Coles (who prospered in trade), Robert Martin (a farmer on the Donwell Abbey estate), the Coxes (country lawyers in Highbury), Mr. Perry (the apothecary), and Mr. Hughes (a physician).

We note Emma’s reluctance to interact with those in this group beyond what is necessary. In fact, she thinks to refuse an invitation to a dinner at the Coles until she learns that the Westons and Mr. Churchill will attend.

Below the Coles, etc., we find Mr. and Mrs. Ford (shop owners), Mrs. Stokes (the Crown Inn’s landlady), William Larkins (Mr. Knightley’s steward), Mrs. Wallis (the pastry cook’s wife), and Miss Nash and Miss Prince and Miss Richardson (school teachers). Harriet Smith would be part of this level of society if not for Emma’s patronage.

maxresdefaultHarriet Smith is the illegitimate daughter of a merchant, who placed her with Mrs. Goddard, but who ignored Harriet since the placement.

“In taking up an illegitimate parlour boarder in Mrs Goddard’s village school, Emma chooses a protégée she can do what she likes with. There is a snag: Harriet has already formed an attachment with a young farmer, Robert Martin. Emma tries to force the issue by telling Harriet that she (Emma) cannot possibly associate with anyone of Martin’s class. The influential American critic Lionel Trilling argues that Emma is ‘a dreadful snob.’ Being aware of one’s position in society, however, is not the same as being a snob.

“Critic Paul Pickrel argues that Trilling has simply misread Austen’s novel. Whatever we think of her heroine, we shouldn’t take what she says at face value. Emma wants to control everyone and everything around her. The combination is a dangerous one, and by interfering in Harriet’s life she poses a real threat to the future of a naive 17-year-old. But it is too simplistic to say snobbishness causes her to sideline Robert Martin: she wants Harriet to herself and, like a child, will say anything to keep her.” [Austen’s Outspoken Heroines]


Other Highbury characters include James (Mr. Woodhouse’s coachman), Patty (the Bateses’ maid), and Mrs. Hodges (Mr. Knightley’s cook).

The characters who visit Highbury and change the village’s complexion include Jane Fairfax (a rival to Emma for Mr. Knightley’s affections), Frank Churchill (who seeks Jane’s affections and flirts with Emma), Mrs. Elton (who snubs Harriet and attempts to manage Jane), and the gypsies.

Austen masterly weaves these levels of society together. The characters of Mrs. Bates and Miss Bates are the link holding the differing levels together. Miss Bates is gregarious and likable, and the woman, as well as her mother, are the “comic relief” in the novel. Emma’s poor treatment at Miss Bates is the source of Mr. Knightley’s criticism of her and the turning point in the novel.

Although Austen does not go so far as to include characters such as Squire Western from Fielding’s Tom Jones in the plot of Emma, she does display hints of what we find in her last novel, Persuasion: self-made men who are superior to the gentleman class.

“Some of Austen’s female characters – Jane Bennet, Fanny Price, Anne Elliot – are gentle and passive. Austen’s two favourite heroines, Elizabeth Bennet and Emma, are precisely the opposite. Both are able to have equal and intimate relationships with men through their use of speech and laughter. In her essay ‘Silent Women, Shrews, and Bluestockings,’ feminist critic Jocelyn Harris argues that in allowing her women characters to speak so cleverly Austen subverts ‘misogynist constructions of women,’ who ‘have always been discouraged from knowing, speaking, and writing.’

19635888.gif “In Emma, says Harris, the heroine’s openness is preferable to Jane Fairfax’s reserve, even if Emma ‘says too much too often.’ She, ‘like Elizabeth Bennet, speaks too freely because her father’s power is weak.’ But Austen shields these two outspoken, intelligent heroines from being labelled shrews by the use of free indirect speech – so we sometimes find them thinking uncharitable thoughts that they are too tactful to express out loud. Austen was highly conscious of the effect of gender on language. Anne Elliot in Persuasion comments that ‘men have every advantage of us in telling their story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree.'” [Austen’s Outspoken Heroines]

“Jane Austen and her works are generally considered representative of the late eighteenth-century “classical” world view and its values—judgment, reason, clarity of perception—those of the ‘Age of Reason.’ In its best sense, this is a moral world view, reflecting the values of the Enlightenment. Austen’s values represent order in the face of disorder, but her concept of order embodies what is true, organic, living, not the static order imposed merely on the exterior, from ‘society’ or ‘the church,’ for example. Austen’s attitudes actually differ in subtle ways from the conventional manifestations of the classical attitudes and forms of the late eighteenth century—of the excesses of classicism that the Romantics rebelled against so vehemently. However, Jane Austen’s novels can also be called anti-Romantic in that they counter the extremes of the Romantic imagination epitomized by the Gothic novels so popular during her time, and satirized by Austen in Northanger Abbey. In Emma she also satirizes romantic excess, particularly in the character of Harriet Smith who, in a sense, enshrines Mr. Elton by keeping as ‘her most precious treasures’ relics of a scrap of ‘court plaister’ he handled and an old pencil piece that had belonged to him.

“The ordered society in Austen’s world is one in which people live in authentic harmony—socially, economically, emotionally, and ethically. Balance, order, and good sense exist in the face of too much sensibility; a balance of intellect and emotion, thought and feeling, outer and inner experience, society and the interior life, is the key to understanding Austen’s schema of meaningful experience and right relationships. Throughout Emma we are part of the energy of the novel leading toward the fulfillment of this ideal in the vitality of the characters.” [PERSUASIONS ON-LINE V.21, NO.2 (Summer 2000) The Dilemma of Emma: Moral, Ethical, and Spiritual Value by Karin Jackson.]


[Note: Squire Western is a caricature of the rough-and-ready, conservative country gentleman. Affectionate at heart, the Squire nevertheless acts with extreme violence towards his daughter Sophia, by constantly incarcerating her, and even verbally and physically abusing her. However, since the Squire is a caricature, Fielding does not intend for us to judge these actions too harshly. Similarly, the Squire’s insistence on Sophia marrying Blifil has less to do with greed than with his stubbornness and adherence to tradition. Squire Western’s speaks in West Country dialect, and peppers his speech with curses.]

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

Testing the Money: The Trial of Pyx

The Trial of Pyx is a near-800 year old ceremony to test Britain’s coinage. The Trial of the Pyx dates as far back as 1249. The Queen’s Remembrancer oversees the ceremony. Until the 19th century this duty was undertaken at the Court of Exchequer, but is now held at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London. The ceremony puts the Royal Mint on trial. Over a four-month period, nearly 100,000 are scrutinized. During the process, the coins are tested for imperfections or impurities in the metals used, therefore, confirming their value. 

Historic UK tells us, “The Trial of Pyx is a rather interesting one. Every day the Royal Mint collect samples of the coins they produce: this amounts to around 88,000 coins a year. These coins are then placed in boxes (or pyxes) and every February they are brought to Goldsmiths Hall. The Queen’s Remembrancer swears in a jury of 26 goldsmiths whose job it is to count, measure, weigh and assay the coins. In April or May he or she returns to hear the jurers’ verdict.”

Coins from the commemorative £1,000 coin (worth £49,995) made from a kilo of solid gold to the 20p piece, all denominations of coins are tested. According to Coin Books, 2017 saw the Trial this year was the new £1 coin, which has 12 sides and will be released to the public later this year. It is considered to be the most secure coin ever developed.


This one kilo gold coin celebrates the Queen’s 90th birthday. via Coin Books http://www.coinbooks.org/v20/esylum_v20n06a21.html

Business Insider describes the 2016 ceremony. “The opening of this year’s trial was on February 2nd was full of pomp and circumstance. It’s carried out by the Queen’s Remembrancer, a judge, who swears in the 16-strong jury who have the job of counting the coins sent for testing by the Royal Mint. While it’s mostly ceremonial, the Trial of the Pyx has an important message – merchants, not the state or the monarchy, must have power over the country’s currency. To allow the state to have power over the currency, risks eroding its credibility. Permission for the City of London to test the coins produced by the Royal Mint was granted by the Crown in the 13th century. Before that, the reigning monarch had a monopoly on producing and testing Britain’s coinage and would periodically alter the standards for the coins to finance wars. 

“‘There was the inherent danger of inflation and currency corruption,’ the Queen’s Remembrancer, Barbara Fontaine, said in her speech to open proceedings. The Trial was ‘a key stage of development of the international trust in our coinage.'”


These are the Pyx, reinforced boxes of currency ready to be assayed or tested. The word Pyx comes from the Greek for wooden box. In them are hundreds of envelopes containing thousands of coins. via Business Insider

Coin Books also gives us these other sources: 

To read the complete article, see:
Take a tour around the Trial of the Pyx — the 800-year-old ceremony to test the UK’s coins(www.businessinsider.com/inside-the-trial-of-the-pyx-2017-1/#the-ceremony-takes-place-in-the-opulent-goldsmiths-hall-in-the-city-of-london-members-of-the-public-and-invited-dignitaries-are-sat-on-one-side-of-the-room-the-queens-remembrancer-a-judge-sits-at-the-head-of-the-table-to-give-her-address-and-start-the-trial-she-isnt-actually-present-when-counting-process-happens-1)

For more information, see:
The History of the Trial of the Pyx (www.royalmint.com/discover/uk-coins/history-of-the-trial-of-the-pyx)

The Business Insider site has some magnificent images of the process, the room, etc. Check them out HERE

Posted in British history, commerce, customs and tradiitons, Living in the UK | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Complicated Banbury Peerage Case

In writing historicals set in England in the early 1800s, it is necessary for me to possess more than a working knowledge of primogeniture, which is both the custom and the law of inheritance in practice at that time. In primogeniture, it is the right of the first born legitimate son to inherit the real property of his father, in preference to daughters, younger sons, elder illegitimate sons, and other relations in the male line. The son of the deceased eldest brother inherits before a living younger brother by right of substitution for the deceased heir. Estates were entailed, not upon the eldest son, but upon the eldest sons first born son. By constantly extending the entail to the grandson,they became perpetual in nature.

But what if there are no sons? Then the family tree is searched for the nearest male blood relative, all the way back to the original holder of the estate. But things become even more convoluted when the heir goes missing before he has an apparent heir. Let us say the heir goes missing at sea. Believe it or not, the House of Lords would not automatically name the next in line as the new title owner. There is always the chance that the current lord survived the catastrophe he encountered. What would happen if he returned, say in 5 or 10 years? The ruling is that the title and the real estate would revert to the original owner, but not necessarily the personal property. The ruling is that the title and the real estate would revert back to original landowner, but not necessarily the personal property. It must not be forgotten that, by English law, ordinary leaseholds, whether they consist of lands or houses, count as personalty and are distributed as such on intestacy. Money in trust for investment in land is distributed as realty under the same rule of inheritance. What a legal mess! This little twerk of the law of inheritance is enough to set brother against brother in my latest romantic suspense, Angel Comes to the Devils Keep.

But was there a precedence for this type of ruling from the House of Lords? In fact, as a fundamental law, primogeniture is a practice of the landed aristocracy, rather than the general populace. Among the upper crustof society, generally, hereditary estates are entailed and not at the free disposal of individual landowners. There are few wealthy or noble families that have not employed the practice of primogeniture somewhere in their histories.

51CKzXQ2BsL._SX382_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Occasionally, those histories become so complicated that it takes centuries for the peerage to be defined. For example, during the reign of Edward III, one of the companions of the Black Prince was Sir Robert Knollys, who earned the Blue Ribbon of the Garter for his valor. The Knollss family continued to receive the favor of successive reigns. One such person was Sir Francis Knollys, who married Catherine Gray, grand-niece of Queen Anne Boleyn. They produced two sons: Henry and William. According to Kidd and Williamson, editors of George Edward Cockaynes The Complete Baronetage, Henry did not survive his father, and so William claimed the baronetcy in 1596. In 1603, King James presented William an additional title beyond the baronetcy, making William Baron Knollys of Grays, in Oxfordshire. In 1619, King James further favored William with an another barony, by naming him Baron Wallingford; later, in 1626, King Charles presented him as the Earl of Banbury.

Williams first wife Dorothy did not provide William an heir. Upon Dorothys death, he married Lady Elizabeth Howard. William was nearing sixty years at the time of the marriage, and Lady Elizabeth was but twenty. Yet, keep in mind, William did not pass until the age of eighty-five.

After Banburys death, in April 1633, an inquisition occurred, stating that Elizabeth was Banburys wife at the time of his death and that the earl died without a male heir. However, records show that Elizabeth delivered two sons before her husbands death: Edward on 10 April 1627 (Banbury was 80 and Elizabeth 41 at the time) and Nicholas on 3 January 1631 (Banbury was 84 and Elizabeth 45). Generally speaking, common practice said if Banbury accepted the children as his and/or acknowledged them in some manner such as baptism or speaking of them as such to trustworthy witnesses, the boys would be considered his. Yet, the official investigation in 1633 skewed that ruling for it was written evidence to the contrary. Complicating the situation of whether the children were legitimate, after only five weeks of mourning Banbury, Elizabeth married Lord Vaux of Harrowden, a family friend. It was said the boys favored Vaux in countenance. Lady Elizabeth adopted Roman Catholicism, the religion of Lord Vaux. She, therefore, came under the scrutiny of the Long parliament, which was previously skeptical of her relationship with Vaux. Eventually, on 19 August 1643, the speaker issued a pass enabling her to remove to France, and on 13 June 1644 the House of Commons resolved that should she return she should be seized and kept under restraint. She died on 17 April 1658, and was buried at Dorking, Surrey, near the residence of her second husband. Vaux passed on 8 April 1661, and is said to have died without issue. (Lee, Sidney, ed. Dictionary of National Biography: Vol XXXI Kennett – Lambart: [London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1892. 287-288], accessed January 22, 2017. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=Cal.+State+Papers%2C+Dom.+1654-5%2C+p.+55), page 287)

William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury

William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury via Wikipedia

 In 1640, William, Earl of Salisbury, guardian of the eldest boy Edward, filed in Chancery upon Edwards behalf for a claim to the earldom. Witnesses and evidence were presented to substantiate the filing, but on 1809 (nearly 170 years later) the House of Lords rejected the claim. How did that come about?

A hearing in 1641 dealt with the question of Edwards legitimacy; it found that Edward, Earl of Banbury, was the deceased earls son and heir because of the legal doctrine, Pater est quem nuptiæ demonstrant, which assumes in all cases of children born in wedlock that the husband is the children’s father. And although there was some debate as to whether Banbury recognized the child as his during the earls marriage to Elizabeth, a legal decision in favor of the claim to legitimacy was made. Edward, the elder of the countess’s two sons, was styled Earl of Banburyin a chancery suit to which in February 1640-1 he was party as an infant, for the purpose of establishing his right to a plot of land at Henley, styled the Bowling Place, and to other property left by his father. Under orders of the court of wards an inquiry into the late earl’s property was held at Abingdon on 1 April 1641, and the court found that ‘Edward, now Earl of Banbury, is, and at the time of the earl’s decease was, his son and next heir.’” (Lee, 287)

Unfortunately, another complication occurred after Edwards being named earl for he was killed in a quarrel upon the road to Calais in 1645. Edwards brother, Nicholas, naturally made a claim to the title, but he was a minor at the time and could not inherit. Nicholas then travelled to France with his mother in 1644, but in October 1646, he returned to England, for Lord Vaux settled all his lands at Harrowden on Lady Elizabeth, with the remainder to Knollys himself, who was styled Earl of Banbury in the deed. When Nicholas reached his majority, he moved to prove his right to the peerage and, thus, petitioned the Crown for his writ of summons to assume his seat in the House of Lords. The Committee of Privileges heard the petition, which granted the writ for Nicholas, Earl of Banbury.

Nicholas married Isabella, daughter of Mountjoy Blount, earl of Newport, and the pair soon fell into pecuniary difficulties. In February 1654, Nicholas, earl of Banbury, the Countess of Banbury, Lady Elizabeth Vaux and Lord Vaux petitioned Cromwell to remove the sequestration on Lord Vauxs estate so they might compound or sell some of the land to pay their debts of some 10,000l. The earl had been confined at the time at the Upper Bench prison because of the debt. Isabella died soon afterwards, and Nicholas married Anne, daughter of William, Lord Sherard of Leitrim. In June 1660 he attended the Convention parliament in the House of Lords, but it was not until 13 July 1660 that the first attempt was made to dispute his right to his seat there. It was then moved that there being a person that now sits in this house as a peer of the realm, viz. the Earl of Banbury, it is ordered that this business shall be heard at the bar by counselon the 23rd. Knollys attended the house daily in the week preceding that appointed for the hearing, and was present on the day itself. But no proceedings were taken, and on 24 July he was nominated, under the style of Earl of Banbury, to sit on the committee on the Excise Bill. On 21 Nov. it was ordered that the earl hath leave to be absent for some time.On 29 Dec. the Convention parliament was dissolved. No writ of summons was sent to Knollys for the new parliament, meeting 8 May 1661. He therefore petitioned the king for the issue of the writ and for all the old earl’s rights of precedency. His petition, when forwarded to the House of Lords, was referred to a committee of privileges. This committee examined the servants who were at Harrowden at the time of his birth. The attorney-general argued on behalf of the king that the old earl had died childless, but the committee reported on 1 July 1661 that Nicholas, Earl of Banbury, is a legitimate person.’” (Lee, 288)

His son Charles assumed the title upon Nicholass death. Likewise, Charles petitioned for his writ of summons, and the committee of privileges reported the history of the case, and the House of Lords agreed to hear counsel for and against the claim, but a delay occurred, one lasting some thirty years. During the delay, Charles had the misfortune of killing his brother-in-law, Captain Philip Lawson, in a duel. In November 1692, he was indicted and ultimately requested a trial by his peers before the House of Lords. This brought about another hearing upon whether Charles held a legitimate claim to the earldom. His petition to the House of Lords was dismissed with a ruling denying his right to be styled Banbury. He was removed to Newgate Prison.

According to The Banbury Peerage Caseon the Bennet Dictionary: The Bennet Dictionary: Celebrated Claimants from Perkin Warbeck to Arthur Orton [(1874). accessed December 13, 2016. http://bennetdictionary.com/banbury-peerage-case/], the trial and the various pleas took more than a year, during which Charles was presented bail to move about in society. At length, the Lords intervened, and Parliament took up his case again, but the session was discontinued indefinitely, and no decision was forthcoming. The trial also quashed the indictment against him for the duel for the prisoner was styled in the charges as Charles Knollys, esq.instead of the Earl of Banbury.

Nothing more was heard upon the legitimacy of Charless claims until four years later when in 1698, Charles Banbury again petitioned the King for the writ of summons. The House of Lords accepted the case again, but it went from continuance to continuance, passing through the end of the reign of William III and into that of Anne. There was hope for a resolution in late 1713, but the sudden death of Queen Anne in August 1714 once more delayed the proceedings.

Charles next petitioned George I, but no definite decision was given. Charles, Earl of Banbury, died in 1740. During his lifetime, to no avail, he presented five petitions to the Crown. However, not being officially recognized as the Earl of Banbury did not prevent him and his family from enjoying their position in Society.

Charles was followed by another two Charleses and a William, who died in 1776. Williams brother Thomas held the title until his death in 1793, when his son William Knollys, then called Viscount Wallingford, sent a formal petition in 1806 to the Crown for the Banbury earldom, the question of which was again returned to the House of Lords. By 1806, there had been an Earl of Banburyfor 180 years. Yet, Williams father, Thomas, had held a commission in the Third Regiment of Foot as a Lieutenant-General.As such, Thomas was styled by his military rank and not Banbury, causing Williams claim to be denied. Needless to say, primogeniture is not a clearly defined practice.

Angel .jpgAngel Comes to the Devils Keep [Romantic Suspense]

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

Posted in British history, Church of England, historical fiction, history, Inheritance, Jane Austen, marriage, primogenture, titles of aristocracy | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Bit About Horses, Guest Blog from Jude Knight + Release of “A Raging Madness” + a Giveaway

Today, I welcome my internet friend, Jude Knight, with a bit about her research on horses and the latest release in The Golden Redepennings series, plus a GIVEAWAY. 

My qualifications for writing about horses are ten years as a Riding for the Disabled mum, five as a Pony Club mum, and seven as the reluctant care-taker of one or more obstreporous ponies.

racing horseYet I write Regencies, and in Regency times, gentlemen were as obsessed with their horses as today’s men are with their cars or motorbikes. In fact, in two of my books, including the latest release, the hero breeds horses for sale.

Which meant I had a lot to learn. I knew the smell of wet pony, and the tricks it can get up to when it doesn’t want the bridle and saddle. That was a start. Many blog posts, library books, video clips, websites, and questions to friends later, I still think that one end bites and the other kicks. But I’m slightly more confident about sending my horse-mad heroes out into the wide world.

In The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, Lord Sutton breeds Turkmen horses he and his family have brought from their home in the Kopet Dag mountains. Lord Sutton’s Turkmens, a predecessor of today’s Ahkal Teke, arrived in England well after the heyday of what they then called the orientals, or hot bloods. Finer boned, thinner skinned, faster, and more spirited than the European horses (known as cold bloods), the imports from Turkey, Persia, and middle Asia fascinated the English of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

From the two lines came the warm bloods, direct ancestors of today’s thoroughbreds. Indeed, the thoroughbred stud book was founded in the late eighteenth century (for horses intended for racing) and records all English Thoroughbred breeding even today. A thoroughbred was a horse whose birth and lineage was recorded in the book. Other horses with the same breeding not intended for racing were known simply as ‘bloods’.

unnamedIf you wanted to sell, or to buy, a horse, you might go to a local horse fair. Or, if you lived in London, you’d drop down to Tattersall’s on Hyde Park Corner. It had been founded in 1766 by a former groom of the Duke of Kingston, and held auctions every Monday and on Thursdays during the Season. Tatersall’s charged a small commission on each sale, but also charged both buyers and sellers for stabling.

You could buy horses, carriages, hounds, harnesses — whatever a gentleman (or his lady, but ladies did NOT go to Tattersall’s) needed. And in Regency times, gentlemen visited on other days to place a bet on an upcoming race, or just to meet and chat. The Jockey Club met there, and moved with it to a later London location and then to Newmarket. Tattersall’s is still a leading bloodstock auctioneer, and still in Newmarket.

Alex Redepenning My hero in A Raging Madness had been a cavalry officer. Britain had no formal studs for breeding war horses. Instead, they bought their horses from civilian breeders. This meant the British cavalry rode horses bred to be hunters, race horses, and carriage horses—usually thoroughbreds or thoroughbred crosses. Each colonel bought the horses for his own regiment. In 1795, the regulations established a budget of thirty pounds for a light mount and forty for a heavy mount. This budget didn’t change for the rest of the war with France, despite wartime shortages.cavalry charge

Here Alex is telling his brother his plan:

“Father says you are planning to breed horses. For the army, Alex? Racing? What’s your plan?”

“Carriage and riding horses, we thought. I know more about training war horses, of course, but to breed them to be torn apart for the sins of men? I don’t have the heart for it. And there’s always a market for a good horse.”


More about horses

Geri Walton tells us about work horses, especially the heavy breeds. https://www.geriwalton.com/work-horses-in-the-regency-era/

Regency Redingote explains the origins of the term ‘blood horse’, and the pedigree of the General Stud Book. https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/the-english-blood-horse/

Regency Writing has a useful article on housing horses, and the work of a stable. http://regencywriter-hking.blogspot.co.nz/2013/07/eighteenth-and-nineteenth-century-horse.html

Shannon Donnelly’s Fresh Ink explains the many different uses of the horse in Regency England. https://shannondonnelly.com/2011/07/28/the-regency-horse-world/ This article also describes common carriage types, side saddles and riding habits.


a raging madness new style small A Raging Madness: Book 2 of The Golden Redepennings

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him. 

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

Jude KnightMeet the Author Jude Knight

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Website: http://judeknightauthor.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JudeKnightAuthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JudeKnightBooks

Pinterest:  https://nz.pinterest.com/jknight1033/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JudeKnight

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8603586.Jude_Knight

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jude-Knight/e/B00RG3SG7I

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY:  Comment below to be part of the giveaway. Ms. Knight will give one lucky winner a choice of Candle’s Christmas Chair, Gingerbread Bride, or Farewell to Kindness, all part of The Golden Redepennings series. The Giveaway ends at midnight EDST, Monday, May 22. 

51uLDhETl4L When Viscount Avery comes to see an invalid chair maker, he does not expect to find Min Bradshaw, the woman who rejected him 3 years earlier. Or did she? He wonders if there is more to the story. For 3 years, Min Bradshaw has remembered the handsome guardsman who courted her for her fortune. She didn’t expect to see him in her workshop, and she certainly doesn’t intend to let him fool her again.

51D8YtgryjL Lieutenant Rick Redepenning has been saving his admiral’s intrepid daughter from danger since their formative years, but today, he faces the gravest of threats–the damage she might do to his heart. How can he convince her to see him as a suitor, not just a childhood friend?

Travelling with her father’s fleet has left Mary Pritchard ill-prepared for London Society, and prey to the machinations of false friends. When she strikes out on her own to find a more suitable locale to take up her solitary spinsterhood, she finds adventure, trouble, and her girlhood hero, riding once more to her rescue.

This novella first appeared in the Bluestocking Belles box set Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem.

61xqy6MCs1L._SY346_ Rede, the Earl of Chirbury wants the beautiful widow, Anne Forsythe, from the moment he first sees her. Not that he has time for dalliance, or that the virtuous widow would be available if he did. Or perhaps not so virtuous? She lives rent-free in a cottage belonging to the estate, courtesy of his predecessor and cousin, George. And her daughter’s distinctive eyes mark the little girl as George’s child. But it isn’t just the mystery that surrounds her that keeps drawing him to her side.

Anne Forsythe has good cause to be wary of men, peers and members of the Redepenning family. The Earl of Chirbury is all three, and a distraction she does not need. If she can hide her sisters until the youngest turns 21, they will be safe from her uncle’s sinister plans. And she is a virtuous woman, her reputation in the village built through years of impeccable behaviour. The Earl of Chirbury is not for her, and she will not fall to his fascinating smile, gentle teasing, and tragic past. Let him continue to pursue the villains who ordered the deaths of his family three years ago, and leave her and her family alone.

But good intentions fly in the face of their strong attraction, until several accidents make Rede believe his enemies are determined to kill him, and Anne wonder whether her uncle has found her. To build a future together, they must be prepared to face their pasts—something their deadly enemies have no intention of allowing.

Posted in book excerpts, book release, British history, eBooks, excerpt, family, Georgian England, Guest Blog, Guest Post, historical fiction, Living in the Regency, marriage, Napoleonic Wars, Regency era, Regency romance, romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Georgian Commerce: The London Docks, Part V

In Roman and medieval times, ships tended to dock at small quays in the present-day  city of London or Southwark an area known as the Pool of London. However, this gave no protection against the elements, was vulnerable to thieves and suffered from a lack of space at the quayside. The Howland Great Dock in Rotherhithe in (built 1696 and later forming the core of the Surrey Commercial Docks) was designed to address these problems, providing a large, secure and sheltered anchorage with room for 120 large vessels. It was a major commercial success and provided for two phases of expansion during the Georgian and Victorian eras. The first of the Georgian docks was the West India (opened 1802), followed by the London (1805), the East India (also 1805), the Surrey (1807), the Regent’s Canal Dock (1820),  St Katharine (1828) and the West India South (1829). The Victorian docks were mostly further east, comprising the Royal Victoria (1855), Millwall (1868) and Royal Albert (1880). The King George V Dock was a late addition in 1921. (London Docklands)


Edward Weller (d. 1884) – A Dictionary Practical, Theoretical, and Historical of Commerce and Commercial Navigation by J.R. M’Culloch – Longmans, Green and Co. London, 1882 “River Thames with the Docks from Woolwich to the Tower” from This map shows all of the main upstream London docks except the King George V Dock, which had not been built. It was to be located to the south of the Royal Albert Dock, which is the large dock at the far right. Public Domain. Wikipedia

800px-London_Dock_Custom_and_Excise_1820.jpg The London Docks, located at Wapping, were the second dock system to be built in London. A large range of items were traded at the London Docks, including: tobacco, marble, bark, rubber, whalebones, iodine, mercury, wool, wax, paper, hemp, coir yarn, rattans, jute, skins, coconuts, sausage skins, rice, fruit, olive oil, fish oil, nuts, sugar, coffee, cocoa, spices, chutney, brandy, wine, rum, and sherry. 

Early on, the London Docks dealt with the tobacco and wool trade. The ‘Tobacco Warehouse’ covered five acres of land and was rented by the government for around £15,600 per year. Making £2.6 million per annum, the ‘Great Wool-Floor’ at the London Dock was famous for its weekly public sales of wool, with some 25,000 bales sold every week. It employed 200 men. The London Dock was granted a monopoly for 21 years that declared that vessels entering the Port of London with cargoes of tobacco, rice, wine and brandy (except vessels from the East and West Indies) were required to unload at London Docks. The vaults at the London Docks held liquor, tobacco and other precious goods in bond. Police guarded the merchandise, which was often opened for inspection. Customs and Excise and merchants held ‘tasting permits.’

Initially, sailing vessels were brought into the London Docks. Fortunately, as the ships changed from sails to steam the docks required little rebuilding to accommodate the ships of the 19th century.  However, as vessels increased in size into the 20th century, the docks struggled to cope. As container ships became more popular, the London Docks became unable to cope with their size.


A map of the London Docks in 1831 Henry Robinson Palmer – This file comes from the Bodleian Libraries, a group of research libraries in Oxford University. Public Domain. Wikipedia

Port Cities London provides us these facts regarding the London Docks: 

  • The site covered 20 acres of land. A further 12 acres was developed to create a second dock.
  • The head engineer for the project was John Rennie.
  • The cost of the project was £4 million.
  • Rubble and soil was shipped up the river in barges and laid as the foundations for Pimlico.
  • The dock system consisted of two main basins, the Western Dock and the Eastern Dock, with a small basin known as the Tobacco Dock linking the two.
  • The docks were accessed from the river by three small basins, the Wapping Basin (12.19 metres in width) and the Hermitage Basin (12.19 metres in width) linking the Western Dock and the Shadwell Basin (13.72 metres in width) linking the Eastern Dock.
  • There were 6 quays in the docks, able to berth 302 sailing vessels.
  • There was 50 acres of warehouse space, containing 20 warehouses, 18 sheds and 17 vaults. The vaults covered around 20 acres of cellarage, built with ventilated vaulting.
  • A small permanent workforce was formed within 3 months of opening, including a Superintendent of the Dock and a Dockmaster. However, this was supplemented by a large casual workforce, which could number as many as 3000 labourers.
Posted in British currency, British history, buildings and structures, business, commerce, Georgian England | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Bow Street Runners and The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin, a 2016 Finalist for the Chanticleer International Book Awards

Jeffers-TMDOMD.jpg In my newest cozy mystery, The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin, the character of Thomas Cowan makes a repeat performance. Readers met Cowan as a friend of and former sergeant serving under Colonel Fitzwilliam during the Spanish campaign of the Napoleonic Wars in The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy.

Cowan, a former Bow Street Runner and a man of great intelligence,  is essential to solving the mystery plaguing the Darcy family. But what exactly was a “Runner”?

The Bow Street Runners are often referred to as London’s first professional police force. Originally numbering just eight, Henry Fielding founded the group in 1749. Unlike the “thief takers” of earlier days, the Runners followed strict guidelines and regulations. They were attached to the Bow Street magistrate’s office, hence their name. (“Bow Street Runners and the Maritime Police” JaneAusten.co.uk)

From Old Bailey Online, we learn that the Runners were part of Fielding’s innovations in crime fighting. In the 1730s, magistrates in London and Middlesex set up “rotation offices” where the citizens could find a magistrate available at certain hours each day. One such office was Bow Street, near Covent Gardens. Sir Thomas De Veil set up the magistrate’s office in 1739, but the Fielding brothers (Henry and John) took it over after De Veil’s death in 1749. The original men involved with the office were thief takers sent out on retainers. “Runners” was not a name readily accepted by the men. They preferred “Principal Officer” of Bow Street. The most famous of the time were John Sayer and John Townsend, who amassed a small fortune in their service.

The Runners were certainly the first group to  follow a method of investigation. First, the Fieldings considered the thief takers as essential in fighting the crime found in London’s streets. They investigated crimes for the government, protected the royal family, and traveled about the country to examine crimes. A series of mounted and foot patrols covered the London streets on a regular basis, as well as organizing part-time constables to patrol the major roads leading in and out of London to deter robberies, etc. The Fieldings kept meticulous records of criminals and disseminated the information to decrease the chance of repeated crimes.

The Middlesex Justices Act of 1792 founded seven policing offices in the borough, each with stipendiary magistrates and six constables to investigate crimes in the area. The Thames River Police Office at Wapping (the setting for much of the action of The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin) opened in 1800. One hundred officers patrolled the docks and ship yards from this office. 

9780199695164.jpg Unfortunately, by the 1820s their reputation stood in disarray. Many individuals within the organization associated with common thief takers and were known to look the other way when a crime was not of notice. The government disbanded them in 1839. [J.M. Beattie, The First English Detectives: The Bow Street Runners and the Policing of London, 1750-1840 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)

By the beginning of the 1800s, many defendants who appeared at Old Bailey were appended by salaried officers, who testified at the trials. 

Another book I particularly like on the subject is this one: David J. Cox, A Certain Share of Low Cunning: A History of the Bow Street Runners, 1792-1839 (Portland: Willan Publishing, 2010).


PoMDC Cover-3 copyThe 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.

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery

“Yes, Sir.”

A young clerk rushed forward to greet Darcy, whose arrival set his London household on its ear. After his marriage to Elizabeth Bennet, Darcy sold the smaller bachelor Town house he purchased after reaching his majority and acquired the larger one to accommodate what he hoped would be extended family. Yet, until Elizabeth turned his world on its head, Darcy did not realize how much he would enjoy having a loud, noisy family under his roof.

“How may I serve you, Sir?”

Darcy ran his gloved fingers over his lapel.

“Mr. Darcy to speak to Mr. Cowan.”

The clerk presented a proper obeisance. The man glanced at an appointment log lying open upon the desk.

“Was Mr. Cowan expecting you, Sir?” the clerk asked as he ran his finger down the page, searching for Darcy’s name.

Any other time, Darcy would consider the young man’s loyalty admirable, but this matter with Edward wore Darcy’s patience thin.

“Simply inform Mr. Cowan of my desire to speak to him,” he said with practiced authority.

The clerk glanced over his shoulder as if considering a denial.

“Certainly, Mr. Darcy… if you would care to wait.”

The man motioned to a cluster of straight-backed chairs lining a far wall.

Darcy offered a crisp nod of his head. He did not observe the clerk’s retreat; yet, he knew the clever fellow would inform Cowan of Darcy’s presence.

Instead, Darcy assumed a position by the window to look out upon the busy London street. Cowan chose well for his offices, near enough to Mayfair to be accessible to the haut ton, but equally accessible to London’s swelling middle class.

Quick footsteps upon the polished wood floor announced Cowan’s approach.

“Darcy,” the man called with a ready smile, extending his hand in welcome. “What brings you to London? And how is Mrs. Darcy? I pray your lady is well.”

Darcy accepted Cowan’s hand.

“Mrs. Darcy remains her spectacular self. She is in Oxfordshire with my sister. Elizabeth sends her regards.”

Darcy eyed the lingering clerk.

“If you have a few minutes to spare, I have a need of your services.”

Cowan frowned his curiosity.

“For you I will make time.”

He turned toward his clerk.

“When Mr. Leighton arrives, apologize for the delay, and ask the gentleman to wait. Be certain to provide him a cup of tea.”

The clerk blushed.

“Yes, Sir. Would Mr. Darcy also care for tea?”

Darcy shook off the offer.

“I will be quick, Cowan. I realize you are engaged.”

“Never too occupied for you, Darcy.”

His friend directed Darcy’s steps to a small, but comfortable, office at the rear of the building. The room reflected the former Bow Street Runner’s simple, classic tastes. After they settled, Cowan leaned forward.

“What is so pressing, Darcy?”

Darcy removed his gloves and placed them, along with his hat, on the desk’s corner.

“I have a matter of a personal nature.”

After the Runner’s assistance with his family’s debacle in Dorset, Darcy knew he could trust Thomas Cowan.

“Without warning, the major general abandoned his wife and daughter in Oxfordshire. My sister received but one brief note declaring her husband’s desire to return to his military service and instructing Georgiana to seek a homecoming with me.”

Cowan’s scowl deepened.

“I feared for some time that Edward Fitzwilliam would not willingly encounter his ghosts before they came to claim him.”

Cowan retrieved a small journal from his desk. Opening it, he prepared to write.

“I require all the details you possess. After I determine Mr. Leighton’s issues, I will set my resources into action to learn more of the major general’s trail.”

Despite Darcy’s initial anger with the major general for running off to what was a probable drunken pity-laced birl, Darcy experienced a shiver of dread run down his spine. Perhaps something more sinister occurred: Cowan’s remark emphasized Darcy and Elizabeth’s private concerns.

With anxiety lacing his explanation, Darcy summarized what he knew of Edward’s recent activities, belatedly realizing he lacked the details of what occurred between his sister and his cousin.

“Perhaps I should send to Witney for Elizabeth and Georgiana to join us,” he suggested. “My sister could better address your questions.”

In silence, Cowan studied his notes.

“I think it best we leave the ladies in the country for now. I suspect the major general sought solace in London’s pitch, for it reflects his opinion of his worth.”

Although he would not own it, the investigator’s words reinforced Darcy’s notion of the sword of Damocles above their heads.

Barnes and Noble               

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments