Could a Person Change His Name During the Regency Era?

Was it possible for someone to change his name during the Regency?

I recently purchased An Index to Changes of Name: Under Authority of Act of Parliament or Royal Licence, and Including Irregular Changes from I George III to 64 Victoria, 1790 to 1901 by William Phillimore and Watts Phillimore.

Book Blurb: The sources from which this index has been compiled are several. Primarily it is based on the Changes of Name by Royal licence. For this purpose the volumes of the London Gazette, and also the Dublin Gazette from 1760 to 1901 were examined, but it must be remembered that not all Royal licences are advertised in the Gazettes, though the vast majority are so advertised for obvious reasons of convenience, and often also in the Times and other newspapers. Registration at Heralds’ College only, is a sufficient compliance with the Royal licence granted.

According to many sources I researched, one was not supposed to change one’s first name because it was given at the sacrament of Baptism and established publicly at confirmation. However, it should be noted that the bishops sometimes changed baptismal names at confirmation if he found them displeasing. So, this means if Phoebe’s real name on “Friends” had been Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock as she claimed on the 14th episode of Season 10, the bishop might have taken umbrage at her name, and, certainly, he would have done so if Mike Hannigan, her betrothed, had been originally named “Crap Bag,” as he dares to make his point in the episode’s plot.

One could change his/her surname at any time and as informally as one wished as long as it was not done to cheat creditors or to commit bigamy, commit a crime, or the like. If it was a permanent change one would put a notice in the Times.

The official changes were listed in London’s Gazette.

Between the casual change of name that someone like an actor might do, or for other non-criminal reasons, there was change by royal license. A petition was prepared with the help of a solicitor and the College of Heralds and presented through the College.

There is a fee, of course This can run into the hundreds of pounds. If one changes the name for one’s own pleasure one paid £10. If a will or other document required it, the price went up to £50. Then there was the cost of the advertisements and recording the change in the College of Arms.

The College of Arms website tells us, “A change of name may be evidenced by a deed poll prepared by an officer of arms and entered into the official records of the College of Arms. The change of name is gazetted in the London Gazette. The person whose name is changed need not be a person entitled to arms. A deed poll which has been prepared elsewhere may also be entered into the College registers. 

“A surname may also be altered or changed by Royal Licence. Arms granted to one family can only be transferred to another person not in legitimate male line of descent from the original grantee by means of a Royal Licence, followed by an exemplification of the arms. A Royal Licence is usually granted, on the advice of the Secretary of State for Justice, where the petitioner is required by a clause in a will to assume the name and arms of the testator, in order to inherit a legacy, but voluntary applications are also entertained.

“A petition for such a Royal Licence is drafted by an officer of arms for signature by the petitioner. It is then submitted on his or her behalf by the officer of arms to the Ministry of Justice, who forward it to Buckingham Palace. A resulting Royal Licence and any subsequent exemplification of arms must be recorded in the official registers of the College of Arms to be valid.”

Were there actual people of the era who changed their surnames?

The Earl of Jersey’s title was created in 1697 for the statesman Edward Villiers, 1st Viscount Villiers, Ambassador to France from 1698 to 1699 and Secretary of State for the Southern Department from 1699 to 1700. He had already been created Baron Villiers, of Hoo in the County of Kent, and Viscount Villiers, of Dartford in the County of Kent, in 1691, also in the Peerage of England. George Child-Villers, 5th Earl of Jersey, was a Tory politician and served as Lord Chamberlain of the Household  and as Master of the Horse. Lord Jersey married Sarah Sophia (died 1867), daughter of John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, and his wife Sarah Anne (died 1793), daughter of Robert Child. Through this marriage the private bank Child & Co. came into the Villiers family. On account of the considerable wealth brought to the family through this marriage, in 1819, Lord Jersey assumed by Royal licence the surname and arms of Child, and since then the branch of the family has been known as Child-Villiers.

Lord Byron FAQ tells us how George Gordon became George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron. “In 1798, he inherited lands and title as Lord Byron, with the estate of Newstead Abbey in Nottingham and Baron Byron of Rochdale in Lancashire. A confusion arises because his title and surname are the same.

“He was addressed as The Right Honourable Lord Byron (by strangers and on the outside of letters) and as Byron (the title, not the name) by friends. Intimates seem to have actually called him ‘B’, but this may just be the convention of the time to abbreviate names to initials in writing, but possibly not in fact. Servants would have said ‘My Lord’ but an intimately beloved housemaid, Susan Vaughn, addressed her letters to ‘My Dearest Friend’ and his wife addressed a letter to him, ‘My Dearest Duck’.

When his mother-in-law died, a stipulation of her will was that, in order to inherit, her beneficiaries must take her family name. Byron added it to his and became George Gordon Noel Byron in 1822. He also added it to his signature.”

Other Sources: 

You might enjoy Nancy Mayer Regency Researcher‘s take on the subject of name changes. 

BBC History gives us “What’s in a Name?”

Roger Darlington also gives us a piece called “What’s in a Name?” presents “Georgian Era Names”

FYI, if you are interested: Gov.UK gives specific directions on how to change one’s name by deed poll HERE.

I did a similar post previously that contains additional information (and some repeats). You may find it HERE

Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, Church of England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Annulments, Divorces, Criminal Conversation in the Regency + Release of “The Heartless Earl” + a Giveaway


Crim. Con. Actions and Trials and Other Proceedings Relating ... www.lawbookexchange. com

Crim. Con. Actions and Trials and Other Proceedings Relating …

First, permit me to say that in the Regency period, divorces were few. They were expensive. The Church of England opposed divorce as vehemently as did the Roman Catholic church. The Church of England only permitted a “legal separation,” which was termed a “divorce,” a fact that blows the mind of the modern reader. To claim a divorce (the right to marry another), the man first had to seek the “legal separation” on the ground of adultery on the part of his wife. He also had to sue the wife’s lover for “criminal conversation” (alienation of affection) in a different court. The “lover” would be found guilty of “illegal intercourse,” and the court would award the husband damages. The next step would be to petition Parliament to end his marriage. Testimony would be taken regarding the circumstances. This testimony would be published in the newspapers, which meant a quiet end to a marriage was not possible. At length, the bill/petition would be agreed upon, and the couple were free to marry others. 

CRIMINAL CONVERSATION -- [Trials for Adultery: or, the History of Divorces. London: S. Bladon, 1780.] | Books & Manuscripts Auction | Books & Manuscripts, printed books | Christie's CRIMINAL CONVERSATION -- [Trials for Adultery: or, the History of Divorces. London: S. Bladon, 1780.]

CRIMINAL CONVERSATION — [Trials for Adultery: or, the History of Divorces. London: S. Bladon, 1780.] | Books & Manuscripts Auction | Books & Manuscripts, printed books | Christie’s
CRIMINAL CONVERSATION — [Trials for Adultery: or, the History of Divorces. London: S. Bladon, 1780.]

Less than a handful of women earned successful divorces during the period. Those who achieved a divorce did so my claiming the husband committed adultery with the wife’s sister. In Scotland, however, both husbands and wives could sue for a divorce. Two conditions existed for such a divorce: The couple had to reside in Scotland for a minimum of six weeks, and the adultery had to be committed in Scotland proper. Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey (Lord Paget) originally married Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers (by whom he fathered 8 children), but in 1809, he eloped to Scotland with Lady Charlotte Cadogan Wellesley, the wife of Lord Henry Wellesley. Paget’s wife divorced him in late 1810. Afterwards, he married Lady Charlotte, with whom he sired 10 children. (See my post on Scandalous Marriage)

Generally annulments were hard to obtain, and, more than likely, involved either the court system or the House of Lords, if one was a peer. The exception would be a void marriage. For example, a minor who married by special license without the guardian’s permission or a marriage through an elopement to Scotland that was not consummated would not require an annulment, but rather be declared “void.” Even so, the courts could potentially become involved, especially if one required “legal proof” of the marriage’s end. [I used a variation of this situation in freeing Lydia Bennet from Mr. Wickham in my Pride and Prejudice vagary, A Dance with Mr. Darcy.]



A common plot in Regency based novels is a temporary marriage between the hero and heroine, with the assumption of an annulment based on non-consummation of the marriage after six months to a year. The issue is that not consummating the marriage was not grounds for an annulment in this historical period. Consummation could strengthen a claim of marriage in Scotland and could throw doubt in a claim of being forced into marriage, but non consummation was not grounds to annul a marriage. The church always assumed that the couple would get around to it sooner or later if able. 

Now impotence and real frigidity were grounds, as was a physical incapacity due to some deformity of the parts, for an annulment. An impenetrable hymen was also grounds though that could be fixed by a surgeon. However, few men would submit to such an examination, one designed to prove they could not consummate the marriage. If a person were insane at the time of the marriage that could earn the spouse an annulment. Also, an annulment would be granted if there was proof of a living spouse or proof of a blood relationship to the spouse (father, mother, or sibling of the spouse) or a marriage connection such as was addressed in my post on voidable marriages (in laws, etc.) Collins Hemingway in “Brotherly Love,” tells us, “Therefore, the marriage of Jane’s brother Charles to Harriet Palmer after the death of his first wife was “voidable” because Harriet was Fanny’s sister. As explained in Martha Bailey’s article in The Marriage Law of Jane Austen’s World (Persuasions, Winter 2015), this sisterhood created a prohibition by ‘affinity’ (marriage) as strong as one by blood. The logic was: Because Fanny and Harriet were related by blood, and because husband and wife became one flesh upon consummation, then Charles would also be related to Harriet by blood. This thinking applied equally for a woman who married the brother of her dead husband.

“‘Voidable’ in Charles’ case did not necessarily mean ‘voided.’ Someone—most likely a relative seeking to grab an inheritance—would have to sue to have the marriage voided and any children declared illegitimate. Charles never had enough money for anyone to bother trying to disinherit his four children by Harriet.”

Also, in the Regency period an annulment based on fraud was customarily found in the question of parental permission.

Number One London. Join us as we explore Regency, Georgian and ... onelondonone.blogspot. com ~ Fleet Prison Marriages

Number One London. Join us as we explore Regency, Georgian and …
com ~ Fleet Prison Marriages

Permit me to stray a bit from the Regency period, but to address “annulment” and “fraud” across the board. “The history of the law involving annulments based on fraud is instructive. Even going quite far back in…history, annulment laws… have generally included “fraud” as one of the available grounds. But not every proven case of deception results in a decree of annulment. Courts have often refused to nullify marriages for fraud if the innocent party was willfully blind to the truth or too easily fooled by statements made during courtship.

“Courts also require that the fraud induce the marriage: The duped spouse had to show that he or she genuinely relied on the misrepresentation in deciding to go through with the marriage. An appellate court in Missouri denied an annulment in Blair v. Blair in 2004, even though the wife fraudulently misrepresented to her husband, before he agreed to marry her, that he was the father of her child. The court concluded that he had other reasons for marrying her and thus did not rely on the misrepresentation in making his decision.

“Even when a solid case of fraud is proven, courts might decide that it is outweighed by countervailing factors. A long marriage is harder to annul than a short one; a consummated marriage is harder to annul than an unconsummated one; and a marriage that has produced children was harder to annul than one with an empty nest.

“Perhaps the most important limitation built in to the traditional approach to fraud-based annulments is the requirement that the misrepresentation relate to an essential aspect of marriage. Courts did not, for the most part, apply traditional contract principles when defining fraud in the marriage context. (Those principles would allow rescission of a contract for fraud that is material — i.e., an intentional misstatement but for which the defrauded party would have refused to enter into the agreement.) But “fraud” in the annulment context was generally construed more strictly, to include only those misrepresentations that went to the heart of marriage – and not just the particular marriage in question, but any marriage.” (FindLawLying about circumstances was not fraud.  

Annulments were not granted simply for someone claiming he/she was forced into the marriage. At first force was considered only as more than a reasonable man could withstand. Over the period of time the laws acknowledged that women were weaker and less force was necessary. The court did not take into consideration such things as a threats. There was no “shotgun weddings.” Being drunk at the wedding was not a reason for an annulment, as long as one knew one what one was doing.

bannsInsanity, an accepted reason for an annulment, had to be present previous to the wedding. Simplemindedness came under that category as well.  The age at which a person could consent to a marriage was 12, but there were instances of children married at 7. However, when the girl reached age 12 she could get out of it. The boy do the same at age 14. Marriages could be annulled if the spouse was a previous in law or if one was impotent. Invalid marriages were those by minors by license without proper permission or was bigamous. Also not conducted  in proper form.

“Examples in which annulments were granted by the Anglican Church included being under age, having committed fraud, using force, and lunacy.” (Nyanglish) Even so, 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 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.

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 Centuries.

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

Most people who had void marriage but who appeared as married for sometime or who had a public wedding went through the court system to have the marriage declared officially void.

From a basic litigant perspective, it probably does not matter if the petitioner is a peer or not, but one had to possess money to complete the process. It was expensive. It required an investigation, Canon lawyers, etc. Annulments did not come cheap if the cases were complicated.

What of marriage at sea? As of 1894, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Captains of British ships DID NOT have the right to marry people at sea. People have always been able to marry at sea on an English ship if an Anglican clergyman was aboard. After civil marriages and certificates were introduced, one of the officers of the ship, who might be a captain, could be appointed a marriage officer with the authority to conduct a civil marriage ceremony. Passengers and crew on the high seas in a ship under another flag could marry according to the rules of that country’s flag.

Nor could a marriage be annulled after one of the pair passed. [This was the variation I mentioned above as part of the plot for A Dance with Mr. Darcy.] The only grounds for annulment or declaring a marriage void, even after a person has died, is when the marriage was never valid in the first place. This  usually comes up after the death of the man when heirs presumptive want to declare the supposed son illegitimate and unable to inherit. If the ground on which they  planned to claim an annulment was valid, they were not ever legally married.


The Heartless Earl: A Common Elements Romance Project Novel 

STERLING BAXTER, the Earl of Merritt, has married the woman his father has chosen for him, but the marriage has been everything but comfortable. Sterling’s wife, Lady Claire, came to the marriage bed with a wanton’s experience. She dutifully provides Merritt his heir, but within a fortnight, she deserts father and son for a baron, Lord Lyall Sutherland. In the eyes of the ton, Lady Claire has cuckolded Merritt.

EBBA MAYER, longs for love and adventure. Unfortunately, she’s likely to find neither. As a squire’s daughter, Ebba holds no sway in Society; but she’s a true diamond of the first water. Yet, when she meets Merritt’s grandmother, the Dowager Countess of Merritt creates a “story” for the girl, claiming if Ebba is presented to the ton as a war widow with a small dowry, the girl will find a suitable match.

LORD LYALL SUTHERLAND remains a thorn in Merritt’s side, but when the baron makes Mrs. Mayer a pawn in his crazy game of control, Merritt offers the woman his protection. However, the earl has never faced a man who holds little strength of title, but who wields great power; and he finds himself always a step behind the enigmatic baron. When someone frames Merritt for Lady Claire’s sudden disappearance, Merritt must quickly learn the baron’s secrets or face a death sentence.

The Common Elements Romance Project includes a variety of authors and genres, as well as settings, each including the same FIVE elements hidden within their novels. Those elements (in no particular order) are…

a Lightning Storm

a Set of Lost Keys

a Haunted House (or the Rumor of Its Being Haunted)

a Stack of Thick Books

a Character Called “Max”


Excerpt: (Sterling and his wife appear at the same social function.)

Sterling stood at the portal leading to the card room. He had watched closely as Mr. Reed had claimed Mrs. Mayer’s hand for the opening set, and how Brayton had obviously claimed more of her time. Sterling would have enjoyed escorting the lady through, at least, one of the evening’s sets. He could not remember the last time he had danced—likely before he had courted Claire.

Yet, he had remained in the shadows, naming himself the coward. He had purposely remained in the country these past two years, only returning to Town when Parliament required his influence or his vote on key issues. Often he had wondered on the sanity of permitting Claire free rein, but his only alternative would be a very public divorce. “Perhaps after Gram passes,” he had told himself on more than one occasion. “Then, only I would know the controversy.”

However, since accepting Mrs. Mayer into his household, Sterling had considered a different life from the one he had constructed after Claire’s desertion. “I deserve a wife and other children,” he had said to his father’s portrait in the gallery only yesterday afternoon. When in residence at Baxter Hall, he had often held “discussions” with his late father’s image. “I am not saying Mrs. Mayer would make the perfect mate.” He recognized his father’s likely disapproval of the widow. “Yet, I would enjoy a relationship with the woman I have married, and I want Jamie to know the attentions of a generous heart.”

Now, as he continued to watch, Mrs. Mayer good-naturedly laughed her way through a raucous country-dance with Mr. Reed before summoning a stately attitude to match the gentleman during the minuet. Sterling had marveled at her ability to adapt to any situation. As he watched her from his place beside a large palm, a smile crept across his face. She brought life to those about her.

“Do not sulk in the shadows,” his grandmother ordered.

“Who says I am sulking?”

“If you allow that woman to ruin this evening for Ebba and for yourself,” she charged, “I shall disinherit you.”

Sterling laughed softly. “I do not require your money, Gram. I am a rich man.”

“Even a rich man requires more in life than his fortune and his own company. I grow weary of seeing you alone, Sterling James.”

Her use of his full name Sterling James Baxter told him she meant her words. “Would you have me take a mistress, your ladyship?”

She stepped before him. “I would have you free yourself from that common tart. You are a good man, Sterling. Seize the opportunity—no matter what the cost.”

He kept his eyes on the dance floor, ashamed to meet the eyes of the woman who had raised him. “A divorce is an unprecedented move. It would drown the family name in scandal.”

“Do you think at my age a bit of scandal would ruffle my feathers?” The countess took a step closer to him. “You are what matters, Sterling. You were always what was important in my life.”

However, before he could respond, his face reddened with anger. “What does he want?” he hissed.

The countess turned to see Sutherland bowing before Ebba. “Stop him,” she ordered. “Claire is behind this.”



Posted in Act of Parliament, American History, British history, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Realities of Marriage in the Regency Era + the Release of “The Heartless Earl” + a Giveaway


In chapter six of volume one of Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet provide us several tidbits regarding the success of a marriage during the Georgian era. 

~  “If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him; and it will then be but poor consolation to believe the world equally in the dark. There is so much of gratitude or vanity in almost every attachment, that it is not safe to leave any to itself. We can all begin freely — a slight preference is natural enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better shew more affection than she feels.”

~ “But if a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavour to conceal it, he must find it out.”

~ “When she is secure of him, there will be leisure for falling in love as much as she chuses.”

~ “As yet, she cannot even be certain of the degree of her own regard, nor of its reasonableness. She has known him only a fortnight. She danced four dances with him at Meryton; she saw him one morning at his own house, and has since dined in company with him four times. This is not quite enough to make her understand his character.”

~ “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always contrive to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”

In my latest Regency release, The Heartless Earl, Sterling Baxter, the Earl of Merritt, has married a woman who left him as quickly as she gave birth to their son. He is cuckolded in the eyes of Society. Trapped in a marriage neither he nor Lady Merritt wish. So what were some of the realities of marriage in the Georgian era, specifically the Regency?

N-6301-00-000032-A3_bg 2.jpg

First off, remaining unmarried did not equal freedom for a woman of the Georgian era, rather she customarily experienced a life of penury, always at the mercy of benevolent relatives. Even Austen suffered after her father’s passing, which makes Charlotte Lucas’s speech regarding Mr. Collins evoke more sympathy: “You must be surprised, very much surprised—so lately as Mr. Collins was wishing to marry you. But when you have had time to think it over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done. I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’ character, connection, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” However, when a woman married the important decisions of her life passed from her father’s control to that of a husband. Marriage was a lifelong contract between a man and a woman. It was a crap shoot, so to speak. Divorce was expensive and VERY public. Most couples avoided even the thought of such an act.

The Bastardy Act of 1733 created something called Knobstick Weddings. A knobstick wedding is the forced marriage of a pregnant single woman with the man known or believed to be the father. It derives its name from the staves of office carried by the church wardens whose presence was intended to ensure that the ceremony took place.The practice and the term were most prevalent in the United Kingdom in the 18th century. Motivation for these arrangements was primarily financial–local parishes were obliged to provide relief for single mothers under the laws regarding relief for the poor. After the passing of the Bastardy Act in 1733, it became the responsibility of the father to pay for the maintenance of the child. Local authorities therefore encouraged the woman to enter into a marriage with the person presumed to be the father in an attempt to reduce their spending and shift the responsibility to the identified man. On some occasions the parish would pay the man to marry the girl, while there are also accounts of more aggressive tactics. In one case, recorded in the 6 October 1829 edition of The Times, a man was coerced into marrying the woman he was accused of making pregnant. The authorities, referred to as the parish overseers, threatened to hang him if he did not go through with the arrangement. Feeling that he had no option, he agreed to the marriage and the pair were wed. However, those responsible for forcing the partnership were later called to face charges of fraudulently procuring the marriage.” [Knobstick Wedding]

Fildes_Sir_Luke_The_Wedding.jpgMarriage, whether it was rushed or planned for months on end, was a very public affair, one designed not only to announce the ceremony, but to assure the public that the man meant to support his new wife. If a widow remarried, some would do so in what was known as a smock wedding. The custom saw the man marrying a woman who was naked or dressed only in a smock. In the 1700s in America, quite of few of these weddings occurred, a left-over custom by those escaping England. The idea was if the woman appeared naked or in her underclothes that it absolved her from anyone collecting upon the woman’s debts or in case of a widow, from collecting upon her late husband’s debts. The idea was that a groom who possessed anything bought by a bride or her deceased husband would possess their indebtedness as well. The smock wedding prevented this situation. When marrying bricklayer Richard Elcock at Bishop’s Waltham in September 1775, it was observed that widow Judith Redding “went into one of the pews in the church, stript herself of all her cloaths except her shift, in which only she went to the altar, and was married, much to the astonishment of the parson, clerk, &c.” [A Survivor’s Guide to a Georgian Wedding]

A Survivor’s Guide to a Georgian Wedding also speaks of the devastating effect on women of being widowed, but also of being deserted by their husbands. If a widow, it was often imperative that the woman wed again. She not only depended upon the good graces of her new husband for her support, but the woman would need his support of any of her children still at home. Having her husband desert her for whatever reason left the woman in limbo (death on the battlefield, a criminal offense, abandonment, etc.).  She could not remarry or have legitimate children. If the man chose not to take care of her and provide for her, she could easily fall into poverty and be driven into the workhouse.


Introducing The Heartless Earl: A Common Elements Romance Project Novel

STERLING BAXTER, the Earl of Merritt, has married the woman his father has chosen for him, but the marriage has been everything but comfortable. Sterling’s wife, Lady Claire, came to the marriage bed with a wanton’s experience. She dutifully provides Merritt his heir, but within a fortnight, she deserts father and son for a baron, Lord Lyall Sutherland. In the eyes of the ton, Lady Claire has cuckolded Merritt.

EBBA MAYER, longs for love and adventure. Unfortunately, she’s likely to find neither. As a squire’s daughter, Ebba holds no sway in Society; but she’s a true diamond of the first water. Yet, when she meets Merritt’s grandmother, the Dowager Countess of Merritt creates a “story” for the girl, claiming if Ebba is presented to the ton as a war widow with a small dowry, the girl will find a suitable match.

LORD LYALL SUTHERLAND remains a thorn in Merritt’s side, but when the baron makes Mrs. Mayer a pawn in his crazy game of control, Merritt offers the woman his protection. However, the earl has never faced a man who holds little strength of title, but who wields great power; and he finds himself always a step behind the enigmatic baron. When someone frames Merritt for Lady Claire’s sudden disappearance, Merritt must quickly learn the baron’s secrets or face a death sentence.

The Common Elements Romance Project includes a variety of authors and genres, as well as settings, each including the same FIVE elements hidden within their novels. Those elements (in no particular order) are…

a Lightning Storm

a Set of Lost Keys

a Haunted House (or the Rumor of Its Being Haunted)

a Stack of Thick Books

a Character Called “Max”

Excerpt: (Sterling and Ebba’s first meeting does not go so well.)

“Where is my grandmother?” Sterling demanded.

Fortunately, her ladyship’s maid waited for him in the common room. He should berate the woman for not attending to her mistress, but he possessed no time for foolish servants.

“This way, my lord.” Alberta led him through the common room and up the stairs.

When the maid held the door for him, he beheld only his grandmother’s fragile form on the bed. Fearing the worst, he rushed to her side, completely oblivious to the nondescript woman seated on the bed’s edge. “I am here, Gram,” he whispered hoarsely as he caressed her cheek. “It is Sterling.”

Her eyes flitted open and then closed again, but she gave him the hint of a smile. Sterling leaned forward to kiss her cheek.

“Did you bring her ladyship’s medication?” a voice behind him demanded.

Sterling reached into his inside pocket and removed the powder packets the physician had provided him. He extended his arm to the side, but his eyes never left his grandmother’s face. “Here.”

“Thank God.” The woman snatched them from his fingers. “Alberta, fetch fresh water and a clean glass.”

“Yes, miss.”

Sterling caught his grandmother’s hand in his. He rubbed it gently between his two. “Do you remember how you used to rub my hands just like this? I was so foolish. I would rush outside to build snowmen and forget my gloves. But you never reprimanded me for being a boy. You would laugh and then tend to my frozen fingertips with the most gentle touch.” He stroked the rheumatic hand with his fingertips. “Gram, Jamie desperately requires your touch as much as I once did. He has no one to love him but we two.”

* * *

Ebba watched in fascination as the earl tended his grandmother. Tears misted her eyes at seeing his gentleness. She had always longed for someone to care for her. Had never known it within her own family. Surprisingly, she felt a twinge of jealousy. What she would not give to have someone’s undeniable devotion. Such had been her dream for as long as she could remember. But the likelihood of such love would ever exist for her. Instead, she must choose a different route: an adventure to fill her days when no one else cared to think upon her.

“Here, miss.” Alberta returned with a fresh ewer of water.

Ebba poured a glass. “What is the dosage?” she said to the earl’s back.

“The whole packet,” he ordered without turning around.

Ebba stirred the powder into the glass to dissolve it. “If you will support her ladyship, sir, I shall spoon in the medicine.”

The earl stood and maneuvered into the tight space where he might lift the countess to a seated position. He braced her against his shoulder and held her head securely in place without Ebba needing to instruct him.

“Countess,” Ebba encouraged. “His lordship has brought your medication, ma’am.” She gently tapped the countess’s chin. “I shall feed you spoonfuls.”

Thankfully, the woman opened her eyes. “Ebba,” she murmured.

“Yes, ma’am. It is Ebba. I am here, and so is your grandson, Lord Merritt. We shall personally see to your care.” She began to spoon in the medicine. After each mouthful, she held the countess mouth closed and waited for the woman to swallow before offering another.

* * *

Sterling dutifully braced his grandmother’s frail body and waited for the woman to tend to his kin. He had thought the stranger unremarkable, but then he had looked upon her face. Heart shaped. Sun kissed skin. Reddish gold hair pulled back in a tight braid. Several strands had worked their way loose and brushed her cheeks and ears with the lightest of wisps and his fingers itched to touch them. The sun streaked across her features, emphasizing the fatigue that marked the lines around her mouth, but it was still a pouty mouth, one begging to be kissed properly. And she sported the bluest eyes he had ever beheld. The sunlight glistened off her eyelashes in flakes of gold, making the blue mesmerizingly enticing. Sterling forgot to breathe as he concentrated on her. Her small breasts pushed against the square neckline of her dress. And desire went straight to his groin. Barely seven hours earlier, he had taken his pleasure in Abbey’s soft and very curvy body, but somehow this was different. This woman did not flaunt her wares.

* * *

Ebba spooned the medication into the countess’s mouth, but she was completely aware of the man who supported Lady Merritt’s back. She could feel his concern for his grandmother. It was fierce. Primitive even. Protection with which she held few personal examples, but thankful to view its existence. From her eye’s corner, she could see his long fingers holding his grandmother’s shoulders. His hands fascinated her. They spoke of strength and love and dependability. Then she foolishly raised her eyes to meet his. Steel-gray. Nearly black. Framed by dark brows. Dark pools so deep, she sat transfixed.

“Is that all, miss? Anything else I should fetch her ladyship?” Alberta asked from somewhere behind Ebba.

She blushed. “That…that should be adequate,” she stammered. She placed the glass and spoon on the end table. “Do you wish to sit up, your ladyship?” She reached to straighten the countess’s clothing.

The earl moved from behind his grandmother. “Here, Gram. Permit me to assist you.” He gently lifted the woman as Alberta adjusted the pillows. Then he sat beside the countess again. “You gave me quite a scare. Thank goodness Lord Brayton knew to come to Baxter Hall.”

His grandmother motioned to the water pitcher, and he poured some in an empty glass before bracing her again so she might sip. Finally, she said, “I suspect Ebba sent the viscount.”

“Ebba?” Lord Merritt turned her. “Would that be you, miss?” She could hear the caution in his tones.

Instinctively, her chin rose in defiance. It appeared that the countess was the exception in the Baxter family. “I am Ebba Mayer, sir.”

He stared at her as if considering her for the first time. “Ah, yes. Lord Brayton mentioned you.” He stood and offered Ebba a bow. “I thank you, ma’am, for your attention to her ladyship. It was most kind of you to give up your travels to remain with the countess.” His words were meant as a dismissal—an arrogant dismissal, at that.

“No, Sterling.” His grandmother reached for his hand. “You do not understand.” She paused to catch her breath. “I have asked.” Pause. “Mrs. Mayer…to be my companion.” Pause. “And I shall provide her…my sponsorship for the Season.”

Lord Merritt stiffened, and he eyed Ebba cautiously. “From the time I returned to London to your departure from Yorkshire, you have made Mrs. Mayer’s acquaintance and taken on her sponsorship?” He stood by the countess’s bed and held her frail hand, but he did not remove his eyes from Ebba. “What might we know of Mrs. Mayer?”

“I know all I need to know, Sterling.” Pause. “Without Ebba, I would not have survived the night,” the countess declared. “Her quick thinking made the difference.”

He replied, “Then the lady has earned my deepest gratitude.” However, his body language spoke of his suspicions. Ebba recognized his critical eye: The earl had assessed her plain clothing and had drawn the conclusion she had taken advantage of his grandmother’s kindness. He said with circumspection, “I believe I will seek a room. At Mrs. Mayer’s suggestion, I have requested the traveling coach. When you have recovered, we will return to London in style.” He squeezed his grandmother’s hand.

Holding silent, Ebba lifted her chin and ignored the earl’s glare. “Alberta, shall you require assistance with her ladyship’s needs?”

“No, miss. I can attend the countess.”

“Then I shall freshen my things. I shall order a tray, Lady Merritt,” she said with more confidence than she felt. “Let us see if you can eat something.” Ebba started toward the door.

As she expected he would do, the earl followed. “May I have a word, Mrs. Mayer?” He caught her elbow and directed her to the hallway, politely closing the door behind him. Then he guided her along the passage. “Which is yours?”

She pulled up, breaking his hold. “I am afraid, sir, that despite my affection for your grandmother, I shall not entertain you in my chambers.”

Surprisingly, he reached for her again, jerking her into his body. “When I ask for something, Mrs. Mayer, I am not in the habit of being denied,” he hissed.

In bold disobedience, she stared intensely in his eyes, her pure fury unmistakable. “I would have thought you had had your pleasure satisfied already today,” she challenged.

Lord Merritt set his mouth in a tight line. “Explain, Mrs. Mayer.”

Undaunted, she accused, “Even after riding for hours across the English countryside, you still reek of your ladybird.” She could not disguise the look of triumph from her features when he reacted to her charge. His cheeks knew a slight flush of color.

“How does a genteel lady even know the word ladybird?” He gave her a little shake to emphasize his point.

Despite being held awkwardly against him, Ebba straightened her shoulders. “First, I never claimed sophisticated breeding,” she declared. “I am but a gentleman’s daughter and a squire’s sister; yet, I can attest neither ever came home from a night with their women, clothes rumpled, unshaven, and covered with the scent of a woman’s perfume. I suppose I should have pretended not to notice, but acting was never my strong point.” She braced herself for his retort.

The earl gritted his teeth in what appeared to be frustration. “Ours is not a conversation I care to have in this dark passageway,” he growled, but then swallowed his next remark before saying more calmly, “You will join me, Mrs. Mayer, in the inn’s private room for supper.”

His demand had surprised her, and she found herself saying, “As you wish, Lord Merritt. Now if you will pardon me, I wish to freshen my clothing before returning to your grandmother’s care.” Defiantly, she broke his grasp and strode away.


Knobstick Wedding –

Naked and Smock Weddings of Early New England

A Survivor’s Guide to a Georgian Wedding


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Press Gangs in the Regency Era

press gang

HMS Acasta: August 2013 A Gentleman’s guide to staying out of His Majesty’s Royal Navy.

Press gangs operated in England from medieval times, but during the war years the “tradition” was increased. In fact, the pressing of free men into military service was considered a royal prerogative. Pressgangs claimed many innocents who stumbled into the wrong area. Men were taken against their will from streets and country roads. They were captured through violence and placed onboard ship, bound and caged, until the ship left port. No one knows how many of Great Britain’s sailors were “pressed” into service. Not all who sailed upon British ships were countrymen. Some were Americans or those taken from the West Indies. The taken men were often wounded in their struggles. Many died from a lack of treatment. 

“The class on whom it fell, however, found little sympathy from society. They were rogues and vagabonds, who were held to be better employed in defence of their country, than in plunder and mendicancy. During the American war, impressment was permitted in the case of all idle and disorderly persons, not following any lawful trade or having some substance sufficient for their maintenance. Such men were seized upon, without compunction, and hurried to the war. It was a dangerous license, repugnant to the free spirit of our laws; and, in later times, the state has trusted to bounties and the recruiting sergeant, and not to impressment, — for strengthening its land forces.” – The constitutional history of England since the accession of George Third, 1760-1860, Volume 2 (Google eBook), Thomas Erskine May, 1866, pp. 261-262.

We must recall that there was no organized police force to protect the men upon the street or to investigate a family’s report of a missing relative. Even those who served their duty were not “free” an additional impressment. Some men were recaptured and placed on another ship. 


Press-gang Protection Paper

“Impressment was restricted by law to seamen, who, being most needed for the fleet, chiefly suffered from the violence of the press-gangs. They were taken on the coast, or seized on board merchant ships, like criminals: ships at sea were rifled of their crews, and left without sufficient hands to take them safely into port. Nay, we even find soldiers employed to assist the pressgangs: villages invested by a regular force: sentries standing with fixed bayonets; and churches surrounded, during divine service, to seize seamen for the fleet.

The lawless press-gangs were no respecters of persons. In vain did apprentices and landsmen claim exemption. They were skulking sailors in disguise, or would make good seamen at the first scent of salt-water; and were carried off to the sea ports. Press-gangs were the terror of citizens and apprentices in London, of laborers in villages, and of artisans in the remotest inland towns. Their approach was dreaded like the invasion of a foreign enemy. To escape their swoop, men forsook their trades and families and fled, — or armed themselves for resistance. Their deeds have been recounted in history, in fiction, and in song. Outrages were of course deplored; but the navy was the pride of England, and every one agreed that it must be recruited. In vain were other means suggested for manning the fleet, — higher wages, limited service, and increased pensions. Such schemes were doubtful expedients: the navy could not be hazarded: press-gangs must still go forth and execute their rough commission, or England would be lost. And so impressment prospered. – The constitutional history of England since the accession of George Third, 1760-1860, Volume 2 (Google eBook), Thomas Erskine May, 1866, pp. 261-262.


Impressment – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Pitt brought in a Quota Act in 1795. This act stated how many men each shire was to provide for service. Men convicted of a crime resulting in imprisonment could choose between prison or service in the British Navy. This act reduced the practice of impressment, but during the Napoleonic Wars, stealing men from the streets to press into service still existed. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the practice died out. 

PoMDC Cover-3 copy 2I used pressgangs as a plot point in my award-winning mystery, The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin


Posted in British history, British Navy, Georgian England, Great Britain, history, Living in the Regency, Napoleonic Wars, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Treatment of Typhus Upon the Russian Front During the Napoleonic Campaign

In the year 1817, a Prussian army physician by the name of Krantz published a medical history of the treatment of typhus during the Napoleonic campaign in Russia. It was entitled: Bemerkungen ueber den Gang der Krankheiten welche in der koniglich preussischen Armee vom Ausbruch des Krieges im Jahre 1812 bis zu Ende des Waffenstillstandes (im Aug.) 1813 geherrscht haben, which is translated as “Remarks on the course of the Diseases which have reigned in the Royal Prussian Army from the Beginning of the War in the Year 1812 until the End of the Armistice [in August] 1813.”


According to Krantz, the soldiers of the Grande Armée (Grand Army) had brought more than the destruction of war to the Russian front. Whole families, especially those with whom the French soldiers had dwelled, were stricken down by typhus. The Prussian soldiers of York’s corps supposedly did not know the disease until they followed the French’s retreat. Krantz reports that the Prussian army corps knew rapidly knew typhus. He also records another phenomenon: There was a certain uniformity among the different divisions. “On account of the overflowing of the rivers, the men had to march closely together on the road, at least until they passed the Vistula near Dirschau, Moeve, and Marienwerder. Of the rapid extent of the infection we can form an idea when we learn the following facts: In the first East Prussian regiment of infantry, when it came to the Vistula, there was not a single case of typhus, while after a march of 14 miles on the highway which the French had passed before them, there were 15 to 20 men sick in every company, every tenth or even every seventh man. In those divisions which had been exposed to infection while in former cantonments, the cases were much more numerous, 20 to 30 in every company.” (“The Treatment of Typhus,”

In addition to the typhus outbreak, epidemic ophthalmy spread through some of the divisions. A common “causal nexus” connected the two diseases. However, it was noted that the two ailments never attacked the same individual. It was as if typhus gave the patient an immunity against ophthalmy and vice versa. Ironically, Krantz and the other physicians discovered the diseases were often “cured” by the cold of the march. “We found confirmed, says Krantz, what had been asserted a long time before by experienced physicians, that cold air had the most beneficial effect during the inflammatory stage of contagious typhus.” (“The Treatment of Typhus,”

Those suffering from typhus were dressed in warm clothing to protect them from the cold and placed on a wagon to be covered completely by straw. The wagons followed the retreating troops, but they stopped frequently so the patients could be given a tea of “Infusum Chamomillae, species aromaticarum, etc., with or without wine or spiritus sulphuricus aetherius.” Those suffering from typhus were given several cupfuls of the mixture to warm them. The soldiers’ hands and feet were wrapped in rags to prevent frostbite.300px-Napoleons_retreat_from_moscow

At night, those infected were crowded into makeshift hospitals. Those with typhus were separated from those needing other medical treatments, often being placed in barns or larger homes – all filled to capacity and then some. “All the hospitals between the Vistula and Berlin, constantly overfilled, were thoroughly infected, and thus transformed into regular pest-houses exhaling perdition to everyone who entered, the physicians and attendants included. On the other hand, most of the patients who were treated on the march recovered. Of the 31 cases of typhus of the 2d. battalion of the infantry guards reported from Tilsit to Tuchel, only one died, while the remaining 30 regained their health completely, a statistical result as favorable as has hardly ever happened in the best regulated hospital and which is the more surprising on account of the severe form of the disease at that time.” (“The Treatment of Typhus,”

Krantz goes on to say that of 330 patients in the first East Prussian regiment of infantry, 300 recovered and 30 were sent to hospitals in Elbing, Maerkisch, Friedland, Conitz, and Berlin. None died. What was discovered was the cold prevented the spread of the disease. Keeping the patients in the wagons and moving about the countryside did not permit the disease to brew and develop into a death sentence. For most patients, three days after they had been free from fever for 24 hours they were fit to rejoin their units.

As opposed to the customary treatment of the time, which included the exclusion of fresh air and the hourly administration of medication, those treated on the march experienced a 2-3% mortality rate.1024px-Myrbach-Cossacks

Note: I used this research as part of my Regency era based novel, A Touch of Honor (Book 7 of the Realm Series).ATOHCrop2

Posted in British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, medicine, military, Napoleonic Wars, real life tales, Realm series, Regency era, research, science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Mistress of the House, OR What Elizabeth Bennet Darcy Did at Pemberley, a Guest Post from Catherine Bilson

This post originally appeared on Austen Authors on August 15, 2019. 

What Elizabeth Bennet’s life would have been like once she became Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley is the subject of a good many Austen variations out there, and it’s been something I’ve been considering recently as I work on Anne de Bourgh’s Diary, a story which commences on the day of Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding. Though Lizzy was lucky enough to have Mrs. Reynolds, an extremely experienced housekeeper, to help her, there would still have been tasks she would have had to take on herself as the new mistress of Pemberley.

Of course, Elizabeth was ‘the daughter of a gentleman’, from an estate which, while small in comparison to Pemberley, still kept servants and maintained a high standard of living. Mrs. Bennet was particularly scornful of Charlotte Lucas being ‘wanted about the mince pies’, stating that “I always keep servants that can do their own work; my daughters are brought up very differently.” Presumably Lizzy and the other Bennet daughters learned from their mother how to instruct servants, and upgrading to Pemberley would really be more a matter of scale than a whole new skill set to learn.

Still, it got me thinking; what exactly would the mistress of Pemberley’s duties be? Research is a rabbit hole I can disappear down forever, but I honestly believe it’s always time well spent. Everything I learn might not make its way into any version of the story, but background knowledge is always useful. And though it’s a little late for the time period in which most Austen variations and continuations take place, hands-down the best reference I know of is Isabella Beeton’s The Book of Household Management. Originally a series of articles in The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, it was first published as a book in 1861, and went through a series of revisions and expansions. An edition of the book is still in print today, but as a reference book, I prefer the original. You can get it for free in various e-formats at the Gutenberg Project website, and I highly recommend it as a resource for seeing just how the middle and upper class would have lived and what they would have eaten in the first half of the 19th century.

If you’d like to see complete issues of The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, see this page for some links. Quite a few issues are digitized for online viewing.

There’s a lot of controversy over Mrs’ Beeton’s work, not least in part because large chunks of it were plagiarized from other people. I was reading The Magazine of Domestic Economy (1936) and almost the entire section about spring-cleaning has clearly been lifted straight from that to The Book of Household Management. Most if not all of Beeton’s recipes were first published in other places as well, but the fact remains that her book is one of the best places to find all the information in one spot… and a) she’s long dead and no longer benefiting from royalties anyway, and b) the book’s free. let’s just say that Isabella and her husband were more the collators of information than the creators of it, and move on. 😀

While Mrs. Beeton’s book includes a great many directions for managing a household, and the roles of both mistress and housekeeper, it’s actually largely known as a cookbook. I find it fascinating to look at the recipes used and what cooks considered standard at different periods in history, and intensely frustrating when authors get things wrong – the Potato Paradox is one that seems to trip up so many writing in the Middle Ages and earlier, since potatoes are a New World crop and didn’t appear in Europe at all until after Columbus’ voyages to the Americas, it drives me round the bend when Robin Hood and the Merry Men are tucking into some nice jacket potatoes cooked in the fire ashes along with their spit-roasted haunch of venison!

(Yes, I’ve really seen that in a book. No, I’m not going to name the author here.)

As I remarked before, Mrs. Beeton’s seminal work was published in 1861, so it’s really a bit ‘late’ for the purposes of researching what Austen’s characters would have eaten, and especially how their food would have been prepared, since the technology of cooking stoves took a pretty major leap forward in the Victorian era. My favourite resource for investigating food through the ages is the Food Timeline, and from this I followed a link to The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1826) by Margaret Dods. Careful; though there are links to books which fit more precisely in the Austen period of 1800 – 1820, they’re published in the US and the food would have been quite different to what would have appeared on an English table of the time.

I love to cook, so I’m planning on doing some experimentation with some of the recipes from the Dods book. Though I don’t think I could bring myself to ‘dress a calf’s head’ – even if I could get hold of one, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t convince anyone in my family to eat it – there are lots that sound good. I’m definitely going to try this one, for example, though I might cheat a bit when it comes to beating the eggs by hand!

I’ll report back next month with pictures!

Posted in British history, family, food, food and drink, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, Pride and Prejudice, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Using Cradles Through The Ages

oak-cradle-17th-C ~ Oak hooded cradle, English, 1683, carved initials, alongside 16th and 17th century oak furniture. Photo by HomeThingsPast

We all likely know something of Rock-a-bye Baby as a nursery rhyme and lullaby. The melody is a variant of the song comes from an English satirical ballad calledLillibullero,a march that became popular in England at the time of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 2768.

“One theory suggests the rhyme narrates a mother gently rocking her baby to sleep, as if the baby were riding the treetops during a breeze; then, when the mother lowers the baby to her crib, the song says ‘down will come baby.’ Another identifies the rhyme as the first English poem written on American soil, suggesting it dates from the 17th century and that it may have been written by an English colonist who observed the way Native American women rocked their babies in birch-bark cradles, which were suspended from the branches of trees, allowing the wind to rock the baby to sleep. The words appeared in print in England c. 1765.

“In Derbyshire, England, local legend has it that the song relates to a local character in the late 18th century, Betty Kenny (Kate Kenyon), who lived with her husband, Luke, and their eight children in a huge yew tree in Shining Cliff Woods in Derwent Valley, where a hollowed-out bough served as a cradle. Yet another theory has it that the lyrics, like the tune “Lilliburlero” it is sung to, refer to events immediately preceding the Glorious Revolution. The baby is supposed to be the son of James VII and II, who was widely believed to be someone else’s child smuggled into the birthing room in order to provide a Roman Catholic heir for James. The “wind” may be that Protestant ‘wind’ or force ‘blowing’ or coming from the Netherlands bringing James’ nephew and son-in-law William of Orange, who would eventually depose King James II in the revolution (the same ‘Protestant Wind’ that had saved England from the Spanish Armada a century earlier). The “cradle” is the royal House of Stuart. The earliest recorded version of the words in print appeared with a footnote, ‘This may serve as a warning to the Proud and Ambitious, who climb so high that they generally fall at last’, which may be read as supporting a satirical meaning. It would help to substantiate the suggestion of a specific political application for the words, however, if they and the ‘Lilliburlero’ tune could be shown to have been always associated.


Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912) designed this cradle for the son of the architect Alfred Waterhouse. The cradle is in the Gothic style and decorated with painted panels. The cradle itself is also in the Museum’s collections. Although its structure is close to the design, the painting of the panels is different. The floral patterns in the drawing are replaced by signs of the Zodiac on the finished piece. In 1861 Shaw was designing in the reformed Gothic style, which is associated with William Burges (1827-1881) and William Morris (1834-1896). Painted panels formed the chief decorative element in this style. Very similar painted panels later became popular in works of the Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts movements. But they lacked the Gothic framing seen here. ~

“Yet another theory is that the song is based around a 17th-century ritual that took place after a newborn baby had died. The mother would hang the child from a basket on a branch in a tree and waited to see if it would come back to life. The line ‘when the bough breaks the baby will fall’ would suggest that the baby was dead weight, so heavy enough to break the branch. Another possibility is that the words began as a ‘dandling’ rhyme – one used while a baby is being swung about and sometimes tossed and caught. An early dandling rhyme is quoted in The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book which has some similarity:

Catch him, crow! Carry him, kite!
Take him away till the apples are ripe;
When they are ripe and ready to fall,
Here comes baby, apples and all, woop woop.”

50373b0e283fe39f82623559e15f1ea8.jpgCradles have been around for centuries.  The ancient Britons wove cradles in the tree-tops for both children and old men.  It was the custom of weaving an infant’s cradle in the branches of a tree, out of harm’s way, to be rocked by wind power, possibly another source of the lullaby.  The traditional wood for a cradle is birch the tree of inception, which the ancients believed drove away evil spirits.

Also, manuscripts of the ninth and tenth centuries show cradles hollowed out from halved tree trunks, with holes along the edges for straps or cords to keep the baby from falling out. Greek peasants were still using these in the late 19th century.

Some medieval cradles were made like miniatures of an adult’s bed, but on two curved rockers. In a wealthy/noble family, the cradle would be costly indeed. Take the instance when the men of Ghent despoiled the house of the Earl of Flanders in the 14th century – they destroyed all his furniture except the cradle.  Not out of consideration for the baby, though – but because the cradle was solid silver.

There was also the cradle that swung from two fixed supports, a different principle from the rocker, the pivot being above the centre of gravity instead of below – and this one dates from the fifteenth century.  It goes on rocking for some time with only an occasional push, and it seem to offer a more gentle ride, with less tendency to eject the child.


cdfc1edd428e3d9fb6371cca1df18d00Graham Blackburn at FineWoodworking in “A Short History of Cradles” tells us, “The first piece of furniture many people used to encounter in this world was a small swinging or rocking bed known as a cradle. Now largely superseded by cribs or cots (which were both originally also swinging or rocking), the cradle has a long history and was also typically one of the first pieces of furniture to be acquired in new households, preceded only by beds, chests, and tables.

61b188b053da6bd45849c37aeb79754d.jpg “The earliest and most common type of cradle is the rocker, derived undoubtedly from a half log, hollowed out to provide a secure resting place for the infant. From this to a simple box mounted on transverse curved sections was a short step, but a far cry from the miniature ‘great beds of state,’ richly carved and furnished with elaborate and costly hangings that were used to cradle the children of royalty. A particular American favorite is the type common with the early Colonists, characterized by sloping sides and a hooded end, most often made from simple nailed pine boards, although examples exist that represent in miniature all the major period styles, from Gothic to Art Nouveau.



Found on WalMart’s website ~ THE PUZZLE-MAN TOYS W-2510alt. Functional/Play Wooden Furniture – Live Baby Cradle Pennsylvania Dutch Overhead Canopy Style – Red Oak – 13 in. x 30 in.

“Almost as venerable is the type of cradle that consists of an open container suspended by hooks, chains, or rope from a standing frame. The earliest known example of this type is a Gothic cradle made at the end of the 15th century and reputed to have been used by Henry V (who, however, was born a hundred years earlier!). The box is simply pegged together and suspended between two standards or uprights braced on a flat frame. At the other extreme, in terms of construction, is a design illustrated by the famous 18th-century cabinetmaker Sheraton, in his Cabinet Dictionary, which includes a spring mechanism designed to keep the cradle rocking for an hour and a half  — a function now accomplished by electric motors in this age of preoccupied childcare providers.”

The first time the future George IV received company, he was twelve days old and securely ensconced in a gold cradle surmounted with a gold coronet.  He lay under a canopy of state, enveloped in crimson velvet and gold lace, in a nest of white satin.  On either side stood ‘a fair mute, employed as occasion required, to rock the infant to sleep.’  The public were admitted in batches of forty.  The daily bill for cake was GBP40, and for wine, ‘more than could have been conceived’.


Cradle commissioned by Queen Victoria for Princess Louise

Those who didn’t have money would fashion a cradle out of anything they could find – even an old barrel/key placed between two carefully spaced bricks or lumps of wood would provide a secure, ‘rockable’ cradle for a poor woman.  Or, as people have done over the years, a drawer, her own bed, etc.  I would think after the first year, unless the child was really sickly, but still lucky enough to be alive, the child would be getting a bit big for the standard drawer in furniture available to poorer folk in the Regency period.


Antique Rare Large Marklin Doll Carriage c1910 ~ found on eBay

Some families converted a doll bed, but a family that had a doll bed for their child was a prosperous family. That goes well beyond subsistence living.

Other Sources: 

Royal Cradles Throughout History 

Traditional Rocking Cradles – Wood and Wicker 

Posted in American History, British history, George IV, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, real life tales, Regency era, word origins, world history | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments