One of the issues I encountered in creating my tale for The Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series was moving the scandalous Sheriff of Nottingham into the Regency Era. How do his “deeds” in the original folktales translate into a Regency era novel? As most of us are familiar, the Sheriff of Nottingham is the main antagonist in the legend of Robin Hood. He is generally depicted as an unjust tyrant who mistreats the local people of Nottinghamshire, subjecting them to unaffordable taxes. Robin Hood fights against him, stealing from the rich, and the Sheriff, in order to give to the poor; a characteristic for which Robin Hood is best known.
However, in my tale, William de Wendenal, the Sheriff of Nottingham, is far from angelic, but, he has turned over a “new leaf,” so to speak. He has a reputation based on his youthful exploits and one major mistake that has kept him, a baron, from court for many years. In the original tales, the Sheriff is an agent of Prince John against King Richard. I needed to discover an equally “scandalous” event to which many could point to in disapproval. I decided my character would align himself with those involved in “The Delicate Investigation” of Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Prince George, then the Regent for his father King George III, wished to be rid of his bride, Princess Caroline. They were never a good fit, but she was popular among the British people, making it more difficult for Prince George to be rid of her.
In my tale, I make the Sheriff one of those who had sided with Caroline in her legal actions, his being friends with both Thomas Manby and George Canning, both of whom were named in the investigation.
Manby, in real life, was a British naval officer, who rose to the rank of rear admiral, but, in 1806, he became the chief suspect in the investigation of the morals of Princess Caroline of Wales. In that year, George III “ordered an inquiry into rumours that the Princess of Wales had given birth to a child. A number of men were suspected of having had a relationship with the princess (which was grounds for a charge of high treason), but it was Manby against whom the evidence was “particularly strong”. Manby was called before the commissioners of the inquiry and swore on oath that he never did “at Montagu House, Southend, Ramsgate, East Cliff, or anywhere else, ever sleep in any house occupied by, or belonging to, HRH the Princess of Wales”. The commissioners concluded that the main accusation against the princess was unfounded, but nevertheless they criticised her behaviour. The princess was defended by former attorney-general and future prime-minister Spencer Perceval, who dismissed the evidence of the princess’s servants as ‘hearsay representations’. The gifts and letters from the princess to Manby were evidence only of her gratitude for Manby having taken two of her charity boys on board the Africaine, and his frequent visits were to keep the princess informed of their progress. If jugs of water and towels were left in the passage when Manby visited it was proof, Perceval argued, of the servants’ slovenliness and not of high treason. Perceval was ready to publish his defence in the form of a book when there was a sudden change of government, the princess was accepted at court, and the book was suppressed. After Perceval’s assisination in 1812, the book was published and extracts, including Manby’s testimony, were published in the Times.” [Thomas Manby]
The other prominent figure of the time to whom I fictionalized a relationship for Lord de Wendendal was George Canning, a prominent politician of the era. I used this “tidbit” as part of my plot line: “In April 1796, [Prince] George wrote to [Princess] Caroline, ]We have unfortunately been oblig’d to acknowledge to each other that we cannot find happiness in our union. … Let me therefore beg you to make the best of a situation unfortunate for us both.’ In June, Lady Jersey resigned as Caroline’s Lady of the Bedchamber. [Prince] George and Caroline were already living separately, and in August 1797 Caroline moved to a private residence: The Vicarage or Old Rectory in Charlton, London. Later, she moved to Montagu House in Blackheath. No longer constrained by her husband, or, according to rumour, her marital vows, she entertained whomever she pleased. She flirted with Admiral Sir Sidney Smith and Captain Thomas Manby, and may have had a brief relationship with the politician George Canning.” [“Caroline of Brunswick“]
I Shot the Sheriff: Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series
How does one reform the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham? Easy. With Patience.
William de Wendenal, the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham, has come to London, finally having wormed his way back into the good graces of the Royal family. Yet, not all of Society is prepared to forgive his former “supposed” transgressions, especially the Earl of Sherwood.
However, when de Wendenal is wounded in an attempt to protect Prince George from an assassin, he becomes caught up in a plot involving stolen artwork, kidnapping, murder, and seduction that brings him to Cheshire where he must willingly face a gun pointed directly at his chest and held by the one woman who stirs his soul, Miss Patience Busnick, the daughter of a man de Wendenal once escorted to prison.
I Shot the Sheriff is based on the classic tales of Robin Hood, but it is given a twist and brought into the early 19th Century’s Regency era. Can even de Wendenal achieve a Happily Ever After? If anyone can have the reader cheering for the Sheriff of Nottingham’s happiness, it is award-winning author Regina Jeffers.
Excerpt from the Beginning of Chapter Six:
As foolish as it would sound to admit it aloud, William missed Patience Busnik’s company, and the image of her soft body beneath his haunted his dreams, as well as many of his waking hours. The day following the incident at the park, he had purchased a bouquet of mixed flowers to present to her, just as would any legitimate caller upon a lady, but as he stood across the street from her brother’s house, he thought again upon why he was calling upon her.
“She is an agent for the Home Office,” he murmured, a frown taking up residence on his forehead. “What she did for you yesterday was not an action based upon her affection, but rather one of duty. Quit being foolish. A lady of quality wants nothing to do with the likes of you.”
Frustrated that he had again bought into the idea of discovering someone with whom to share his life, he had paid a street urchin two pence to deliver the flowers, while William returned home, where he had remained, refusing to venture out and turning away the few callers who had dared to disturb him. Feeling guilty for abandoning her, he had sent a second bouquet later in the day, but William had not included any words of encouragement with either arrangement of flowers. First, he did not know exactly what to say to someone who was essentially “hired” to be his love interest, and, moreover, he had never seriously wooed a woman of Miss Busnik’s nature, and he knew nothing of how to go about it.
“My lord.” His butler bowed from the open door.
“Yes, Mr. Cedric.”
“A message from Busnik House. The servant from there was instructed to wait for your response.”
Despite William’s best efforts to the contrary, his heart hitched in anticipation. He extended his hand to accept the message from his servant and walked away to read the note. Turning his back on Mr. Cedric, William examined the elegance of her script, for certainly the handwriting displayed on the front of the folded over page did not belong to her brother. Men tended to scratch out their words, rather than to treat them as something special. Breaking the seal, he opened the flaps of the page to read…
My lord, please accept my gratitude for the lovely flowers. They have brightened my favorite drawing room at Busnik House, and I think kindly upon you when I look upon them.
It did him well to know someone in this world thought of him in terms less than derogatory. Certainly he had, in his younger years, aligned himself with the wrong sect, womanizing, gaming and dancing on the edge of committing fraud, but he had abandoned that lifestyle nearly a decade earlier when he had found one of his cottager’s families, all, literally, starving to death because of his profligacy. The image of two children and their mother quite ravished by his obvious deprivation of assistance had shattered his soul, making him promise, “Never again.” He had not been taught his responsibilities in those terms, but he had learned quickly, finally seeing to his estate and duties as the Crown’s Sheriff, a legacy he hoped to leave to his child, if he would ever be so blessed. Yet, his earlier mistakes continued to plague his days and ruined every opportunity he had to choose a woman of quality.
When he had turned his life about, he had done so in hopes of courting Miss Marian Fitzwater. Where he held the reputation for depravity and evil, Miss Fitzwater held one based in virtue, although he had learned, after the fact, the lady’s reputation was wrapped in falsehoods, ones she and Sherwood and her father had carefully concocted.
Unfortunately, for him, in his rush to alter his path, he had convinced himself if he could make Miss Fitzwater his wife, the world would view him in a different light. However, the lady had her sights set upon Robert de Lacy, a man who had walked a path similar to William’s, only de Lacy had been smart enough to fall in with those supporting Prince George’s plea for a divorce from Princess Caroline of Brussels, while William had been slow to cut ties with Thomas Manby and George Canning, both of whom were named in Parliament’s secret investigation of Princess Caroline’s relationship with those two men and a few others.
Like many of the time, William had thought Prince George’s extravagant lifestyle detrimental to the war cause. Despite what others may think, before he passed, William’s father had instilled a sense of duty in him. William had often said, “My days as the Sheriff of Nottingham would have had the late baron crowing with pride, but not so much my personal behavior.”
“That is if Father had viewed my performance since the ‘Delicate Investigation,’” he murmured. He had made the foolish assumption the Crown Prince should know something of duty to the land. Moreover, like many of the day, he considered Princess Caroline wronged by Prince George’s cronies, until he had joined Manby at one of the princess’s gatherings. The entertainments, that particular evening, had not been to William’s tastes. Certainly, he had known his share of women, especially, as he “sowed his oats,” but he had never lain with another man’s wife, nor would he tolerate his wife doing so. Although his was not a fashionable idea, William believed in the sanctity of marriage. He wanted his blood running through each of his children.
Glancing again to the note, he continued to read:
…and I think kindly of you when I look upon them.
That being said, I know sadness at your withdrawal. I thought—
William frowned. “Thought what?” He flipped the sheet of foolscap over, but her note stopped with those words. Only his name and directions were on the back.
William barked a laugh. “Demme her! The lady be not only beautiful, but intelligent enough to tempt a man from his doldrums.”
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY: I HAVE TWO eBOOK COPIES OF I SHOT THE SHERIFF AVAILABLE TO THOSE WHO COMMENT BELOW. THE WINNERS AND THE PRIZES WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON NOVEMBER 30, 2020, WHEN THE BOOK OFFICIALLY RELEASES.