Fencibles: Defending the Homeland + an excerpt from “Mr. Darcy’s Inadvertent Bride”

Fencibles were the British “defense” (from the word ‘defencible’) forces raised for a specific war. They were raised for defense against the treat of invasion during the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. They were local military units, composed of residents of a particular area and commanded by Regular Army officers. They customarily performed duties, such as patrolling the coastlines, in order to free up the Regular Army to perform offensive operations abroad. They did not see oversea service, meaning one would not find them fighting on the Continent or in America.

They were enlisted for “service at home” and for the duration of whatever war was going on at that time. Many fencible units were raised by wealthy men who funded their service. This man would often serve as the unit’s commander, generally accepting the rank of “colonel.”

The majority Fencible Regiments were formed between 1793 to the peace arranged at Amiens in 1802. New regiments were formed after that date, but most were for colonial service in British North America.

In England, county/shire militia regiments were raised for internal defense in the absence of the regular army, but Scotland, at least in the opinion of many, were more volatile and were not “encouraged” to form such military units. People worried for insurrection. That does not mean Scottish units did not exist, for the first regiments were raised in Scotland in 1759.

For example, Lord Hugh Montgomerie, 12th Earl of Eglinton, entered the army in 1756. He served in the American war as captain in the 78th foot, and afterwards as captain in the first royals. On the outbreak of the French war in 1788 he was appointed major in the Argyll or Western fencibles, raised jointly by the Argyll and Eglinton families, with Lord Frederick Campbell as colonel. In 1780, and again in 1784, he was elected to parliament as member for Ayrshire. If we may trust the testimony of Burns, in his ‘Earnest Cry and Prayer,’ Montgomerie’s oratorical power was less conspicuous than his courage: —

⁠I ken, if that your sword were wanted,
⁠⁠Ye’d lend a hand;
⁠But when there’s ought to say anent it,
⁠⁠Ye’re at a stand.

(Dictionary of National Biography)

Montgomerie served in the 77th (1st Highland Regiment) from 1757-1763 and was senior Major of the Argyll Fencibles during the American Revolutionary War. He raised the West Lowland Fencibles in 1793. Ironically, although most of the West Lowland Fencibles were from Ayshire and other lowland areas, at Montgomerie’s insistence, they wore highland dress.

1790 Oil on Canvas from John Singleton Copley – Hugh Montgomerie, 12th Earl of Eglinton, 1739 – 1819. Soldier; Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire ~ Public Domain ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Montgomerie,12th_Earl_of_Eglinton#/media/File:John_Singleton_CopleyHugh_Montgomerie,_12th_Earl_of_Eglinton,_17391819._Soldier;_Lord_Lieutenant_of_Ayrshire-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

“Most fencible regiments had no liability for overseas service however there were exceptions. Ireland while not united with the Kingdom of Great Britain until 1801 was the destination for several British fencible regiments during the Rebellion of 1798 where they fought in some minor pitched battles. The 3rd Argyllshire Regiment, who like some other fencible regiments had terms of service that extended to any part of Europe, garrisoned Gibraltar (as did Banffshire Fencibles, 2nd Argllshire Fencibles, and the Prince of Wales Own Fencibles) The Dumbarton Fencibles Regiment was raised in Scotland, garrisoned Guernsey, fought in Ireland, and detachment escorted prisoners to Prussia.The Ancient Irish Fencibles were sent to Egypt where they took part in the operations against the French in 1801.

“Fencible regiments were less effective than regular troops for military duties, with problems of lack of education and disease. In Ireland the regiment troops would take part in inter-regimental brawls and attacks on army soldiers. Some regiments of Fencibles, however, were noted for exceptional service.” (Fencibles)

From “The Forgotten Army: Fencible Regiments of Great Britain 1793 – 1816 on the Napoleon Series website, we find . . .

Below is an example of a Royal Warrant to raise a Fencible Regiment:

Warrant for the Raising of a Regiment of Fencible Men under the Command of Col. M. H. Baillie, [signed George R]

Whereas we have thought fit to order a Regiment of Fencible men, to be forthwith raised under your command, which is to consist of ten companies, of 4 sergeants, 5 corporals, 2 drummers, and 95 men in each, with 2 fifers to the Grenadier Company, besides a sergeant-major and quartermaster-sergeant, together with the usual commissioned officers; which men are to serve in Great Britain and Ireland only.

Given at our Court at St. James, the 24th day of October 1794, in the 34th year of our reign.

By His Majesty’s Command (signed) W. Windham

To our trusty and well-beloved M. H. Baillie, Esq., Colonel of a Regiment of Fencible men to be forthwith raised or to the officer appointed by him to raise men for our said regiment.

Other Sources:

Musteen, Jason R. (2011), Nelson’s Refuge: Gibraltar in the Age of Napoleon, Naval Institute Press, p. 218.

Scobie, Ian Hamilton Mackay (1914), An old highland fencible corps : the history of the Reay Fencible Highland Regiment of Foot, or Mackay’s Highlanders, 1794–1802, with an account of its services in Ireland during the rebellion of 1798, Edinburgh: Blackwood, pp. 353.

Mr. Darcy’s Inadvertent Bride: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary

Love or Honor or Both?

Miss Elizabeth Bennet cannot quite believe Lieutenant George Wickham’s profession of affection, but young ladies in her position do not receive marriage proposals every day, and she does find the man congenial and fancies she can set him on the right path. However, the upright, and, perhaps uptight, figure of another man steps between them and sets her world on its head. 

When Fitzwilliam Darcy spots Miss Elizabeth Bennet slipping from the Meryton Assembly to follow a man who favors George Wickham into the darkness, he must act. Although he has not been properly introduced to the young woman, he knows Wickham can be up to no good. Later, when he comes across the lady in London and searching for Wickham, Darcy does the honorable thing and assists her. Yet, when they are discovered alone in her uncle’s house, the pair find themselves being quickstepped to the altar for all the wrong reasons. Can they find happiness when they are barely speaking acquaintances?


Her father had summoned Elizabeth to his study early on Thursday morning. “I fear, Lizzy, an awkward situation has come to my attention. We must make a decision regarding Mr. Wickham sooner, rather than later.”

“Has the militia returned to Meryton?” she asked, not certain she any longer wished for Mr. Wickham’s attentions. The fact the lieutenant had made no attempt to speak to her before he departed for Brighton with his fellow officers had created a disturbing suspicion she could not quite shake. It filled her chest with nothing but ill will for the gentleman. 

“No, and I understand it will be at least a fortnight before Forster and his men return to Hertfordshire,” her father explained. 

“Then we continue to wait,” she observed with disappointment marking her words. 

“I have the latest letter from Captain Denny before me. Permit me to share what Mr. Denny wrote. As the gentleman is aware I read what he writes to our Mary before I turn the letter over to her, I cannot help but to think the following was purposeful information on the captain’s part.” He lifted the letter where he might read it without squinting. “One event of importance has occurred during the last few days: Mr. Wickham has joined the regulars. Some of the other men say Colonel Darcy made arrangements for Wickham’s commission, but no one can say for certain why Colonel Darcy would extend a hand to a man he supposedly abused previously, but such is the tale.” 

“Then Mr. Wickham does not mean to return to Hertfordshire: I am free to choose elsewhere.” 

“Not quite,” her father was quick to say. “You and I have been under the assumption your mother has not heard the rumors regarding your relationship with Lieutenant Wickham and your little ‘indiscretion.’ We erred. She breezed in here this morning to inform me Mr. Collins has indicated his purpose in coming to Longbourn was to choose among my daughters to claim himself a wife. Naturally, his first inclination was Jane, and, reportedly, my cousin was greatly disappointed to learn both Jane and Mary are spoken for. Mr. Collins suggested you are equal to Jane in beauty and essentials. When your mother learns Mr. Wickham will not return, and she will learn, for, most assuredly, Mary will tell one or more of your sisters of the gentleman accepting a commission elsewhere, Mrs. Bennet will insist you ‘save’ her and any unmarried sisters remaining at home when I pass.” 

“You are saying my choices are to decide between a man who appears not to want me and a man who appears to become more of a fool with each phrase he utters. If I were to marry such a man, I would be miserable. His fatuous praise of this ‘Lady Catherine’ person alone would be enough to drive me insane.” She fought back the tears rushing to her eyes. “What am I to do, Papa? It is not as if I hold the legal right to seek information from the Lord-Lieutenant of the shire regarding Mr. Wickham. Moreover, if the lieutenant has joined the regulars, then the Lord-Lieutenant will no longer keep him on the roles of the militia. Will the man even have knowledge of Mr. Wickham’s whereabouts? To whom do I turn for information? I am not Mr. Wickham’s wife.” A sob caught in her throat. “We hold no official understanding between us. I am simply some girl to whom he presented a ring which once belonged to his mother.” 

“Mr. Wickham gave you a ring?” her father charged. “Why was I not made aware of this previously?”

Elizabeth recoiled from his anger. “I thought you knew. It is not a ring I can wear on my finger. It is the type presented to a young girl on a momentous occasion, say, a special birthday or going off to school. Mr. Wickham said it had belonged to his mother.” She would not tell her father of the lieutenant’s professions of affection. Those sweet words had been the sticking point for Elizabeth. If Mr. Wickham’s words had been a mere flirtation, she would have immediately sent him packing. However, the gentleman had spoken of affection—deep affection for her—something she had never expected to hear on any man’s lips. 

“Where is this ring now?” her father questioned. 

“Wrapped in a handkerchief in a drawer in my bureau,” she confessed. 

“I see.” Her father sounded exhausted, and Elizabeth knew regret at having caused him such distress. “This is another wrinkle in what feels to be a never-ending fabric wrapping us all in shame.” He sighed heavily. “I will make private inquiries into Mr. Wickham’s new position in the regulars. His presenting you a ring is a ‘promise’ we must insist he keep or officially deny so you might choose elsewhere. A ring, even one which can only be worn on a chain about your neck, indicates a betrothal exists between you. This situation is more serious than I first suspected.” 


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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6 Responses to Fencibles: Defending the Homeland + an excerpt from “Mr. Darcy’s Inadvertent Bride”

  1. jeanstillman says:

    Thanks for the interesting article and especially for the interesting excerpt. I am so looking forward to this new book!

  2. darcybennett says:

    Enjoyed the excerpt and learning more about fencible regiments. Congrats on the release!

    • Glad you liked the new info. on the fencible regiments. I had to clarify the info. with a friend who has made the military his area of expertise.

  3. Glynis says:

    Oh my goodness! Elizabeth and Wickham? That’s definitely a no! I assume Darcy didn’t stop her from meeting him outside? Thank goodness it’s actually Darcy who compromises her leading to their marriage. I’m so looking forward to reading this even if Elizabeth does start off as stupid and gullible!

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