For my latest story, “The Earl’s English Rose” I have been researching bits about the British East India Company. You will have noticed the posts from Elaine Owen and Eliza Shearer on the subject last week. Today, it is my turn. In my story, Miss Rose Vickers’s parents are employed by the East India Company. They die in India, and Rose is sent home alone with her Indian ayah, her Indian governess, and the woman’s son.
In my research on the East India Company, I discovered the fact that the vast majority of men who went into Company employment had some family/friend connection who assisted them to become established. Such is why we often read how the hero has a distant relative who is a Director of the East India Company and assists him to earn a position with the firm. Alternatively, the hero of one’s tale could have been in military service; by the Regency era, the East India Company had its own private army and navy in India, with English officers and mostly Indian ‘sepoys’ (privates).
The man might be required to work in London for several years, likely something to do with their warehouses – as a writer or secretary or clerk, perhaps. Or he could work directly for East India House, possibly as a secretary to one of the directors. I found one mention (in The East India Company’s London Workers) of a minor aristocrat working as a warehouse laborer, although this would be very very uncommon (and probably unbefitting of a romance novel hero).
The men hired were drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds. One was Sir Richard Corbett, whose family was described by The Annual Register as ‘reduced to such indigence, that the present baronet, although heir to some of the best estates in the kingdom, is in an inferior station in the East India warehouses.'”
Also, most men who went to India in junior/subordinate roles went at a much younger age than we might think possible – 15 or 18 years old was common.
Below are some real life examples of some of the stories I encountered in my research.
Mountstuart Elphinstone – fourth son of a Scottish baron; born 1779, went to India 1796 (age 17) on the recommendation of an uncle who was an EIC director; eventually became lieutenant governor of Bombay. Mostly a diplomat, but saw some action with Wellsley (before Arthur Wellsley became Wellington) in India.
John Malcolm – son of a Scottish farmer; born 1769, went to India in 1782 as a cadet (age 13); learned several local languages and made several diplomatic forays to Persia; eventually became Governor of Bombay.
Charles Metcalfe – born in 1785, educated at Eton, went to India 1800 (age 15). Started as a writer for the EIC, but through family connections and his Eton background ended up assuming quite a bit of responsibility, including a diplomatic mission with the Sikhs when he was 24. Eventually became governor of Jamaica and governor general of Canada. One interesting note about Metcalfe in a book I read (Glorious Sahibs) speculated he had an Indian wife and children in Delhi, but this information was suppressed by his Victorian-era biographer to avoid offending anyone’s sensibilities. Wikipedia makes no mention of this, but he did not marry anyone else, and when he died, his baronetcy passed to his brother.
From HEICS Ships Logs Index http://www.heicshipslogs.co.uk/ we learn:
In the early 19th century a voyage from England to India and the Far East took over a year to complete. These ships carried hundreds of crew and passengers and the logs list their names, rank, destinations, children, etc. Many hundreds of the logs survive and are stored in the British Library in original bound volumes. Most of them have never been copied or transcribed. One free web site is now trying to change that. For the first time, a few of the ships’ logs have been made available online.
The records cover the government of India amounting to over 10 miles of shelves, plus 70,000 volumes of official publications and 105,000 manuscripts and maps. Day to day events are recorded such as cleaning, loading the ship, weather, floggings, recording of passing ships, sickness, disputes, and death. Only a tiny percentage of the logs have been transferred to date. Here’s a bit of explanation from the Home page of the site:
“The records of The Honourable East India Company Service (HEICS) are now housed at the British Library at Euston in London. The Company was established in the year 1600 as a joint-stock association of English merchants who received, by a series of charters, exclusive rights to trade in the ‘Indies’. The ‘Indies’ were defined as the lands lying between the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan. Over the next two and a half centuries the Company grew to become the largest trading company the World has ever seen.
“In 1833 the monopoly the East India had on trade with the far east was broken. Trade was opened up to competition and within a couple of years the great ships that ploughed the seas under the East India Company’s flag were either scrapped or continued as private merchantmen. The Company finally folded in 1857.
“After the Company ceased trading and India House demolished, many tons of records were destroyed. We are therefore most fortunate that records covering the government of India amounting to over 10 miles of shelves, plus 70,000 volumes of official publications and 105,000 manuscripts and maps still survive. Amongst these records are many hundreds of ships logs, journals, ledgers and pay books. The vast majority of them have not been digitized and virtually none of them transcribed.”
The Earl’s English Rose: A Regency Romance Novella
The new Earl of Everwalt was not one to appreciate being bamboozled by an obstinate, headstrong girl, though pretty she may be. If he did not require her to repair his reputation, he would leave her to the schemes she had concocted to save her father’s estate.
Just because he was now her guardian, the Earl of Everwalt had no right to decide who she might marry. Therefore, Miss Rose Vickers sets out for London to provide the new earl a piece of her mind, only to run into a highwayman. As if scripted, the new earl proves to be her savior, but it would be some time before the suspicious Rose and the extremely susceptible Everwalt learn the depth of their connection and the true meaning of love.
Excerpt from The Earl’s English Rose
It was Jacob’s turn to suck in his retort. “What do we know of the girl’s situation?” he asked through tight lips.
“I could provide you with your uncle’s letters on the subject,” Palmer said dutifully.
Jacob resisted rolling his eyes: Palmer was too “prickly” for Jacob’s tastes. He preferred someone to speak plainly; yet, he had promised himself, as the new earl, he would practice more tolerance, than he had as a young buck on the Town. “I would be happy to read my uncle’s letters, but, as I am to leave for London within the hour, perhaps you could summarize the key tenets of my uncle’s correspondence.”
In a conscientious manner, Palmer slid the stack of letters across the desk, and with equal aplomb, Jacob placed them in his satchel.
With a slight frown of disapproval, Palmer cleared his throat. “Although you were quite young, I suspect you recall when Lady Helen married Colonel Vickers, nearly seventeen years ago.”
Instead of an oral response, Jacob gestured for Palmer to continue. In truth, he only held a vague memory of his aunt’s wedding, having watched the grand party which followed from a balcony overlooking the ballroom.
“The colonel was shortly dispatched to India in ’07 or ’08, I cannot say for certain.” The solicitor paused briefly as if he expected Jacob to question him or some fact, but when Jacob continued to stare at the fellow, Palmer continued. “Before they departed, Lady Helen requested your uncle to oversee her estate if something should occur to both her and the colonel. At the time, the previous Lord Everwalt considered her forethought a sound decision, and the necessary legal papers were agreed upon by the colonel, for India has always proved to be a volatile province. With her marriage, Lady Helen had assumed the care and direction for the colonel’s young daughter and wished to secure the child’s future. Ironically, her ladyship’s fears came to fruition, only fifteen years along.”
Despite not wishing to assume more responsibility, Jacob’s heart went out to the child. He, too, had lost his parents. Thankfully, his Uncle Josiah had stepped in, seeing to Jacob’s education, as well as grooming him to become the next earl, for Uncle Josiah’s children had all died early on in their young lives, none surviving past the age of two. With that in mind, Jacob recognized how his uncle’s tender heart would reach out to Lady Helen’s step daughter.
“How old was the child when Colonel Vickers and Lady Helen first traveled to India?” Jacob asked in distraction, thinking how it must have been for a young child to be raised in another country.
“I cannot say with any assurance, my lord,” Palmer continued. “I understand the young lady has reached her nineteenth year. Your uncle visited with her when she returned to England, perhaps three years removed. At that time, all assumed the colonel and Lady Helen would follow her to England within six months, for they were meant to sail within three months of sending Miss Vickers home.”
“Has the girl been on her own all this time?” Jacob asked incredulously. “Surely my uncle acted upon her behalf. Why was she not brought to the abbey to live with him until her parents arrived in England?”
Palmer’s frown lines deepened. “Your uncle took to his bed mere weeks after his call upon the girl. Who is to say what his lordship’s immediate plans for the young lady had been? He did not share them with me, and, we are both aware Lord Everwalt languished for nearly two years. Unless he spoke of the girl to one of those tending him, nothing was said to me, and, I must assume, to you, as his heir. Which is natural based on the pain his constitution tolerated. Truthfully, no one thought to ask of Lady Helen or her family what with all, initially, assuming your uncle’s recovery and then, later, the transition of the earldom into your hands.”
Jacob had always thought the late earl’s physicians had been too liberal with their dispensing of first one tonic and then another, as well as too much laudanum.
“When did Colonel Vickers and Lady Helen pass?” Jacob inquired, beginning to worry for the girl’s safety. “Surely someone has informed Miss Vickers of the event.”
“It is my understanding an appropriate message was forwarded to Miss Vickers from the authorities in India,” Palmer explained, “yet, I have not confirmed that particular fact personally.”
Jacob spoke sternly. “Then it is important we ascertain all the necessary information as quickly as humanly possible. Is there someone upon the estate who has handled the girl’s affairs. Is there a competent land steward? I pray there is someone honest who has assisted her when my uncle did not return. Does she have a companion?”
Palmer had gone a bit pale. “An ayah—an Indian governess accompanied the girl home. Your uncle shared that information when he returned after his visit. Your uncle did set up a small allowance for the girl when he was in Dover with an local solicitor to manage.” He paused, before adding, “There was also a young man of Indian extraction sent along with Miss Vickers and this ayah person. I am not aware of whether he serves in the role of footman or some other household servant. The late Lord Everwalt never shared such details with me, just a quick note of the allowance funds to be transferred quarterly.”
“There appears to be a great deal of which you are ‘uncertain,’ Palmer,” Jacob snapped. “Have you contacted the girl upon behalf of the estate? Could she be, even at this moment, wondering what became of Everwalt’s allegiance? I imagine if my uncle provided her an allowance, he also made promises to the girl that never knew fruition. What of Colonel Vickers’s estate? Do we know who inherits? Has the girl already been turned out?’
Palmer shrunk in stature with each of Jacob’s questions. “I fear, sir, I cannot respond with a definitive answer to any of your questions other than the Vickers’s estate does not pass through the male line. Again, it was my understanding the girl will inherit the property,” Palmer was quick to explain.
“Yet, you have previously stated, Miss Vickers has not reached her majority. Was Uncle Josiah her only guardian? What of Colonel Vickers’s family? Does the earldom share custody of the girl? Am I to oversee her estate, as well as mine? Has she experienced a Season? I do not see how such was accomplished with her parents not being in England, but if there is another guardian, we must suppose that person or persons has seen to the girl’s Come Out. Does she foolishly host gentlemen callers bearing hopes of claiming the estate without familial hindrances? Has she had no guidance since she departed India, beyond a woman who would know little of English society beyond being a servant in my aunt’s household?”
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A REGENCY SUMMER GARDEN (ANTHOLOGY)
featuring . . .
This anthology includes:
The Scandalous Countess by Arietta Richmond
An Earl with an unexpected problem, a country Miss fighting to save everything she holds dear, an unscrupulous estate manager, impossible choices, a scandalous love. Miss Bluebell Thornley had lost almost everything she truly cared about – and it was all the fault of the Earl of Riverford. At least that’s what she thought, until the Earl returned to his country estate… Can she forgive what has happened, and help the Earl undo the wrongs committed in his name? Or will bitterness steal not only the chance for restitution, but her hopes for love as well?
The Earl’s English Rose by Regina Jeffers
The Earl of Everwalt was not one to appreciate being bamboozled by an obstinate, headstrong girl, pretty though she may be. If he did not require her to repair his reputation, he would ignore her completely… But Miss Rose Vickers, it turns out, is not to be so easily ignored… can sense overcome stubbornness? Or will something of that magnitude require love?
Meadows and Mischief by Summer Hanford
Miss Marie Ellsworth had every intention of claiming a husband before the house party’s end – a wealthy and titled husband, preferably. Unfortunately, the only man there who truly intrigues her is known to be pockets to let, and the wealthy Earl who seemed a good prospect is little better than an oaf. Then, when one impulsive moment upends all of her plans, her life is changed in an instant. But… is all as she thinks it is? Or is there more at play than anyone suspected? Can love be won from disaster?
To a Wild Rose by Janis Susan May
Miss Hyacinth Roote feels the full weight of her mother’s expectations. She is supposed to marry well – and as soon as possible. It’s a pity that she would far rather draw and paint than indulge in society gatherings. When her mother’s aunt, a Countess, shows her favour, with an invitation to her summer garden viewings, Hyacinth expects tedium, with perhaps an occasional change to sneak away to draw the flowers. But what happens is not tedious at all – shocking, perhaps, and utterly unexpected… for flowers lead to gardeners, and altercations… and Dukes….
The Count Courts an Heiress by Olivia Marwood
Lady Eugenia Calthorpe had hoped for courtship from the Count D’Asti, but when he is called away from London, she is left despairing. By the time that she sees him again, she is surrounded by scandal… In a tangle of betrayals and plots, where key moments always seem to happen in the garden, can they unravel the truth, and find their way not only out of the shadow of scandal, but to love?
Lady Laura’s Curiosity by Victoria Hinshaw
Lady Laura Grantley has spent her life expecting to marry the son of her mother’s best friend, to become a Countess, and eventually a Marchioness. She has barely considered much about the world, secure in the knowledge that she has been promised since childhood. But all of that comfortable certainty is torn away from her when her supposed intended elopes with another woman. Faced with a world in which everything seems unknown, Laura finds herself curious, wishing to pay attention for the first time, and what begins as a conversation about the trees on their estate, with her brother’s closest friend, somehow leads to more – much, much more.
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