Banking and Bank Notes in Georgian England

The 18th Century saw the roots of modern day banking in England. International trade and the various wars, most importantly, the war with France, led to the development of the British banking system. Checks and banknotes appeared, as well as the founding of the Bank of England.

Before banks, many of the services we think of when it comes to banking were provided by merchants and brokers, but, most assuredly, by goldsmiths located in most cities and large towns, but, especially, in London. Goldsmiths did more than deal with coins. Their promises to pay were accepted as “legal tender.” They were men of character, who word was as good as the law. They issued endorsed receipts, which one could return to collect his money.

In addition, people with money could write to the goldsmith to transfer money into another person’s account, which was an early form of writing a “check.” However, with more access to international trade and investments, a need to move money more efficiently was required. Thus, goldsmith houses became the banks of the 1700s.

Okay, strictly speaking, they are Bank Notes, during the Regency era. They were promissory notes (or cheques/checks) issued by specific banks to a specified value. They are called Bank Cheques today, which are a different beast to cheques written by a bank’s customers.

The Bank Notes of old are the equivalent of today’s Bank Cheques/Checks – a check issued by a specific bank against its own holdings. The bank withdraws the funds from their customer’s account and holds it in their own reserves, and the bank holds that money until the the Bank Cheque/check is presented for payment.

Pontefract Bank 1 guinea dated 1810 No.O550 for John Seaton, Sons & Foster, https://www.londoncoins.co.uk/?page=Pastresults&auc=132&searchlot=263&searchtype=2

A great source for everything “normal” during the Regency era is the book, In These Times, by Jenny Uglow. [As the Napoleonic wars raged, what was life really like for those left at home? Award-winning social historian Jenny Uglow reveals the colourful and turbulent everyday life of Georgian Britain through the diaries, letters and records of farmers, bankers, aristocrats and mill-workers. Here, lost voices of ordinary people are combined with those of figures we know, from Austen and Byron to Turner and Constable. In These Times movingly tells the story of how people really lived in one of the most momentous and exciting periods in history.]

This book contains a lot of information on banks. It concerns the impact of the Wars on life in England, and follows certain families, some involved in banking, for the duration.  You might be surprised by the number of local banks and the amount of commerce it discusses. There are several references to banking and banks.– city banking and country banking. The Bank of England. ” Several private banks dotted down Fleet street and the Strand to Charing Cross, a busy corridor between the city and Westminster and the West end, all dealing with wealthy landed customers in need of mortgages and loans,or, if they were flush, a safe house for their deposits. …. Each bank had its distinctive clientele: Praed & Co in Fleet Street had the West Country and Cornish business; Drummond’s catered for army agents, Gosling’s and Child’s for East India company tycoons; Coutts dealt with the aristocracy and never with industry; Wright’s in Covent Garden looked after the Catholic gentry and Herries Bank in St. James Street, further west, issued cheques for smart travellers setting out on the grand tour.The rule at Hoare’s was that one partner was in attendance at all times…. Ten clerks. One must be in at all times even on Sundays and Christmas day. They could live there.”

Baring’s was a merchant banker even if the word was not used at that time. The Quakers had several banks: Lloyd’s in Birmingham, Backhouse in Darlington, and Gurney’s in Norwich.

Supposedly, Child & Co. was one of the London banks that catered to aristocrats, so I’m using that as my hero’s London bank.

In Jane Austen, Edward Knight & Chawton : Commerce and Community by Linda Slothouber, the author says Edward Austen Knight’s primary London bank was Goslings Bank. He also used a bank founded by his brother Henry. Austen, Maunde & Austen, which went bankrupt, causing Edward to suffer a substantial loss.

Book Blurb: When Jane Austen’s third brother, Edward, inherited the estates of his rich relatives, he took on their surname, Knight, and he took control of property scattered across five English counties. Jane visited her brother at his home in Kent, and she spent her final years in a cottage he owned in the village of Chawton in Hampshire. From these vantage points, she observed Edward’s approach to managing his estates and learned about the concerns and activities of wealthy landowners, knowledge that is reflected in her novels.

Using original estate books, bank records, letters, and other archival sources, Linda Slothouber has created the most detailed portrait to date of Edward Knight. With Edward as an example, along with excerpts from Jane Austen’s novels, the reader discovers how the landed gentry of fact and fiction made their money, tried to ensure the prosperity of their heirs, and interacted with workers on their estates. People at all levels of the estate economy are represented, with profiles of specific individuals that Jane Austen would have known during her years in Chawton.
To fully understand the social criticism and subtle humor in Jane Austen’s novels, it is necessary to understand her world; while the pastimes of the gentry are often in the foreground, the business of estate ownership is an essential foundation. Learn what being “Lord of the Manor” and having “ten thousand a year” really meant; what stewards, bailiffs, overseers, and churchwardens did; who administered the civic affairs of the village; how attitudes toward natural resources and common property changed during Jane Austen’s lifetime; and why the estate-owner, though at the top of the social order of the village, was often judged according to the well-being of his humblest cottagers.

Goslings bank had records of money deposited in country banks. One such was Hammond & Co, in Canterbury. That bank consistently sent large deposits to the Gosling bank. I imagine these deposits would travel with guards. Agents also regularly made deposits in the Gosling bank. They were close enough to town to do so.

Sparrow & Co., an Essex bank also made deposits into the Gosling account. Money for current expenses and for current wages were kept on hand so not all money was sent to the bank. People were not quite in the habit of writing checks. Coin was preferred to paper, and most servants and such were paid in coin. Though this book is about the finances of Edward Austen Knight, it is the only one so far that I have found that actually discusses the bank deposits. Others discus the debts, the expenses, loans made by the landowner to others or taken out from a bank.

Banks in the countryside grew exponentially after the recoinage of guineas in 1774, meaning an institution/established business was required to collect coins and provide alternate currency for the people in the surrounding villages and neighborhood.

If one was involved with government securities, were part of the aristocracy, or the gentry, or was a wealthy barrister, one would customarily use these banks: Hoares, Coutts, Childs, and Drummonds.

If one was a member of the stock exchange, acted as a liaison for country banks, or did business with traders and manufacturers, one would deal with Martins, Mastermans, Curries, or Glyn Mills.

Other Resources: 

BANKING AND BANK NOTES:

Banking in Eighteenth Century England

http://www.umich.edu/~ece/student_projects/money/banking.html

British Banking History

http://www.banking-history.co.uk/history.html

Regency England and Money

http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/money.htm

Posted in British currency, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The “Skinny” on Abdicating a Title During the Regency Era

Many times in Regency-based novels we have the situation where for one reason or another, the hero refused the title he has inherited and “abdicates” his new peerage. The question is whether this is a viable plot line. 

The answer is a bit more complicated that we might expect. Let us say we have an earl who wishes to abdicate his title. He would have the option of refusing the title, the properties, and the money, but he would still technically be the earl until he dies and another secedes him. To have the full title and the honors accompanying it, the man would need to be confirmed before Parliament. In my story, “Courting Lord Whitmire,” , there is a lengthy scene where Lord Andrew Whitmire appears before Parliament to claim the viscountcy after his father’s death.] Parliament demands that the person making the claim to the title present evidence of his right to it. If the man wishes to be styled as an earl, he must claim the title. He does not need to send in the Writ of Summons to the House of Lords, and he can refuse to use the title, but someone must care for the property, and no one else can have the title while he is alive.

If he wished to claim the privileges of the peerage, which included: Peers had some special privileges. The main one was the right to sit in the House of Lords, unless they were Roman Catholic, a minor, a female or a lunatic. They could not be arrested for debts. They had to advance the peerage as an affirmative defense. They did not have to sit on juries.  (This made sense as the House of Lords was in effect the supreme court and the last court of appeal). If arrested for a crime, they were allowed to be tried by the House of Peers. Their wives also claimed these privileges, except for sitting in the House of Lords. It was against the law to libel or slander a peer or to strike him. It was not until 1963 that anyone could walk away from a title.

When the Frederick Berkeley, 5th Earl of Berkley died, his oldest son applied for a Writ of Summons to the House of Lords. Berkeley and Mary Cole (who also passed under the name of Tudor), the daughter of a local publican and butcher, had seven sons and five daughters, but the disputed date of their marriage prevented their elder sons from succeeding as Earl of Berkeley and Baron Berkeley. The pair asserted their marriage had taken place on 30 March 1785, but the earliest ceremony of which there is incontrovertible proof was a wedding in Lambeth Church, Surrey, on 16 May 1796, at which date Mary was pregnant with their seventh child. Berkeley settled Berkeley Castle upon their eldest son, William FitzHardinge Berkeley, but William’s attempt to assume his father’s honours were disallowed by the House of Lords, who considered him illegitimate.

Therefore, the Committee on Privilege turned down the eldest’s request, saying he and the other brothers born before 1795 were illegitimate, and the earldom had fallen to the 16-year-old born in 1796. Berkeley’s titles devolved as a matter of law upon his fifth but first legitimate son, Thomas Morton Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1796–1882), but were never used by him and he did not take his seat in the House of Lords. Per his father’s will, he would have lost his small inheritance had he disputed his eldest brother’s claim to the titles. The boy was too young, for he had not reached his majority, to do anything about the matter, and his oldest brother and mother ran things. When he came of age, he still never put forth a claim to the earldom. However, he was, by right and law, the earl, so anything requiring the signature of the earl had to be signed by him. He signed responsibility over to his oldest brother, but the title itself went dormant until he died. 

Somewhere around 1945, men succeeding to a peerage were allowed to disclaim it. The title went dormant during the man’s life time. No one else could assume it. This was done mainly by men who had political power in the House of Commons and did not want to relinquish it. The current Duke of  Marlborough cannot pass over his heir for a more somber, younger son. The heir can not be disinherited. If there is a living person who is next in line, the succession cannot be changed. Earlier the  descent of the dukedom was changed because the Duke had no living son, and there was a slight chance of his having one. The succession was changed to allow his daughters to assume the title and then their sons. This was during the duke’s life time and was an exception to a general rule.  A man who is living and the lawful successor cannot have it taken from him except by being convicted of a crime. During the Regency, there was no way to disclaim a peerage except by not using it and not sending in a request for a seat in the House of  Lords. Once a man was seated in the House of Lords  under a title, the HOL would not take it back. Neither was he able to disclaim it.

For additional information, visit Nancy Mayer Regency Researcher’s site for Succession When a Peer Dies and Introduction of a New Peer: Fees for Promotion and Introduction of a New Peer to the House of Lords

For a good summary of what constitutes a “hereditary peer,” visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hereditary_peer

A man could be stripped of his title by the Crown if he committed treason, but not only would be tried and executed for his action, but his family would also be held “guilty.” The University of Michigan‘s website refers to Blackstone’s summary of the laws: 

“Since High Treason was, and arguably remains, the most serious capital crime, testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act was required to convict, and the punishment in the Eighteenth century was severe. Blackstone states that ‘the punishment of high treason in general is very solemn and terrible’:

  1. That the offender be drawn to the gallows, and not carried or walk: though usually (by connivance length ripened by humanity into law) a sledge or hurdle is allowed, to preserve the offender from the extreme torment of being dragged on the ground or pavement 
  2. That he be hanged by the neck and then cut down alive
  3. That his entrails be taken out and burned, while he is yet alive
  4. That his head be cut off 
  5. That his body be divided in four parts 
  6. That his head and quarters be at the King’s disposal. [Blackstone, Wm., Knight. Chase, George, ed. Chase’s Blackstone Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books. New York: Baker, Voorhis & Co., 1936. p889.]

“The punishment did not end with the personal suffering of the offender: the punishment extended to his or her family. The law states that a person who is found guilty of treason must also undergo “forfeiture” and “corruption of blood.” In forfeiture, the person is force to give all their lands and property to the Crown. Corruption of blood prevents the person’s immediate family and hereditary heirs from owning property or conducting business—in effect ruining the offender’s family forever.”

On the other hand, if the peer committed suicide, nothing happened to the title. The son inherited as usual. It would be a rare man of that time who did not want a title just because his father had disgraced it. He was not required to claim it, but he could not sit in the House of Lords if he did not. He could change his name either by sign manual, deed poll, or just by doing it. However, those are extreme measures, and he would be compounding the failure of his father by not attending to the estate, the workers, the servants and all the others who depend on the family in one way or another. [I use all this legal rigamarole in my upcoming book, The Heartless Earl, being released by Black Opal Books on October 16. The earl is accused of a crime that puts not only his life, but the earldom, in jeopardy.]

Obviously, we have had royalty abdicate in recent times. Edward VIII became king on his father’s (George V) death in early 1936. However, he showed impatience with court protocol, and caused concern among politicians by his apparent disregard for established constitutional conventions. Only months into his reign, he caused a constitutional crisis by proposing to Wallis Simpson, an American who had divorced her first husband and was seeking a divorce from her second. The prime ministers of the United Kingdom and the Dominions opposed the marriage, arguing a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands was politically and socially unacceptable as a prospective queen consort. Additionally, such a marriage would have conflicted with Edward’s status as the titular head of the Church of England, which, at the time, disapproved of remarriage after divorce if a former spouse was still alive. Edward knew the British government, led by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, would resign if the marriage went ahead, which could have forced a general election and would ruin his status as a politically neutral constitutional monarch. When it became apparent he could not marry Wallis and remain on the throne, Edward abdicated. He was succeeded by his younger brother, George VI.

After his abdication, he was created Duke of Windsor. Edward married Wallis in France on 3 June 1937, after her second divorce became final. Later that year, the couple toured Germany. During the Second World War, he was at first stationed with the British Military Mission to France, but after private accusations that he held Nazi sympathies, he was appointed Governor of the Bahamas. After the war, Edward spent the rest of his life in retirement in France. Edward and Wallis remained married until his death in 1972. [Edward VIII]

One final question that has likely occurred to some of you reading this: Is it possible for all lands to be lost save to pay debts? Or did lands always have to remain with the title?

It really depends on how the lands were acquired and what deeds, settlements, or entails control their disposition. While all of a man’s property could be sold to cover debts, entailed properties and hereditaments [In law, a hereditament (from Latin hereditare, to inherit, from heres, heir) is any kind of property that can be inherited.] and such came under a special provision. Now, there were special rules pertaining to peers and debts. Land did not always go with the title though the family seat was usually tied to it. Titles and property could go in different directions and often did.

Posted in Black Opal Books, British history, Church of England, customs and tradiitons, estates, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Inheritance, kings and queens, legacy, peerage, real life tales, Regency era, research, titles of aristocracy, tradtions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

29 January 1820, the End of the Regency Period

This week in history marks the end of what was called the Regency Period, the era which we relish as being best reflected by Jane Austen’s stories. King George III died on 29 January 1820, and his son, Prince George Augustus Frederick, came to the throne as George IV, bringing about the end of the Regency. George IV ruled until his death in July 1830.

Yet, the period of 1811 to 1820 was not the first crisis to mark the call for a Regent.

It is believed by many that King George III suffered from a hereditary disease known as “porphyria.” Some of you might recall the 1994 film called “The Madness of King George.” The film is a biographical and historical comedy/drama and tells the story of George III’s deteriorating mental health, as well as his strained relationship with his eldest son, Prince George, and it centers on the Regency Crisis of 1788-1789. The film depicts King George III’s bouts of “madness” that triggered a power struggle between factions of Parliament under the Tory Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and the reformed-minded leader of the opposition in the form of Charles James Fox.

The “thing” with George III’s mental capacities, they came and went. It was said he could recall appointments to office from years past, but could not remember who within his government was friend or foe. Many of us today might consider this as the early stages of dementia.

The Mayo Clinic lists these signs of dementia:People may experience:Cognitive: mental decline, confusion in the evening hours, disorientation, inability to speak or understand language, making things up, mental confusion, or inability to recognize common thingsBehavioral: irritability, personality changes, restlessness, lack of restraint, or wandering and getting lostMood: anxiety, loneliness, mood swings, or nervousnessPsychological: depression, hallucination, or paranoiaMuscular: inability to combine muscle movements or unsteady walkingAlso common: memory loss, falling, jumbled speech, or sleep disorder

The Prince Regent in Profile by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c. 1814 ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_IV#/media/File:George_IV_by_Sir_Thomas_Lawrence.jpg

That being said, in the summer of 1788, King George’s mental health had deteriorated. However, he managed to discharge some of his duties and to declare Parliament prorogued from 25 September to 20 November of that year. However, during Parliament’s recess, the King’s symptoms became worse, some believing he posed a threat to his own life. When Parliament reconvened in November, the King was not in a condition to deliver the ritual speech from the throne, outlining the government’s agenda and focus for the forthcoming session, during the State Opening of Parliament. According to long-established law, Parliament could not proceed without the delivery of the King’s Speech at a State Opening. [Innes, Arthur Donald (1914). A History of England and the British Empire, Vol. 3. The MacMillan Company. pp. 396–397.]

Though some questioned their right to do so, Parliament debated the necessity of forming a regency. Charles James Fox, who was a close associate with Prince George approached Parliament. In the Commons on 10 December, Fox declared it was Prince George’s right to install himself as the regent immediately. Fox declared the Prince was automatically entitled to exercise sovereignty during the King’s incapacity. Obviously, William Pitt the Younger opposed this idea. He argued, as there was an absence of a statute in the contrary, that is was the right of Parliament to choose the regent. It is said that Pitt, upon hearing Fox’s assertion, slapped his thigh in an uncharacteristic display of emotion and declared that he would “unwhig” Fox for the rest of his life. Fox’s argument did indeed seem to contradict his lifelong championing of Parliament’s rights over the Crown. Pitt pointed out that the Prince of Wales had no more right to the throne than any other Briton, though he might well have a better claim to it as the King’s firstborn son. It was Parliament’s constitutional right to decide who the monarch could be.

Prince George did not attempt to exercise any power without possessing the consent of Parliament to do so. With the consent of Parliament, Pitt outlined a formal plan for the regency in which it was suggested that the power of presented to Prince George be greatly limited. For example, the Prince would not be able to create and grant a peerage to anyone other than one of his siblings. George could also not sell any property belonging to the King. The Prince of Wales denounced Pitt’s “suggestions,” declaring it a “project for producing weakness, disorder, and insecurity in every branch of the administration of affairs.” [May, Thomas Erskine. (1896). The Constitutional History of England Since the Accession of George the Third, 1760-1860 (11th ed.) London: Longmans, Green and Co., chapter III, pp. 184-195.]  A compromise was required.

Without the speech from the throne, debate on a Regency Bill before Parliament could not proceed. Such a speech had to be delivered by the ruling monarch, but it could also be delivered by royal representatives known as “Lords Commissioners.” Unfortunately the Lords Commissioners [The Lords Commissioners are Privy Counsellors appointed by the King/Queen to exercise, on his or her behalf, certain functions relating to Parliament which would otherwise require the monarch’s attendance.] could not act without the Great Seal of the Realm affixed to it, meaning the incoherent King George III would be required to legally affix the authorization of the sovereign with the Great Seal. Pitt overrode the objects and instructed the Lord Chancellor to affix the Great Seal without the King’s consent. The actions were called “forgery,” “fraud, “a glaring falsehood,” and the like. The Duke of York declared the move as “unconstitutional and illegal.” However, many in government declared the situation the only means to preserve government, as they knew it. Therefore, on 3 February 1789, an “illegal” group of Lords Commissioners opened Parliament. The Regency Bill was introduced, but before it could pass, King George III made a recovered. Ironically, the King declared the instrument authorizing the Lords Commissioners to act was valid.

In late 1810, the King was once again overcome by his malady. Therefore, Parliament agreed to follow the precedent of 1788, and, without the King’s consent, the Lord Chancellor affixed the Great Seal of the Realm to letters patent naming Lords Commissioners. Although they lacked the Royal Sign Manual, the letters patent passed both Houses of Parliament. The Lords Commissioners appointed by the letters patent acted in the name of the King. They granted Royal Assent to a bill that was later called the Regency Act 1811. Originally, Parliament restricted some of the Prince Regent’s powers, but those constraints expired one year after the passage of the act. Prince George, the Prince of Wales, became Prince Regent on 5 February 1811.

Lithograph of George IV in profile by George Atkinson, 1821 – via Wikipedia

Prince George was often referred to as the “First Gentleman of England.” His style and manners were much remarked upon. He was bright, clever, and knowledgeable, speaking three languages other than his native English. His laziness and gluttony kept him from being recognized for his talents. He was, however, a leader in many ways, especially those we think of as part of the Regency era. For example, when political leaders placed a tax on wig powder, the Prince abandoned wearing a powdered wig, choosing to style his natural hair. He wore dark colored clothing because it assisted in minimizing his weight, but men in Society followed suit. He favored pantaloons and trousers over the knee to breeches, mainly because they were looser and not so binding. By the end of his reign, men had left their breeches behind. He wore elaborately-tied neck cloths to hide his double chin, and it is said that his 1822 visit to Scotland, when he was King, brought back into fashion the Scottish tartan dress, as it is know today.

Titles and styles:

  • 12 August 1762 – 19 August 1762: His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall
  • 19 August 1762 – 5 February 1811: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
  • 5 February 1811 – 29 January 1820: His Royal Highness The Prince Regent
  • 29 January 1820 – 26 June 1830: His Majesty The King

At birth, he was also entitled to the dignities Prince of Great Britain and Ireland, Electoral Prince of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Duke of Rothesay. Under the Act of Parliament that instituted the regency, the prince’s formal title as regent was “Regent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”.

Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, George IV, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Regency personalities | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on 29 January 1820, the End of the Regency Period

Peerage Law in Georgian England

TITLES (IN DISPUTE):

One could not renounce an English title. 

In the mid 20th century,  a law was passed allowing a man to disclaim a title he had not yet taken up. However, the title became “dormant,” and no one could have it until the man who disclaimed it died. It had to be disclaimed within a year of succession. 

At one time, Scottish peers could turn in their titles to be reissued to them with a new heir, not a new holder. However, that was not possible with English titles. I know of no case where a man could step down from a title and present it to someone else.

The King, the Home Secretary and the House of Lords’ Committee on Privilege, plus, the College of Arms would be involved in all questions of peerage titles. Ordinary courts could deal with property and other questions, but they had no jurisdiction over peerage questions.

Before the law was passed allowing one to disclaim an inherited title (and the heir had to wait until the man was dead to take it up), the most a man could do was refuse to use the title or to take his seat in the Lords under the title.

 The title would be dormant. Some have been dormant for a hundred years or more and others for a mere twenty.  This is not the same thing as a title in abeyance.

Such an event would not have been contested in court. It might have been contested in the Committee for Privileges, which decided upon such claims. I’m not sure about specific Regency cases, but there are a TON of cases in the Peerage Law Handbook that one can get for free on Google Books: 

Peerage Law in England: A Practical Treatise for Lawyers and Laymen; With an Appendix of Peerage Charters and Letters Patent; (In English)

https://books.google.com/books?id=1GIWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR3&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

The History Hoydens group has a couple of blog posts that cover the basics and have links to specific cases:

http://historyhoydens.blogspot.com/2012/04/inheriting-english-peerage.html

http://historyhoydens.blogspot.com/2012/04/challenging-claim-to-peerage.html

A title with no apparent “taker” would go dormant, if there was a chance that the heir had had a legitimate son.  However, the property attached to the title could pass to another, because property could be given back to the rightful owner, but a peerage could not (This is a minor plot line in my Regency romantic suspense entitled, The Earl Claims His Comfort.)

Property and Peerage operated with different rules.

When a peer died, his heir or a claimant to the title put in a petition, a request for a writ of summons to Parliament. That was the time when one had to bring forth objections and other claims. That was what happened when the oldest son of the Earl of Berkley put in his claim. An objection was voiced about his legitimacy. After a thorough investigation, the fifth son was declared the earl and the older four became illegitimate.

When the Frederick Berkeley, 5th Earl of Berkley died, his oldest son applied for a Writ of Summons to the House of Lords. Berkeley and Mary Cole (who also passed under the name of Tudor), the daughter of a local publican and butcher, had seven sons and five daughters, but the disputed date of their marriage prevented their elder sons from succeeding as Earl of Berkeley and Baron Berkeley. The pair asserted their marriage had taken place on 30 March 1785, but the earliest ceremony of which there is incontrovertible proof was a wedding in Lambeth Church, Surrey, on 16 May 1796, at which date Mary was pregnant with their seventh child. Berkeley settled Berkeley Castle upon their eldest son, William FitzHardinge Berkeley, but William’s attempt to assume his father’s honours were disallowed by the House of Lords, who considered him illegitimate.

Therefore, the Committee on Privilege turned down the eldest’s request, saying he and the other brothers born before 1795 were illegitimate, and the earldom had fallen to the 16-year-old born in 1796. Berkeley’s titles devolved as a matter of law upon his fifth but first legitimate son, Thomas Morton Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1796–1882), but were never used by him and he did not take his seat in the House of Lords. Per his father’s will, he would have lost his small inheritance had he disputed his eldest brother’s claim to the titles. The boy was too young, for he had not reached his majority, to do anything about the matter, and his oldest brother and mother ran things. When he came of age, he still never put forth a claim to the earldom. However, he was, by right and law, the earl, so anything requiring the signature of the earl had to be signed by him. He signed responsibility over to his oldest brother, but the title itself went dormant until he died. 

In another case, two cousins fought over a peerage in front of the Committee One was finally chosen. Later the loser came forward with proof, he said, that the chosen one was actually illegitimate. “Sorry,” he was told. You had your chance and lost. Once a choice was made it was not undone. Sorry, once it is decided which one has the title, the other one is out of luck.

Many times in Regency-based novels we have the situation where for one reason or another, the hero refused the title he has inherited and “abdicates” his new peerage. The question is whether this is a viable plot line. 

The answer is a bit more complicated than we might expect. Let us say we have an earl who wishes to abdicate his title. He would have the option of refusing the title, the properties, and the money, but he would still technically be the earl until he dies and another secedes him. To have the full title and the honors accompanying it, the man would need to be confirmed before Parliament. [In my release, “Courting Lord Whitmire,”  there is a lengthy scene where Lord Andrew Whitmire appears before Parliament to claim the viscountcy after his father’s death.] Parliament demands that the person making the claim to the title present evidence of his right to it. If the man wishes to be styled as an earl, he must claim the title. He does not need to send in the Writ of Summons to the House of Lords, and he can refuse to use the title, but someone must care for the property, and no one else can have the title while he is alive.

If he wished to claim the privileges of the peerage, which included: Peers had some special privileges. The main one was the right to sit in the House of Lords, unless they were Roman Catholic, a minor, a female or a lunatic. They could not be arrested for debts. They had to advance the peerage as an affirmative defense. They did not have to sit on juries.  (This made sense as the House of Lords was in effect the supreme court and the last court of appeal). If arrested for a crime, they were allowed to be tried by the House of Peers. Their wives also claimed these privileges, except for sitting in the House of Lords. It was against the law to libel or slander a peer or to strike him. It was not until 1963 that anyone could walk away from a title.

A man could be stripped of his title by the Crown if he committed treason, but not only would be tried and executed for his action, but his family would also be held “guilty.” The University of Michigan‘s website refers to Blackstone’s summary of the laws: 

“Since High Treason was, and arguably remains, the most serious capital crime, testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act was required to convict, and the punishment in the Eighteenth century was severe. Blackstone states that ‘the punishment of high treason in general is very solemn and terrible’:

  1. That the offender be drawn to the gallows, and not carried or walk: though usually (by connivance length ripened by humanity into law) a sledge or hurdle is allowed, to preserve the offender from the extreme torment of being dragged on the ground or pavement 
  2. That he be hanged by the neck and then cut down alive
  3. That his entrails be taken out and burned, while he is yet alive
  4. That his head be cut off 
  5. That his body be divided in four parts 
  6. That his head and quarters be at the King’s disposal. [Blackstone, Wm., Knight. Chase, George, ed. Chase’s Blackstone Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books. New York: Baker, Voorhis & Co., 1936. p889.]

“The punishment did not end with the personal suffering of the offender: the punishment extended to his or her family. The law states that a person who is found guilty of treason must also undergo “forfeiture” and “corruption of blood.” In forfeiture, the person is force to give all their lands and property to the Crown. Corruption of blood prevents the person’s immediate family and hereditary heirs from owning property or conducting business—in effect ruining the offender’s family forever.”

On the other hand, if the peer committed suicide, nothing happened to the title. The son inherited as usual. It would be a rare man of that time who did not want a title just because his father had disgraced it. He was not required to claim it, but he could not sit in the House of Lords if he did not. He could change his name either by sign manual, deed poll, or just by doing it. However, those are extreme measures, and he would be compounding the failure of his father by not attending to the estate, the workers, the servants and all the others who depend on the family in one way or another. [I use all this legal rigamarole in my book, The Heartless Earl, which is available on Amazon and KU. The earl is accused of a crime that puts not only his life, but the earldom, in jeopardy.]

Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, Inheritance, peerage, primogenture, Regency era, research | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Peerage Law in Georgian England

Enlisting in the British Army During the Regency Era

Being an officer in the British Army was considered a “suitable” occupation for sons of peers and wealthy families of the gentry. Generally, the head of the family (father, uncle, brother, etc. would purchase commissions for his relation. We often hear of second sons in Regency romances being the one to join the Army. Such is Colonel Fitzwilliam’s position in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

After 1795, the minimum age requirement to join the Army was 16. Before that time, it was common for family to buy their son commissions at young ages. Thomas John Cochrane of Navy fame found at fifteen that his father had purchased a petty officer’s commission for him when he was twelve. He was always destined to go to sea, and was entered into the navy at the age of seven. Cochrane began his naval career in 1796 when enlisted at the age of seven and was promoted to lieutenant at the age of 16. His rise quickly in the ranks was considered by many to be blatant patronage because of his father’s influence. Cochrane first commanded HMS Forte.

Later, his uncle purchased an ensign’s commission in the Army for him when he was thirteen. He earned pay from both positions, gaining seniority while never actually serving. This was 1790 though. Such practices were eventually eliminated in both the Navy and, afterwards, in 1795, the Army. One must also recall that during the Regency, an Army officer was considered to be higher in Society’s rank than a naval officer. 

A man had to be between 16 and 21 years of age to purchase a commission. He had to demonstrate the ability to read and write with a degree of proficiency and have the connections to pay for the position he desired. Again, think of how long Colonel Fitzwilliam must have been serving England. When Elizabeth Bennet meets Darcy, he is 28 years of age, and the colonel was several years Darcy’s senior, which means he had likely been in the Army for, at least, ten years—perhaps longer. A candidate for an officer’s commission also had to present a recommendation from an existing officer, of, at a minimum, the rank of major, warranting the man’s education, character, and physical stability to assume leadership positions in the British Army.

One could only purchase a commission with a cavalry or infantry regiment. Other commissions were presented by organizations such as the Royal Engineers or the Royal Artillery, meaning one had to attend the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich to be presented a commission beyond infantry or cavalry. Promotions from the Royal Military Academy were based on experience and length of service.

The purchasing of commissions was a custom from the early days of war in England when men of rank formed armies to fight along or against the King. By the early 19th Century, people had come to believe paying for a commission guaranteed a certain “quality” of officers. No one considered the fact that those not of the peerage or the gentry had the ability to be an equally capable officer.

If a man died in battle, the purchase price of the commission was not refundable. If a man died in an heroic manner, his widow MIGHT be gifted a sum equal to the value of his commission, but this was not a guaranteed practice.

Commissions were expensive – at approximately £450 – and usually only the wealthy could afford them, with landed families purchasing commissions for their sons. It can be assumed that serving with the Army did command a certain respect, and those men that became the holder of an office “could lay claim to the title of [being a] gentleman.” Therefore, self-interest, respect and status were enticing prospects for many who were to join the army. Despite what the Regency romances say, in reality, only a small proportion of officers were from the nobility; in 1809, only 140 officers were peers or peers’ sons. A large proportion of officers came from the Militia, and a small number were gentlemen volunteers, who trained and fought as private soldiers but messed (ate) with the officers and remained as such until vacancies (without purchase) for commissions became available.

The Duke of York oversaw a reform of the sale of commissions, making it necessary for officers to serve two full years before either promotion or purchase to captain and six years before becoming a major, improving the quality of the officers through the experience gained.

If a man enlisted before 1809, his service to his country was considered “a life sentence.” He could be pensioned off when his battalion disbanded or he was wounded or placed in the invalid corp and remain in the army.  But those were the only alternatives and the enlisted man did not make the choice. After 1809, this was changed. The government finally realized that a life enlistment could discourage volunteers.  So enlistment could be for seven or twenty years. With the twenty year enlistment one received a pension when one “retired.”  

“Crying out” is what an officer who did not pay for his commission would do. If he bought his commission, he would “sell out.'”  In either case, giving up his commission means the man is no longer in the army; he becomes a civilian again. And yes, he would have to be an officer to do that.  If he has spent 14 years in the military as an officer, the odds are that he would be a captain or better by then, even at 26. 

There were very few opportunities for an enlisted man to “better” himself, other than to gain a higher rank. Only a few men from the ranks became an officer. From listings in the Gazette, it appears about 5% of officers came from the ranks. They could be identified in the Gazette because they were termed as being “a gentleman of private means,” but officer records also identified their past occupations, such as laborer or dock worker.

 There was little chance of an enlisted man to better himself by choosing the military as his occupation. Achieving an officer’s rank, such as ensign or lieutenant was usually done with exemplary service, sergeant’s rank AND some act of heroism that was noticed by those who could do something about it. Conduct medals were reserved for officers. The other way an “ordinary man” might better himself was through war booty/prize money.  Soldiers would be given a portion of the value of war materials or valuables, just as sailors could gain prize money.  The soldiers that ”captured” Louis XVIII’s war chest and carriage after Vittoria did well for themselves.  

Anyway, becoming an officer was a better way of ‘bettering himself’ if he was a gentleman at all. He could volunteer [at his own expense] and go with a regiment overseas in the hopes of filling a vacancy there, which was easier for the commander than waiting months for a possible replacement from home. 

The cheapest entry grade was that of ENSIGN in a marching Regiment of Foot. That would cost a man £400. If he wanted a like position in the Foot Guards, he would need to shell out £900. A CORNET was the Cavalry equivalent of an ensign. It would cost £1,102 to purchase a Cornetcy in the Dragoon Guards and £1600 in the Horse Guards. Men could only purchase ranks up to the position of COLONEL. However, to purchase a promotion, one had to wait for the position to become available due to death, severe injury or pensioned out. A man had to have served for three years, for example, to become a CAPTAIN.

A man could go on half-pay, but he was still officially in the Army and could be called up again, not that such would necessarily be required. Pensions were for officers who did not buy their commissions [meaning about two-thirds of the officers throughout the wars] and that is when they left the army, not half-pay. An officer who bought his commission, only got the price of his rank when he ‘cried out’, which could run from £400 for a Lieutenant to a thousand or more for a full colonel, depending on whether he was cavalry or infantry, guard or regulars.  

An officer in the Army received an “honorarium,” rather than pay. This was done because a “gentleman” was NEVER employed. “The daily pay of a British soldier differed with respect to his position within the army. A sergeant could expect to be paid between 1s 6d (7.5 pence) and 2s 6d (12.5 pence) depending on whether he served with a foot regiment or the dragoons respectively. A trumpeter could be paid up to 2s 8d (14 pence), while a drummer may have been paid 3s (15 pence) if he served with the cavalry. A normal private soldier may have been paid 8d if serving with a Regiment of Foot, but received almost 2s 6d if enlisted with the cavalry. In comparison, a labourer in the mid-18th century would have earned a daily wage of 2s (10 pence).

“A soldier would have to pay for food and forage beyond the supplied rations  – and for any other extras such as beer – out of his wage. A loaf of bread usually cost around 5d (2 pence), while a dragoon soldier, earning 1s 6d daily, would have paid 6d for a ration of forage consisting of 18 lb (8 kg) of hay and one peck (16 dry pints) of oats. From 1800 onwards, soldiers received a daily beer money allowance in addition to their regular wages. The practice was started on the orders of The Duke of York.

“Considering the prices of camp necessaries during this period, many items cost a few shillings: a haversack could be purchased for 3s 6d (17.5 pence) while leather powder bags could be found for 7s (35 pence). Dragoons may have purchased a nose bag for the sum of 2s (10 pence) and a drum case would be worth 10s (50 pence). The larger items such as tents would obviously cost more; it cost approximately £4 10s for a complete round tent and £2 12s for a bell tent for arms. Normally, the tents would be provided by the Board of Ordnance, but other necessities may have been purchased by the colonel of the regiment who would later be reimbursed.” (British Soldiers in the eighteenth century)

______________________________

Resources:

Bois, Mark (November 2008). “Leadership and experience: British Officers at Waterloo”. Napoleon Series.

British Soldiers in the Eighteenth Century

Gentlemen’s Occupations: Army and Navy

Posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, Living in the Regency, military, real life tales, Regency era, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Widow’s Stipend, Jointures, Dower, Settlements, and Dowry. Which is Which in the Regency?

Fra Angelico’s painting: The Story of St Nicholas – Giving Dowry to Three Poor Girls. The 15th-century painting relates to the story of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father
had to offer prospective
husbands a dowry. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. Mysteriously, on three occasions,
so goes the story,
a bag of gold appeared in their home, for the dowries, courtesy of St Nicholas. ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowry#/media/File:Angelico,_san_nicola_done_tre_palle_d’oro_a_tre_fanciulle_
poverer_farle_maritare,_vaticano.jpg

 

English Common Law provided a widow a life interest in one-third of the freehold lands her husband owned at the time of their marriage. She could not be denied these rights unless she was found guilty of treason, felony, or adultery. The law of dower gave a wife one-third of any property a man held on his death. That excluded entailed property, for the most part. However, the husband could defeat dower by leaving his wife as little as £50. The Court of Chancery did rectify such lapses if the widow had the resources or the  friends to help her bring suit and there was any property or money to be had. The court looked to the amount of the dowry and the position the widow had held as wife. Obviously, the court would see that a countess was provided for better than the widow of a vicar. Unfortunately in this cases, the countess had had a father or guardian who made sure iron-clad settlements were drawn up, whereas the vicar’s wife might not have been so lucky.

Even if the father did not bother to arrange the marriage settlements before the actual marriage (i.e., an elopement), and the husband did not leave his widow anything in his will, she was, as previously explained, supposedly entitled to one-third of his own estate. This is called her dower. She was to ask the sheriff to see that this was arranged properly. However, quite often the husband had no property he owned outright, as it was all entailed. Then, she would have to petition the Court of Chancery for a sum upon which to live.

It was difficult for a husband to set up a trust for his wife during his lifetime, other than in a will, if doing so was not accomplished before the marriage. Because a husband and wife, under law, were considered one, he could not legally give himself his own money. There were cases where a husband did give the wife money and wrote it out that this money was to be hers to do with as she would. However, in such one case where the woman took that money and purchased houses, she lost the property without recompense when her husband died, and the heir sued to have the houses declared part of the estate. Other situations that were deemed illegal included where the husband gave his wife money in a trust and then raided the trust, presented her property and then sold it for his profit, etc.

The Oxford Reference defines the Statue of Uses as, “The use was a legal device whereby property could be held by one person for the benefit of another, e.g. when a landowner was absent on crusade. But, by extension, it might be employed to evade or avoid obligations, defraud creditors, or escape legislation against mortmain. Henry VIII pressed strongly that uses should be restricted, arguing that his revenue was affected, but the Parliament of 1532 was unwilling to legislate and was told sharply ‘not to contend with me’. In 1535 Parliament accepted 27 Hen. VIII c. 10, which complained of ‘subtle inventions and practices’ and restored obligations to the beneficiary.” The “jointure” came into practice with the Statue of Uses. It was a settlement on a bride by her future husband of a freehold piece of property to be used to secure her widowhood. The bride was required to surrender her dower (not her “dowry,” although the terms can be confusing). 

Later in the 19th Century, wives lost their right to inherit, meaning in the 1830s, if the woman had no jointure rights recorded in her husband’s will, the widow could be left without anything upon which to survive. She could also lose the right to the property if she remarried. It would automatically revert back to his heir. 

Jointures were usually payable be the heir of the estate as an annual payment, which was equal to one-tenth of the dowry she brought to the marriage. This number was established because it was assumed that the wife would outlive her husband by ten years, for that was often the difference in their ages when they married. She would receive this payment for the remaining days of her lifetime. Thereafter, the principle would be allotted to her children. Providing the widow one-tenth of what she brought into the marriage meant she received back her dowry. The percentages were per year. The amounts were generally paid quarterly. The formula generally followed this plan: pin money was 2% of the dowry, while jointure was 10%.

As stated above, the jointure is usually set forth in the marriage settlements, which is a prenuptial or ante nuptial agreement. These funds are supposed to come to the widow without let or hindrance. However, it is often set up to be the income from some piece of land. If there is no income from said land, she is out of luck.

Yet, if the husband had not set up a jointure (her annual annuity), but, rather, left her a small sum in his will, that was all she would receive. Or if the heir was not her son, and the estate was encumbered by a mortgage, she might have a problem receiving either the jointure or the dower.

She was supposed to receive a sum large enough to allow her to live decently according to her rank, but not all knew equality under the law. There were even cases where the man left most of his cash to a grandson of a child by his first wife. In a few such cases, the courts felt the widow should have the return of most of her dowry, if nothing else.

A dowry was provided as compensation to the husband for taking on the care of the woman for the remainder of his and her days. Interest from the dowries equalled what the woman would have a spending money or pin money. It played a part in how much income she had readily available once she became a widow (See the formula mentioned above.), and determined the distributions made to the children of the marriage once she, too, died. The problem was that often a dowry could only be used as a “dowry,” and the widow would only  have the interest upon which to live.

Exceptions were often made if the marriage lasted less than a year and the woman was not pregnant nor had she borne a child in that time. The law of Scotland, for example, set it out as a definite thing that in such cases the dowry was returned. One of the reasons elopements were frowned upon was that the wife usually had no protection  except the goodwill of the husband and his heir upon which to make a claim, if she did not bear a son.

To determine the settlement agreed upon before the exchange of marriage vows, one took the total amount of funds set aside for the dowries of the daughters and divide by the number of daughter in the family. To guarantee fairness, one would think the amount would be divided equally, but there was no written guidelines or laws that made this method official. The father could add to the sum during his lifetime, but, again, he was not compelled to do so by law.

Other issues that complicated the situation were numerous. For example, if she was  under 21, she would still require a guardian, though she could remarry without permission. The guardianship often reverted back to the widow’s father or brother .

Widows of aristocrats and the upper gentry were seldom left destitute, but they could be left with very little income. Usually the widow was also given the use of the Dower House or another house owned by the husband.

If the marriage settlements or the will left her money, the executor of the will was supposed to see that she received it. Unless she was still a minor, no one was supposed to keep it from her.

If her father was a peer, it was unlikely that the heir’s family would attempt to keep her money from her. However, if he were a clergyman, or, if her father was dead, they might try to withhold the money.The solicitor and executor would have to be complicit in such behaviour.

If she is young, but without children, though she is of age, it is likely that her father or brother, if father is dead, would attempt to take over her finances.

If the woman had no money set aside for her widowhood in a settlement or a will, the courts gave her her dower of one third of the man’s property– but it is possible for her not to know this, or if she knows it, she doesn’t know how to approach the court, and she needs a place to live so, youngish, childless widows were expected to go back home. What the law says and what people do are often at odds.

Jane Austen often speaks of dowries, dower, jointures, and settlements in her tales. For example, in Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Dashwood is not the mother of the heir, for Mr. John Dashwood is the only son of Mr. Henry Dashwood and his first wife. The estate has passed to John Dashwood’s hands, and he holds no obligation to provide for his step-mother or his half sisters. They are made to live, instead, on the income supplied by the jointure. The amount is £500, which means Mrs. Dashwood likely brought £5000 to the marriage in the form of her dowry. The Dashwood ladies’ lifestyle is greatly reduced. The £500 will allow for a servant or two, but no carriage and, likely, a tougher cut of meat. 

Mrs. Bennet’s dowry of £5000 in Pride and Prejudice would provide each of her five daughters only £1000, if it is divided equally. Mr. Darcy is taking a large loss of funds when he chooses to marry Elizabeth Bennet because Elizabeth’s dowry certainly does not offset the £30,000 dowry that will be an outlay when Georgiana Darcy marries. 

Posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, estates, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, Inheritance, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, Pride and Prejudice, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, Sense & Sensibility, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Performing as an Officer and a Gentleman While Being Broke

Of late, I have been reading of a phenomenon going on, specifically during the Napoleonic Wars, that I am certain many of my readers are unaware. Officers often “fronted” the cost of the men serving under them and returned home completely broke, with only the glory of the victory over Napoleon with which to pay their bills.

As we often read that many of the officers in these campaigns were second sons or minor sons, and they would require a wife with a sizable dowry to survive, this issue is even more problematic.

First, I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject. My knowledge is just bits and pieces I have pulled together from a variety of sources; yet, the way I understand it, the British government ignored pleas from these men to be reimbursed, for the practice was one carried over from the previous century. In the 1700s, the officers were all of the aristocratic class. Serving one’s country was viewed to be one’s “patriotic duty” to support one’s family members in the field, meaning the aristocratic family paid all the officer’s debts. This idea was carried forward into the Napoleonic era. Naturally, doing so saved the government money. One of the issues was funds required to maintain a regiment were under the auspices of the regimental agent who acted as the officer’s/regiment’s banker.

One must understand that an officer obtained money in the field from several sources. First, he received pay and stipends for mounts, batmen, or prize money. Unfortunately, these funds were not seen on a regular basis. Therefore, the officer would continue to put out money for each without knowing when or IF he would be repaid. Pay should have been received quarterly. However, we know that several regiments were away being paid for the first time in over a year, when the French surprised those still in camp at what is known as the Combat at Côa. On July 24, 1810, Brigadier General Robert Craufurd’s Light Division with 4,200 infantry, 800 cavalry, and six guns, was surprised by the sight of 20,000 troops under Marshal Michel Ney. Rather than retreat and cross the river as ordered by Wellington, Craufurd chose to engage the French, narrowly avoiding disaster.

Officers could receive needed funds from their family members, but this was a slow and laborious process. The money was usually in the form of a bank draft or promissory note sent to the regimental agent before the officer saw a penny of the money sent.

An officer could also borrow money from a fellow officer.

In addition, officers could borrow funds against future quarterly payments from the British government. These “loans” came from the regimental agent. The most that could be extended was equal to the payment of one quarter.

Many officers took to “selling” the spoils of war. For example, the officer might take the horse of a fallen fellow officer and sell it as if it belonged to a French officer.

On rare occasion, an officer might borrow from a regular “loan shark,” but as their “life expectancy” could not be guaranteed, then those loans were hard to come by.

After the war, many officers returned home without money and did not receive their back pay for months or even years afterwards.

You might be interested in these books to learn more of the situation. The book blurb comes from Amazon.

A Light Infantryman with Wellington

This series of letters was written by a light infantry officer on campaign, as a lieutenant with the 52nd Foot in Spain and a captain with the 69th Foot in Belgium and France. George Ulrich Barlow saw action at Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Vitoria, San Sebastian, Nivelle, Nive and Orthez. He transferred to the 69th Foot as a captain and served with them in Belgium at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo and then remained with the Army of Occupation in France until 1818. His involvement in the fighting and his honest views of some of the famous characters he met during his service are enlightening, including his first audience with Wellington at Freineda in Portugal. There are also interesting asides in his correspondence including his father’s difficulties over his governorship of Madras and his brother’s involvement in a major mutiny at the Royal Military College.

Journals of Robert Rogers of the Rangers

My orders were to raise this company as quick as possible, to enlist none but such as were used to travelling and hunting, and in whose courage and fidelity I could confide: they were, moreover, to be subject to military discipline and the articles of war.

From 1755 to 1760, Major Robert Rogers fought in the French and Indian War for the British. He and his troops were given a mandate “to use my best endeavours to distress the French and their allies, by sacking, burning; and destroying their houses, barns, barracks, canoes, bateaux, &c., and by killing their cattle of every kind; and at all times to endeavour to waylay, attack, and destroy their convoys of provisions by land and water, in any part of the country where I could find them.”

This is Rogers’ fascinating year by year account of that time.

Covering the battles on snowshoes and numerous raids against the French camps it provides an insight into the ruthless guerrilla warfare of Rogers’ Rangers.

Rogers’ strategy throughout the war was innovative and he explains in detail the techniques that he and his Rangers used and how he trained his men. Included in his journal is his now famous military twenty-eight point guide, the “Rules of Ranging”, which still form the basis of the “Standing Orders” taught to U.S. Army Rangers today.

As well as material drawn from Rogers’ journals, the inclusion of letters provide further details on the Rangers’ role in the wider war.

The Journals of Robert Rogers of the Rangers are a unique history of eighteenth century warfare that was developed during the French and Indian War.

After this conflict Rogers was involved in combating Pontiac’s Rebellion and then became a royal governor. Suspected of having British sympathies he was never given command of in the Continental Army and even assisted in the capture of Nathan Hale. After struggling with money problems and alcoholism he died in debt and obscurity in London in 1795. His journals were published in England in 1765.

The Scum of the Earth: What Happened to the Real British Heroes of Waterloo?

Debunking popular myths, this is a cold, hard look at the infamous battle itself and its aftermath—just in time for the 200th anniversary of the battleThis book follows the men Wellington called just that from victory at Waterloo to a Regency Britain at war with itself, and explodes some of the myths on the way; such as that the defeat of Napoleon ended the threat of revolution spreading from France. Did the victorious soldiers return to a land fit for heroes? They did not. There was the first of the Corn Laws in the same year as the battle, there was famine, and chronic unemployment. In 1819, the Peterloo massacre saw 15 killed and at least 500 injured when cavalry sabred a crowd demanding parliamentary reform. Peace in Europe perhaps for 50 years—but at home, repression and revolution in the air. And at the same time, the sheer exuberance of the Regency period, with new buildings, new art, even 17 new colonies more or less accidentally acquired. By 1848 the whole of Europe was once more set for complete upheaval. The 200th anniversary of the battle is on June 18, 2015.

Posted in British history, England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, Living in the Regency, military, Napoleonic Wars | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vicars and Rectors and Livings, a Guest Post from Elaine Owen

(As there was much interest on my recent post on the Clergy during the Regency era, I thought this perspective from Elaine Owen might also assist in clarifying the differences. It first appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 3 December 2020. Enjoy!)

Last month I discussed the aristocracy of England, a system that was so pervasive in Jane Austen’s time that she had no need to explain it to her readers. Today I’d like to talk about another system that she could assume her readers understood: the clergy of the Church of England.

The Church of England, of course, was the official church in Austen’s day. Though there were Catholics, Evangelicals, Quakers, and other groups in the country, the majority of people belonged to the state church, which we now call the Anglican church.

The most basic unit in the Anglican church was the parish, which usually consisted of a church and the community that built up around it. The clergyman in charge of a parish church was usually a vicar, and along with the responsibilities of a vicar he received a salary or stipend.  But sometimes the parish church was filled by a rector, who was.supported by the tithes from the parish. Confusingly, sometimes a church was overseen by both a rector and a vicar, but in that case the usual work of the parish would still be carried out by the vicar. It’s safe to say that being a vicar was the most common career in the Anglican church.

Vicars were not necessarily financially well off, as Jane Austen’s life shows. If the parish was large and the parishioners were generous, then they might make a decent living. But there were many poor parishes, and some parishes offered such a small salary that they had a difficult time attracting any clergyman at all. Jane Austen’s father was a vicar in a parish with a respectable income, but he also had a large family to support. He therefore found it necessary to tutor students and farm some of his own land in order to make ends meet.

Below the level of rector or vicar was a curate. A curate was the pastor of a church that was not associated with a parish. These churches were smaller than parish churches and usually could not afford to pay their pastor a living wage. So the poor man who got stuck in a curacy would have to find some other source of income and work at that even as he called on parishioners, prepared sermons, and did all the work that his more prosperous brothers in parish churches carried out.

It was possible for a curate to be promoted to a parish church and become a vicar, and for a vicar to be promoted to a rector. Above these levels a man could also be promoted to archdeacon, deacon, bishop, or even archbishop. But the vast majority of the ordained clergy occupied one of these three lowest ranks.

A living was therefore a valuable commodity. A man with an appointment to a parish church could count on the income from that parish for as long as they kept their position, which was presumed to be for life. It was possible to buy and sell livings based on the projected income to be made from that parish, just as we invest in annuities or bonds today. This flies in the face of how we think about pastors, but in Austen’s time, a clergyman did not necessarily  need a spiritual calling from God. For many people it was simply a job, something that would provide security and an income once a man was lucky enough to get into it.

How did a man become a rector, vicar or curate? In most cases the right to appoint the pastor of a church belonged to the family who owned the nearby estate. If they had more than one son then they might very well give the living to one of the younger sons. Other times they might sell it to another family who was trying to provide for their own son’s future. And in some cases, such as that of George Wickham or Mr. Collins, the living was given outright by the family who owned it.  It is no wonder that Collins was so careful to keep on Lady Catherine’s good side, since his own income depended on her good will. (And Elizabeth thought that Lady Catherine might have other livings to give away, too. Perhaps Sir William didn’t visit Rosings just to check on Charlotte!)

There were far more ordained clergymen than there were livings of any sort, even just a curacy. Some unlucky clergy had to wait ten years or more for a living to open up for them!

With all of this as a background, we can understand the story Wickham and the Darcy family living much better. Wickham was the son of an estate steward, a nobody in the regency world. He grew up on the estate and was intimate with the Darcy family, but as an adult he had no way to make a living. He could only go into the military or perhaps learn a trade, which would have been a step down the social ladder. So the old Mr. Darcy left him a “valuable family living.” This would have supported him for life, or at least given him a huge head start. Instead Wickham sold the living to someone else for three thousand pounds, squandered all of that money, and afterwards had the audacity to come back to Darcy and ask for the living again. No wonder Darcy sends him packing.

I hope this helps you understand a little about how the system of livings and patronages worked. For more details or further reading you can follow these links:

Clergy in the Regency

Vicar vs Rector – What’s the Difference?

Jane Austen and the Clergy – How the System Worked

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Church of England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vicars and Rectors and Livings, a Guest Post from Elaine Owen

“Murder of a Bastard Child,” an Historical Crime Against Children

In the 18th Century in England, what was the fate of a child born to a young woman pregnant out of wedlock? Alan Taylor in the British History Georgian Lives Facebook Group tells us, “The most common capital offence for women in the 18th Century was ‘murdering a bastard’- 98 women were hanged for this between 1735 and 1834! The vast majority of these women were in extreme poverty, had been abandoned by their partners and had no where to find shelter and food. Society at that time was very harsh in its judgement to these women condemning them for their immorality and even sending the mother and baby away and therefore denying them poor relief. The story of Elizabeth Harrard is one heartbreaking example. On December 21st 1739 she and nine other condemned men were transported From Newgate prison to Tyburn and there hanged. Her crime was that she had murdered her new born baby and thrown the body into a river. If you read her story in the accompanying article (see link below under NOTE), you will perhaps realise what drove her to this act and how little pity was shown to her in her condition.” 

Romulus-and-Remus

The most famous account of attempted infanticide, in which babies were left exposed to the elements, is the story of Romulus and Remus (Wikimedia Commons)

The Greeks considered infanticide barbaric, but instead of outright killing their babies, they practiced exposure. Exposure would be just leaving the child.it was not considered murder because a passerby or a God could take pity on the child and save it. 
In Rome, exposure was common, in a letter from a man to his wife during 1 BC he says:  “I am still in Alexandria. … I beg and plead with you to take care of our little child, and as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it.” Another option would be to take the child to the family patriarch and they would decide whether the child should be killed or left to exposure. Usually babies with birth defects were killed. By 374 AD infanticide was illegal in Rome, but offenders were rarely ever prosecuted. Pagan German tribes also practiced a similar exposure to unwanted children. Many were left in the forest without food….this was especially common for children born out of wedlock.

Meanwhile, Christianity abhorred infanticide. In Apostles it was written, “You shall not kill that which is born”. In 318 AD Constantine I felt that infanticide was a crime. In 374 AD Valentinian stated that people must rear all children. The Council of Constantinople issued that infanticide was murder and in 589 AD the Third Council of Toledo worked on ending the Spanish custom of killing their children .

Child sacrifice was common among the Gauls, Celts, and Irish during the Middle Ages. “They would kill their piteous wretched offspring with much wailing and peril, to pour their blood around Crom Cruaich”, a deity of pre-Christian IrelandBut soon abandoning children on the doorsteps of churches and abbeys became more common than exposure. This gave birth to the world’s first orphanages. (History of Infanticide)

For many women delivering an unwanted baby, infanticide was the answer. Humanian speaks to the modern version of this heinous act. “Infanticide is the act of deliberately causing the death of a very young child (under 1 year old). In the past, and in many societies, it was a widespread practice, permitted by different cultures around the world. Nowadays, it is considered to be an unethical crime; however, it is still performed. In some cultures, children are not considered to be human beings until certain ceremonies have been performed (name-giving ceremonies or haircuts for example). Infanticide occurs rarely once those ceremonies have taken place but killing a child before them is not seen as a homicide. Infanticide is usually difficult to report, because in most cases these deaths are covered as stillbirths or children are just not registered at the civil registry after the birth. Indirect or passive infanticide begins with inadequate nutrition, neglect or careless parenting, especially when the baby gets sick. In many societies, especially in the past, infanticide was routinely used as a way to control and regulate the population. As such, it particularly affected female children, since having fewer women meant having a lower rate of reproduction (fewer children).

“Female infanticide is the most common form of infanticide, both nowadays and in the past. This practice is mainly due to the fact that, in some cultures, males are considered to be socially more valuable than women. Moreover, female infanticide is sometimes related to the control of the population. For example, the UN World Report on Violence Against Children conducted among 1,000 women in India revealed that infanticide was the cause of 41% of deaths among newborn girls.

“In China, infanticide is also practiced, mainly due to the one-child policy (even though it existed before), which states that each couple can have only one child. Many parents prefer to have an abortion before the birth, if they know that the child is a girl. However, among people who do not have this possibility, infanticide at birth can be performed. Female infanticide and abortions have caused a great imbalance between the sexes in some regions. In 2007, a UN report estimated that approximately 100 million girls worldwide had disappeared, 80 million of them in China and India. In the future, this could lead to an increase in girls trafficking or to forcing women to marry more than one man.”

A common capital crime in the 1700s in England was that of the murder of a bastard child. These were generally not still births or deaths from disease or some other natural cause. These were purposeful deaths: ones to rid a woman of the child she had never wanted in the first place. We must remember that contraception was not readily available or dependable to the majority of the population. Women accused of the crime had gotten rid of their infant children in a variety of manners: beaten to death, drowned, buried alive, poisoned, cutting their throats, etc. Women of the time, especially those living in poverty, had few resources available to them, and so many took drastic measures to survive. 

 Capital Punishment UK tells us, “Some seventy nine women were hanged for this crime between 1735 and 1799 and a further nineteen between 1800 and 1834.  The last being twenty four year old Mary Smith who went to the gallows at Stafford on the 19th of March 1834. It is not always possible from surviving records to know whether a child murder fell into this category or not.  Large numbers of women and girls continued to be sentenced to death between 1840 and 1922 for killing their infant children but were all reprieved. It wasn’t until the Infanticide Act of 1922 that the killing of a newborn baby by its mother was no longer classed as a capital crime and factors such as the disturbed mental state of a new mother were permitted to provide a partial defence to a murder charge.  The Infanticide Act of 1938 removed the death penalty altogether for women who killed their babies in their first year of life, stating ‘at the time of the act or omission the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child or by reason of the effect of lactation consequent upon the birth of the child.’ In some cases it was possible to show that a baby had not been born alive and the mother could then be charged with concealment of the birth but this did not carry the death penalty.”

 NOTE: The Capital Punishment UK site also discusses four cases of the murder of bastard children, those of Elizabeth Harrard, Sarah Jones, Ann Statham and Hannah Halley, if you are interested in how the law treated such cases.  I chose not to detail the cruelty here. 

The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying tells us, “Most societies agree that the drive to protect and nurture one’s infant is a basic human trait. Yet infanticide—the killing of an infant at the hands of a parent—has been an accepted practice for disposing of unwanted or deformed children since prehistoric times. Despite human repugnance for the act, most societies, both ancient and contemporary, have practiced infanticide. Based upon both historical and contemporary data, as many as 10 to 15 percent of all babies were killed by their parents. The anthropologist Laila Williamson notes that infanticide has been practiced by nearly all civilizations. Williamson concludes that infanticide must represent a common human trait, perhaps genetically encoded to promote self-survival.

“Neonaticide is generally defined as ‘the homicide of an infant aged one week or less.’ The psychiatrist Phillip Resnick further limits neonaticide to the killing of an infant on the day of its birth. Infanticide in general usage is defined as ‘the homicide of a person older than one week but less than one year of age.’ Filicide is defined as ‘the homicide of a child (less than eighteen years of age) by his or her parent or stepparent.'”

Read more: http://www.deathreference.com/Ho-Ka/Infanticide.html#ixzz59MQ3SoxS

The Discovery of a Mass Baby Grave Under a Roman Bathhouse 

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Recording of Births in the Church of England During the Regency

See Monday’s post on Churching of Women for how woman were treated after childbirth in the Church of England in many Western religions. “Churching” involved a celebration welcoming women back into the church/religion after they had given birth, even if the child was stillborn or passed shortly after birth or with no christening.

Today, we think of the recording of a birth as automatic. At most hospitals, the staff record such details ,and they are passed on to the proper authorities. The birth announcement appears in the local newspaper usually within a week of the actual birth. This was not so for the Regency. Birth announcements were not recorded during the Regency Era. Births were not always recorded in the parish registers. Generally, only the Baptism/Christening was recorded. Some clergymen listed the child’s age or birth date  when recording the  baptism, but most did not. Usually the child had to be breathing to be baptised and  given a name for the parish records, but that was not an “absolute” in the practice of recording births. [Note! Today the terms (baptism and christening) are interchangeable by many. A Christening is a naming, but the church believes baptism is to save the soul of the infant  and to enroll him in the church of believers. The secular name is incidental and just for records.]

According to Nancy Mayer Regency Researcher, “Most of the evidence upon which today’s perceptions of the era are founded is faulty. St Martin-in-the-Fields was probably the most fastidious of the parishes in those days, with the sextons recording in minute detail, everything about those they buried – and that included stillborns, abortives, infants (those who’d lived to draw breath), etc., etc.  Name, date of birth, date of death, address, sex, etc., etc.  No detail was missed.  But even in this parish there were anomalies based on the structure of burial fees – abortives were the cheapest burials. Chrisom’s came next.  Stillborns were the third cheapest, and from there, the fees increased the longer the individual lived.  So many infants who had lived through the first crucial week only to succumb to the infections that so beset newborns, were buried as stillborns because the family could not or did not want to pay the higher fees. But even with the stillborns and the Chrisoms, the father’s name was recorded by the sextons.  It was not until well after the Regency that the mother’s name was included.” Although it rarely happened, in reality, the parents did not need to present for the baptism. 

No ecclesiastical law forbid the baptism of a stillborn child. It was the expense of doing so that prevented many from recognizing their child’s existence.

I understand the confusion and grief following the lost of a child for I lost two children before I had my son. It bothered me deeply not to have access to the one I lost early on. I could not shake the idea that it would never have a name or a place in our family’s recorded history. However, many in the early 19th Century were developing what we now associate with the British public as a whole: the stiff upper lip. Grief was not shown in public. 

Other parishes were not as meticulous as St Martin-in-the-Fields. Generally, the person requesting the recording of the birth was at the “mercy” of the clergyman overseeing the parish. The clergyman’s opinions or those of the aristocrat providing his living could differ greatly from parish to parish. Some clergy would look poorly upon an abortive situation. An aristocrat might privately have a stillborn child baptised, but a public announcement of such would not occur. The recording of a child’s birth, or the lack thereof, is a major plot point in Book 2 of my Twins’ Trilogy, The Earl Claims His Comfort. Any “public” records, such as Debrett’s The New Peerage, would simply include the line stillborn daughter or stillborn son.

41VA23GR86LWe find an example of such in Chapter 1 of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Sir Walter Elliot picks up the Baronetage to read of his family history, “”ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH-HALL.
“Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester; by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov. 5, 1789; Mary, born Nov. 20, 1791.”

Many times the private family records, such as the family Bible, contained the name of the stillborn child. Parish records and private records did not always hold the same details. Often, especially in the male line, one might find two male offsprings with the same name in a private record, but the names of the children were listed as several years apart – the first one died at birth or shortly thereafter. 

As with everything else, there were those members of the clergy who accepted payment to record stillborns. Parents might, for example, argue that the Bible does not speak to forbidding the naming of stillborns. Babies could be baptised at home by any member of the household as long as water was used and the child was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This was a valid baptism  in most cases. 

431184283c0ccbfe915e11bf06d3477a Anciently, a chrisom, or “chrisom-cloth,” was the face-cloth, or piece of linen laid over a child’s head when he or she was baptised or christened. Originally, the purpose of the chrisom-cloth was to keep the chrism, a consecrated oil, from accidentally rubbing off. With time, the word’s meaning changed, to that of a white mantle thrown over the whole infant at the time of baptism. The term has come to refer to a child who died within a month after its baptism—so called for the chrisom cloth that was used as a shroud for it. Additionally, in London’s Bills of Mortality, the term chrisom was used to refer to infants who died within a month after being born. (Chrisom)

ATOHCrop2 In A Touch of Honor, Book 8 of the Realm Series, I used a different plot point associated with the recording of births and deaths. In that book, Lady Satiné Swenton dies in a terrible accident and the child she carried is also lost. The surgeon tending the body asks Lord Swenton if he wishes to have the stillborn buried with his mother. The mother and stillborn infant could be buried together as it was with Princess Charlotte’s child. In that case the child was not named. However, the father could insist on having the child listed in the death register and could have a name etched in the grave marker to recognize publicly the birth. The woman’s husband also held the option of having his wife and child buried in a private cemetery and act as he thought best for his family. 

parishbur

The Church of England provides this tutorial for the ceremony: 

What Happens at a christening?

At a christening a child is baptized with water. This is the heart of a christening. There are several moments in the service which have a special meaning too. Follow each step to see what happens.

“…I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Welcome

The vicar will welcome everyone and especially the child who will be christened and their family. There will be a Bible reading, and the vicar will also talk about what a christening means.

The promises

You and the godparents will make some important promises for your child in the service. You can see the full order of service here.  Everyone promises to continue supporting the child from this moment.

The vicar says: “…People of God will you welcome this child and uphold them in their new life in Christ?”

Everyone present says: “…With the help of God, we will.”

The sign

Often, this is the point in the service when parents and godparents will be invited to come out to stand at the front with the child. In many churches, a special oil may be used to make the sign of a cross on your child’s forehead. It’s a significant moment, which marks your child as belonging to God.

The vicar will say: “…Christ claims you as his own. Receive the sign of the cross.”

The water

Water which is blessed in the church’s font will be poured over your child’s head by the vicar. This is your child’s baptism. It’s a sign of a new beginning and becoming a part of God’s family.

The vicar says: “…I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Prayers and welcome

The vicar, or perhaps even someone else from the church, will pray for the child and for all those who will support them in their path of faith. Everyone present welcomes the child into the family of the church with words given in the service.

A candle

A candle will be given to the child at the end of the service.

The vicar says: “…Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God.”

Godparents play a special role in the ceremony and in the child’s life. The godparents were the ones to take the child to church, make the vows in his/her name, and say the name of the child for all the world to know. The godmother customarily holds the child during the ceremony. The child can be dipped into the baptismal font–first one side and then the other, but often water was poured on his head. Occasionally water was just sprinkled on or a damp cloth is used.  A cross is made with oil on the baby’s head to anoint the child. The rite in the Book of Common prayer of the day was used.

A female child was to have two female and one male godparent or sponsor, while a male child was to have two male and one female godparent or sponsor. Although they could serve the role, godparents were NOT automatically the child’s legal guardian of the child(ren) with the passing of a parent(s). A will would designate the legal guardian in such a scenario. 

During the Regency and beyond, royalty were often asked to be godparents to the children of peers, such as dukes or men who had positions at Court or were at Court often or were ranking members of Parliament. Quite often the royal godparents employed proxy stand-ins. When the child is 12 years of age, he/she would be confirmed; he/she would renew the promises made at his/her baptism for himself/herself.

You might wish to check out: 

10 Ways Christening Has Changed

Posted in British history, Church of England, Georgian England, Living in the Regency, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments