When Is a “Baron” Not a Baron?

 A “baron” is defined as the lowest rank of nobility in the British peerage system. It is a title of honor and customarily a hereditary one. That being said, the sticking point of this post is the fact the term “Baron” is not used as a form of address in Britain, barons are usually referred to as “Lord.” In direct address, they can also be referred to as my lord or your lordship. Husband(s) of a Baroness in her own right are not conferred any elevated style in their right. Children of Barons and Baronesses in their own right, whether hereditary or for life, have the style The Honourable [Forename] [Surname]. After the death of the father or mother, the child may continue to use the style The Honourable. I know this is surprising for many of you. It was for me when I realized how often I had misused this in my novels. 

“In the England, the medieval Latin word bariobaronis was used originally to denote a  tenant-in-chief of the early Norman kings who held his lands by the feudal tenure of “barony” (in Latin per baroniam), and who was entitled to attend the Great Council, which by the 13th century had developed into the Parliament of England. Feudal baronies (or “baronies by tenure”) are now obsolete in England and without any legal force but any such historical titles are held in gross, that is to say are deemed to be enveloped within a more modern extant peerage title also held by the holder, sometimes along with vestigial manorial rights and tenures by grand serjeanty.” (Baron)

According to all of the reference books on titles I researched, the word Baron is used only in peerage books, patents of peerages, and in Parliament where certain seats are designated for barons. A man might be a baron, but he is never addressed or referred to as such. The aristocracy believed that if a person was one of them, then he or she would practice this styling. Using Baron incorrectly proved the person was no one of the elite aristocratic group.

When a woman is named a Baroness that means that she holds her title in her own right. A Baroness in her own right can be addressed either as Baroness or lady title.

 A bit of confusion arises for many of us because the judges of the court of the Exchequer are called Barons. This is even more confusing because the men are Sirs.

ATOHCrop2 Most barons use their family name as their title so the two are the same. But in some cases they are different.  In my A Touch of Honor, John Swenton is Lord Swenton. He is a baron. However, it is possible that I could have styled him as John Swenton, Lord Monroe. Obviously, in an 8-book series, one more name would have been confusing to my readers, but it was an option. More confusion could arise because sometimes there are two barons with the same title name, so if there were two Lord Swentons, one would be Lord Swenton of Swenton Hall, while the other would be Lord Swenton of Nash Manor. In other words, they become known as Lord XXXX of (some place name at or near their seat) to differentiate them, though the ‘of’ is merely a way to keep them straight than an actual part of their title.

 95b7fdcd3e03649edf7f87e1a7c57bb2582dd630 Though one can say “Lord Byron is a baron,” one would never call him Baron Byron.  He would always be “Lord Byron.” One did not say “Baron and Baroness Byron” arrived, entertained, etc. The fact that Byron was a baron was noted in the book of peerage, in his seat in the House of Lords, and when one had to rank men by precedence. Otherwise he is always Lord Byron. His wife is Lady Byron. He would have been styled as The Right Honourable The Lord Byron.

“In the twentieth-century Britain introduced the concept of non-hereditary life peers. All appointees to this distinction have (thus far) been at the rank of baron. In accordance with the tradition applied to hereditary peers they too are formally addressed in parliament by their peers as ‘The Noble Lord.’

“In addition, baronies are often used by their holders as subsidiary titles, for example as courtesy titles for the son and heir of an Earl or higher-ranked peer. The Scottish baronial title tends to be used when a landed family is not in possession of any United Kingdom peerage title of higher rank, subsequently granted, or has been created a knight of the realm.

“Several members of the royal family with the style of Royal Highness are also titled Barons. For example, Charles, Prince of Wales also is The Baron of Renfew. His eldest son Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is also The Baron Carrickfergus. Similarly, Prince Andrew, Duke of York is The Baron Killyleagh. (Baron)

 If a woman is introduced or known as Baroness XXXX, for instance, that meant she held the title in her own right. That is why it is correct to call female life peers “baroness,” but not to do call the  wife of a baron “baroness.”

“Scottish barons style their surnames similarly to Clan Chiefs, with the name of their barony following their name, as in John Smith of Edinburgh orJohn Smith, Baron of Edinburgh. Most formally, and in writing, they are styled as The Much Honoured Baron of Edinburgh. Their wives are styled Lady Edinburgh, or The Baroness of Edinburgh. The phrase Lady of Edinburgh is wrong if the lady in question does not hold a Scottish barony in her own right. Orally, Scottish barons may be addressed with the name of their barony, as in Edinburgh or else as Baron without anything else following, which if present would suggest a peerage barony. Informally, when referring to a Scots feudal baron in the third person, the name Baron of [X] is used or simply [X].

“The United Kingdom policy of using titles on passports requires that the applicant provides evidence that the Lord XXXX has been recognised with a feudal barony, or the title is included in Burke’s Peerage. If accepted (and if the applicant wishes to include the title), the correct form is for the applicant to include the territorial designation as part of their surname ([surname] of [territorial designation]; e.g. Smith of Inverglen). The Observation would then show the holder’s full name, followed by their feudal title e.g. The holder is Brian Smith, Baron of Inverglen.” (Baron)

Foreign  barons can be called Baron. Customarily when one was introduced to a man called Baron YYYY it meant he was of foreign extraction.

The only other baron called  baron was a judge of the Exchequer who was called a baron of the Exchequer — meaning a judge of that court.

British Titles and Orders of Precedence.  from http://www.chinet.com/-laura/html/titles12.html

A baron is the lowest rank to the British peerage. A baron is “Right Honorable” and is styled “My Lord”.  All children of a baron are: “Honorable.”

Announced formally or in formal correspondence:  The Right Honorable Lord Featherstone.
Salutation on formal correspondence:    My Lord
Announced informally or addressed on social correspondence: The Lord Featherstone
Salutation on social correspondence: “Dear Lord Featherstone.” or more familiarity: “Dear Featherstone.”
Addressed speech as: “Lord Featherstone: (the first time in conversation, followed by “my lord” (or more familiarity, “Featherstone”
Signature: Featherstone
Baron’s wife:  The Right Honorable, Lady Featherstone.
Saltuation and formal correspondence:  “Madam”.
Announced informally or addressed on social correspondence as  The Lady Featherstone
Salutation on social correspondence; “Dear Lady Featherstone.
Addressed in speech as”Lady Featherstone” the first time in conversation, followed by ‘my lady.”
Referred to in speech as (The) Lady Featherstone (or more familiarly “Sophia Featherstone”.  
Signature: Sophia Featherstone

Posted in British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, Regency era, titles of aristocracy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

The First Autobiography Ever Written in the English Language

Likely, many of you reading this piece will have never heard of Margery Kempe, but her autobiography was the first recorded in the English language.

First, we must realize Mrs. Kempe was born in 1373 in Lynn (later Bishop’s Lynn and now referred to as King’s Lynn) in East Anglia (now Norfolk). She lived 72 years in a time when the English court still spoke French. In fact, Lynn became the first English town to abandon Latin and French and to adopt English as its main language. Yet, that is the matter for a different post. This one deals with Margery Kempe.

Margery Kempe (née Burnham) was the daughter of the local mayor, John Burnham. She married John Kempe when she was 20 years of age (1393) and presented him with 14 children, which I think is remarkable in itself in the late Medieval period. She reportedly had frequent visions of Jesus. She claimed a heavenly vision told her to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and she sought her husband’s permission to make this journey. She agreed to settle all his debts if he would permit her to go. Personally, I suspect she wanted to be free of being pregnant for awhile, but I cannot prove my theory, so I will stick with what we know.

We know Margery was a middle-class woman. She was illiterate, but such does not mean she did not have the mind for exploring the unusual. She held several jobs over the years, including being both a horse-mill-owner and a brewer. The thing about Margery’s life which makes it so “extraordinary” is its “ordinariness.” The British Library tells us, “The experiences of people like this rarely survive from the Middle Ages, and it is the unashamed earthiness of Margery’s Book that has captivated readers since the discovery of the only surviving manuscript of her work in 1934. Had it not been for this chance discovery in 1934, we would have little sense of this woman and her astonishing life. Previously, the only known text of Kempe’s Book was seven pages of extracts of the work printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1501.”

The Book of Margery Kempe begins during her first pregnancy and provides the reader glimpses of her life until she was in her mid 60s. It is not, however, in chronological order of the events. She had thought she would die with the delivery of her first child, and so, she gave confession to a priest who rightly chastised her for her many sins. The admonishment so moved her that she experienced some sort of “episode,” in which Jesus appeared to her. “In her account, her recovery is signalled when she asks her husband for the keys to the ‘buttery’, or pantry so that she might eat and drink as she had done before. There is something so charming about a woman who sits down to a hearty dinner after a mystical experience, and it is exactly these kinds of details that make Margery’s account so fascinating.” [British Library]

Eventually, Margery began to deny herself the few pleasures of life she had once enjoyed as a sort of penance for her past and present sins. She went on her first pilgrimage in 1413. Reportedly, she suffered from frequent bouts of loud wailing and weeping, which, naturally, did not make Margery a favorite with the other pilgrims, nor to the people of Lynn when she returned home. That first pilgrimage saw Margery visiting the anchoress and mystic, Julian of Norwich. Later, in 1413, she traveled to Jerusalem. She did not return to her family until 1415. In 1417, she traveled to Santiago de Compostela.

Considered to be a heretic by many, Margery went on trials at York, Hull, Hessle, and Beverley. Eventually, she returned to Lynn in 1418.

She began seeking out someone to assist her with her book as early as 1432, supposedly to a local priest. We do not know her exact date of death, but it was after 1438.

According to Brittanica, “Her descriptions of her travels and her religious ecstasies, which often included “boystous” crying spells, are narrated in an unaffected prose style that uses such contemporary expressions as “thou wost no more what thou blaberest than Balamis asse.” Apparently illiterate, she dictated her Book of Margery Kempe to two clerks from about 1432 to about 1436. It was first published (modernized) in 1936 and in Middle English in 1940.”

“Margery faces several challenges in attempting to record her experiences. She was illiterate and so she had to dictate the work to an ‘amanuensis’ – a scribe who listened to her words and wrote them down. In fact, three different amanuenses were involved in the project. The first was ‘an englishman’ who lived in Germany. This was probably her son. Unfortunately he died before the work was completed. After this, the work was taken up by a priest who said it was ‘so ill-written that he could make little sense of it’ and they seemed to have begun again. During the course of this, however, the priest was discouraged by malicious gossip that he had heard about Kempe and so he delayed the project for four years. He directed Kempe to a third man, who had at one time been a correspondent of the ‘englishman’ (the first amanuensis). This scribe could not understand the text. Subsequently, the priest began to suffer pangs of guilt and prayed to god to be able to understand the work, whereupon he was miraculously able to complete the Book. This convoluted story shows Margery’s admirable determination to find her voice and get her experiences recorded in the face of so many obstacles.

“he only surviving manuscript was written by a scribe named ‘Salthouse’ in the 15th century. The manuscript may have been made by members of the Carthusian order, and it seems to have been read with interest: there are four sets of annotations in the book.”

Other Sources:

Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe (1373-1438)

Margery Kempe and Her Close Encounter with a Falling Beam

Posted in Age of Chaucer, British history, medieval, real life tales, religion, research | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on The First Autobiography Ever Written in the English Language

The Medical Professions in the Georgian Era

An Apothecary’s Shop
(CC) Welcome Images

Apothecaries did not hold the same status in the Georgian era as one might think. We must recall the gentleman’s social class determined his “occupation” during the last 1700s and early 1800s.

The Victoria and Albert Museum website tells us something of the mid 1800s, and so we might guess less knowledge was available during the Regency Era. “Early Victorian ideas of human physiology involved a clear understanding of anatomy (at least among experts; but the populace often had hazy knowledge of the location and role of internal organs), allied to a concept of vital forces focused on the haematological and nervous systems that now seems closer to the ancient ‘humours’ than to present-day models. Little was known of biochemistry or endocrinology. Traditional ideas of the body, whereby women were regarded as smaller versions of men, and ‘turned outside in’ (i.e. with internal rather than external sexual organs) were gradually superseded by a binary concept of sexual determinism, in which difference governed all aspects of physiology, health and social behaviour. As the body was also defined as a closed system of energy, physical, mental and reproductive expenditure were held to be in competition. Hence the notions that male sexual ‘excess’ led to debility and female reproductive health was damaged by intellectual study. Hence, too, must have derived the Victorian prescription for many ailments: rest.”

At the top of the social class were physicians. In writing Regency era novels, these men would be referred to as “Doctor.” Most doctors during this time had apprenticed with another physician. They graduated from an acceptable university, and then did some sort of medical studies. The fact they attended a university made them “acceptable” to the upper classes, just as one who studied law or theology. We must remember during the Georgian era, England did not have medical schools, so the man would likely travel to Scotland or even to America, which had established several notable medical colleges by that time. A physician could specialize in one or two areas, but this did not mean he had been exclusively trained in that area. His was what we today call “on the job training.” He might, for example, specialize in the treatment of those placed in mental facilities or asylums, such as Bedlam. Generally, though, they treated the whole person, especially those who practiced in the rural areas. Some took appointments and limited their clientele to particular diseases.

Their clients were members of the gentry and the aristocracy. Therefore, as one might guess, they charged higher fees than did surgeons and apothecaries. Some held a practice alone. Others combined resources, but buying in to an established practice was very expensive and would be considered somewhat risky.

One thing many who write books set in the Regency era so not consider is a physician could also be a “man midwife.” The wealthy, especially, did not want the ordinary midwife, who was usually from the lower classes to deliver their children. Some even thought doing so would affect the child’s health and intelligence. So, though many midwives had more knowledge and experience in childbirth than did the university trained physician, the upper classes would choose the physician.

Surgeons (or barber-surgeons) were addressed as “Mister,” not “Doctor” Unlike a physician, most surgeons had trained as an apprentice to an experienced surgeon, rather than attending university or a “medical school.” That does not mean some did not seek out such an education, it just was not the norm. They often worked under a physician. Where a physician would prescribe a draught of some sort of concoction for the healing process, beyond performing surgery, it was the surgeon who treated wounds and broken bones. As one might imagine, surgeons would be frequently called upon, especially in the rural areas where farming was not for the feint of heart. Surgeons were NOT considered to be a gentleman, for a surgeon actually touched their patients and often encountered blood and bodily fluid as part of their practice.

Surgeons or barber-surgeons carried out operations and amputations, sometimes with a physician present for the most hazardous ones. Often they were ex-military men, for dealing with battle wounds was their province. Their training was based on a practical apprenticeship, though this was often haphazard. Because they worked with their hands, they were considered artisans.

It was 1704 before apothecaries were permitted to be thought of as part of the medical profession and legally allowed to prescribe and dispense medicines. The House of Lords granted them such status, but they were still not permitted to charge a fee for their service. Being an apothecary was considered a “trade.” Therefore, they made their money by selling medicines, medical supplies, such as bandages, and a miscellany of other items, including perfumes, spices, herbs, and even confectionery tidbits.

“THE story of the passing of the Apothecaries’ Act is an essential prelude to an assessment of the significance of that statute. The agitation for an act to regulate medical practice in the United Kingdom, and in particular to control the practice of apothecaries throughout England and Wales, began as early as 1793. From that time until 12 July 1815, when the Apothecaries’ Act received the Royal Assent, many reforms were advocated, several bills drafted, numerous petitions and counter petitions presented, and innumerable amendments introduced. At last a bill, prepared by the Society of Apothecaries, under the patronage of the College of Physicians, was submitted for consideration by the Legislature. After much revision, the bill was finally rushed through a depleted House of Commons in the closing phases of a
particularly active session. It has been, and still is, the considered opinion of many scholars that this Act marks the beginning of the process of medical reform in England. This article examines in detail both the origins and the consequences of the Apothecaries’ Act and suggests that existing interpretations need to be drastically revised.

Thomas Rowlandson’s illustration aptly entitled ‘Death and the Apothecary’ or ‘The Quack Doctor’ (note flying fish!) ~ https://www.lucindabrant.com/blog/the-apothecarys-apprentice-in-18th-century-england

“By the mid-eighteenth century the apothecary had assumed the functions of a general practitioner of medicine. Some apothecaries still continued to confine their activities to dispensing, while others devoted themselves to wholesale trade, or took up botany and chemistry.’ But the majority of town apothecaries and practically all those in the country attended patients of the poor and lower middle-class, prescribing and supplying medicines to them. As one pamphleteer wrote in 1773, ‘Let the case be what it may, Apothecaries have got physic principally into their own hands: this is evidently the case, especially in the country, where the Physician seldom visits any but such as are in opulent circumstances; the poor, alas, scarce ever! It is much the same in London (allowance being made for those that are in hospitals); so that Apothecaries have by far the greatest number of patients under their own care.” [The Apothecaries’ Act 1815, A Reinterpretation, by S. W. F. Holloway}

ADAM SMITH, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Everyman Edition,
1910, Vol. i, p. 100, wrote:

Apothecaries’ profit is become a by-word … the whole drugs which the best employed apothecary in a large market town will sell in a year, may not perhaps cost him above 30 or 40 pounds. Though he should sell this therefore for a three or four hundred percent profit, this may frequently be no more than the reasonable wages of his labour, charged, in the only way in which he can charge them, upon the price of his drugs.

Pen and Pension tells us: “Dr Erasmus Darwin however, more cynically, advised a young man to remember “… at first a parcel of blue and red glasses at the windows might gain part of the retail business on market days … I remember Mr Green of Litchfield once told me his retail business, by means of his show shop, and many coloured windows, produced him £100 a year.”

“Apothecaries in London had started out as part of the Grocers’ Company. Only in 1617 was the Society of Apothecaries created by royal charter. It was slow to spread its influence outside the capital, but gradually the standards set by the Society for admission were accepted more widely. These required apothecaries to undertake a lengthy apprenticeship with a final examination, though there were still no legal rules for claiming the title of apothecary before 1815.”

Other Sources:

The Connection Between Vinegar and the Fainting Couch

Doctors in the Regency

The Invention of the Stethoscope

The Lady’s Medicine Chest

Mister, Doctor, or Hey You? Medical Personnel in Regency England

A Primer on Regency Era Doctors

Regency Era Medical Practices

Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Living in the Regency, medicine, real life tales, Regency era, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Medical Professions in the Georgian Era

The First Labor Day Celebration

New York City saw the celebration of the first Labor Day on 5 September 1882. The celebration marking the event was designed by the Central Labor Union. 

dolhistory-Father-Labor-Day.jpg  According to the Department of Labor, “While most sources, even the Department of Labor, credit Peter McGuire with the origination of Labor Day, recent evidence suggests that the true father of Labor Day may in fact be another famous union leader of the 19th Century, Matthew Maguire.

“According to legend, Peter McGuire stood before the New York Central Labor Union on May 12, 1882, to suggest the idea of setting aside one day a year to honor labor. McGuire believed that Labor Day should “be celebrated by a street parade which would publicly show the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”

“Peter McGuire was a young, though well-respected, union leader. A child of immigrants, he quit school at an early age to go to work. In 1881, he founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, which would become the largest trade union of the time. Later, McGuire would join with his friend, Samuel Gompers, to found the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Through the AFL and the Carpenters, McGuire led the great strikes of 1886 and 1890, which would eventually result in the adoption of the eight-hour workday on the nation’s agenda.

“Recently, however, evidence uncovered at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark reveals that another respected union figure of the day, Matthew Maguire, may quite possibly be the man behind the creation of Labor Day.

“In the 1870s, Matthew Maguire led several strikes, most of which were intended to force the plight of manufacturing workers and their long hours into the public consciousness. By 1882, Maguire had become the secretary of and a leading figure in the Central Labor Union of New York.

“According to the New Jersey Historical Society, after President Cleveland signed into law the creation of a national Labor Day, The Paterson (N.J.) Morning Call published an opinion piece entitled, ‘Honor to Whom Honor is Due,’ which stated that ‘the souvenir pen should go to Alderman Matthew Maguire of this city, who is the undisputed author of Labor Day as a holiday.’ This editorial also referred to Maguire as the ‘Father of the Labor Day holiday.’

“So why has Matthew Maguire been overlooked as the ‘Father of Labor Day’? According to The First Labor Day Parade, by Ted Watts, Maguire held some political beliefs that were considered fairly radical for the day and also for Samuel Gompers and his American Federation of Labor. Allegedly, Gompers did not want Labor Day to become associated with the sort of “radical” politics of Matthew Maguire, so in a 1897 interview, Gompers’ close friend Peter J. McGuire was assigned the credit for the origination of Labor Day.”

So, what happened on that first Labor Day? In reality, a bit of mayhem occurred. 

AFL_certificate_1919_wiki_db_small.jpg Spectators for the event had arrived early to claim a spot to view the parade that was to pass near City Hall in Manhattan, along Broadway. A newspaper account of the day described “…men on horseback, men wearing regalia, men with society aprons, and men with flags, musical instruments, badges, and all the other paraphernalia of a procession.”

Worrying over what COULD occur, police were out in full force on horseback and on foot. They were in place to “control the crowd” by 9 A.M.

William McCabe served as the Grand Marshall for the parade, but when time came for them to step off, there were only a few marchers in place, and none of them had brought an instrument or music to play. Some even suggested that McCabe abandon his post, but he refused. Fortunately, Matthew Maguire of New York’s Central Labor Union hustled over to McCabe to inform the man that 200 marchers from Newark, New Jersey’s Jewelers Union were crossing over to Manhattan on the ferry, and thankfully, they had brought a band with them. 

Although McCabe and his aides and the police escort were a bit late stepping off, shortly after 10 A.M. the jewelers and their band turned onto lower Broadway. They played a tune from a popular Gilbert and Sullivan opera: “When I First Put This Uniform On.” The song seemed quite appropriate for the occasion. As the jewelers smartly marched past, McCabe and his aides followed. The police escort formed a line supposedly to keep the spectators back, but soon spectators were slipping through the police line and joining the marchers. Before long, there were 700 men in line in the first of three divisions of Labor Day marchers. Final reports of the total number of marchers ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 men and women.

The New York Tribune reported that, “The windows and roofs and even the lamp posts and awning frames were occupied by persons anxious to get a good view of the first parade in New York of workingmen of all trades united in one organization.”

The crowd arrived at Reservoir Park at noon. Here the parade was to end, but not necessarily the celebration, which was moved to Elm Park at 92nd Street and Ninth Avenue. The post-parade celebration included speeches, a picnic, and beer kegs galore. Nearly 25,000 union members and their families celebrated some eight hours, until around 9 P.M.

The second Labor Day was celebrated on 5 September 1883, but beginning in 1884, the first Monday in September became the official holiday. “The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.” (United States Department of Labor)

Posted in American History, holidays, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Austen and Portrait Artists of Her Time

Sir Joshua Reynolds

There are many people who have purported the idea that Austen presenting the Pemberley housekeeper the name of “Reynolds” in Pride and Prejudice is a reference to Joshua Reynolds, the most widely known artist of the late Georgian era. After all, Mrs. Reynolds leads Elizabeth and the Gardiners to the infamous portrait gallery, where Elizabeth returns again and again to Darcy’s portrait, essentially surrendering to her attraction to him and eliminating all her doubts regarding the man. There are some who also suggest that another housekeeper, Mrs. Hodges who is employed at Donwell in Emma could refer to William Hodges, a well-known painter of “exotic” lands, for he travelled with Captain James Cook on Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific Ocean. 

William Hodges

Hodges’ painting of HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure in Matavai Bay, Tahiti

However, there are more overt references to painters of the time. For example, in Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland’s (the heroine’s) younger brother is George Morland. The painter George Morland was known for his images of rural life. Morland’s unassuming style and rural subjects match quite well with the fictionalized Catherine Morland, whose charm can be easily found in her lack of pretentiousness. 

George Morland at an easel

George Morland’s (26 June 1763 to 29 October 1804) early work was influenced by Francis Wheatley, but he came into his style during 1790s. He came by his talent naturally. His father Henry Robert Morland was an English portrait painter, best remembered for a portrait of King George III. Meanwhile, his grandfather, George Henry Morland, was a British genre painter. Morland began to draw at a very young age, some say as early as three years old. At the age of ten, his name appears as an honorary exhibitor or sketches at the Royal Academy. Later, he exhibited at the Free Society, the Society of Artists, and, again, at the Royal Academy. 

The Cottage Door

It is said that his father shut young George up in a garret to make drawings (copies of the paintings of others), etc., to sell for the family funds. It is also said young George hid some of his drawings and sold them for his own devices (usually something involving self-indulgence). His father set him to copying pictures of the Dutch and Flemish masters. He was introduced to Sir Joshua Reynolds and obtained permission to copy Reynolds’s pictures. His originality became evident in his The Angler’s Repast. His work appeared in a lively print trade; he supposedly had some 4000 paintings and drawings accredited to him. George Morland was celebrated for what was called “cottage door” style paintings, depicting sentimental homecomings. Is it ironic that the character of George Morland in Northanger Abbey is one of those who meet Catherine upon her return from her stay at Northanger Abbey. “Her father, mother, Sarah, George, and Harriet, all assembled at the door, to welcome her with affectionate eagerness.” More ironic is the fact that one William Collins wrote a biography of Morland’s life, which was said to have been full of reckless self-indulgence and dissipation. 

Remember Austen originally sold the manuscript of Northanger Abbey to Crosby & Co. Her brother Henry bought it back, and in 1816, Jane Austen added this disclaimer to it: “those parts of the work which thirteen years have made comparatively obsolete.” Unlike Persuasion, there was no revision of Northanger Abbey because Jane’s illness took her too soon. It was published as it was originally written. 

The Alehouse Door

We do know that Jane Austen was familiar with George Morland’s career (and likely his fall of shame) because her sister Cassandra did watercolors of Morland’s The Alehouse Door and The Alehouse Kitchen. Later, Cassandra did another watercolor of Morland’s Pedlars

Do you recall the scene in Northanger Abbey where the Tilneys are on Beechen Cliff. The Tilneys are describing the landscape. “They were viewing the country with the eyes of persons accustomed to drawing, and decided on its capability of being formed into pictures, with all the eagerness of real taste. Here Catherine was quite lost. She knew nothing of drawing—nothing of taste—and she listed to them with an attention which brought her little profit, for they talked in phrases which conveyed scarcely any idea to her.”

Charles Hayter

Charles Hayter is another artist of the time, whose name you might recall as belonging to one of the characters in Persuasion. Hayter, the artist, specialized in portraits of navy men and their families. Hayter (24 February 1761 to 1 December 1835) was the son of an architect and builder, who, initially, trained with his father, but soon his ability to draw images of family members sent him down a different path. He attended the Royal Academy Schools in London, entering there at age 25, much older than the average student. He made his living as a painter of portrait miniatures, creating some 113 images between 1786 and 1832. His two sons, Sir George Hayter and John Hayter, along with his daughter Anne, were all successful artists.

He taught “perspective,” of which he was considered an authority, to Princess Charlotte, King George IV’s daughterm to whom he was later appointed Professor in Perspective and Drawing. He also dedicated to her his book An Introduction to perspective, adapted to the capacities of youth, in a series of pleasing and familiar dialogues, first published in 1813 in London. He later published A New Practical Treatise on the Three Primitive Colours Assumed as a Perfect System of Rudimentary Information (London 1826), in which he described how all colours could be obtained from just three.

Portrait of an Unknown Woman and Two Children, about 1800, watercolour on ivory

Like Morland’s work, Hayter’s pieces were also available in the form of prints. We know that miniatures were excessively popular during Austen’s life time. The average size of a miniature became three inches. Hayter was especially skilled with the use of watercolors on ivory, the medium preferred by those seeking miniatures made. The small, compact portraits were quite popular with naval officers, allowing them to take an image of their loved ones to sea with them. If one recalls the tale in Persuasion, Captain Benwick had had his image done up in a miniature for Fanny Harville. He asks Captain Harville to have the portrait “properly set” for Louisa Musgrove. The need for a new setting likely indicates that the original image held an inscription meant for Harville’s sister, Fanny. That would need to be removed before it could be presented to Louisa Musgrove. Even Austen mentions “the little bit of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush” in one of her letters. 

Posted in British history, British Navy, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Austen and Portrait Artists of Her Time

Auctioning Off Household Goods in the Regency Era, Part 3

If you have not read the other two posts on this subject, look to Monday and Friday of the previous week for other posts regarding this thriving business in the Georgian era, of which the Regency can be found.

As I mentioned in Part 1, in the scene from Season 6, Episode 1, of Downton Abbey, we saw many people streaming through the doors of a neighboring estate for the sale of the majority of the household goods.


The sale of goods from country houses became common. Do you recall in Season 6 of Downton Abbey when in a development that would have been unthinkable back in Season 1, Robert and his wife, Cora, the Countess of Grantham, find themselves attending an auction of a nearby estate (the aristo inhabitants are downsizing to a London-only lifestyle). Of course, this episode were set in 1925, but they were just as poignant in the early 1800s. As it was in the Downton episode, many houses held a “walk through” for people to come a few days ahead of the actual auction to view what was available. I know the contents of Lady Blessington’s house was auctioned in that manner. The auctioneers held an open house before the auction where serious buyers and curious people could tour the house and  the serious could choose what they wanted to buy before the auction started. I imagine that the auction house had people stationed all through the house who listened to comments and upped the reserve on the items that garnered the most interest.

In the scene pictured above, the Darnleys are selling Mallerton Hall and downsizing into a smaller home. They are auctioning nearly everything the family has collected over the past several generations, including an enormous portrait of Sir Darnley’s grandmother. Lord Grantham is appalled that any family might choose to sell off their treasures and memorabilia, and he and Sir Darnley have the following conversation:

DARNLEY: We’re selling things we shouldn’t have, but I kept thinking of that poky little house on Thurston Square, and I don’t know what else to do.

GRANTHAM: You might have stored some of it, in case one of the children starts up another house someday.

DARNLEY: That’s a dream. Face it: in 20 years’ time there won’t be a house of this size still standing that isn’t an institution.

How did these sales work? First, they, generally, occurred at the house itself and for very practical reasons. I recently moved into a new house only seven miles from where I lived the previous twenty years. It was an expensive endeavor, and moving my humble belongings was one of the more expensive pieces of the puzzle. Thankfully, I held great equity in the other house and with today’s crazy housing market, even after paying off the previous mortgage, I could afford the move. Yet, what if I had a grand estate (like Jane Austen’s Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice) or even a more most one such as Longbourn in the same novel? Moving the furniture and other items to be sold into a warehouse in London would have been an expensive endeavor, especially for those who were selling because of bankruptcy. Moreover, many warehouses could not have held all the items nor could the proprietors of the warehouse “stage” the rooms/items as well as they would be seen in the house itself. Therefore, the house was customarily opened for public view several days before the actual sale began, as well as on the day of the sale itself, so people might view the items—large or small. This process could take a week or more, but 4 days was the average. The longer sales would be used for specialized items (an extensive library, such as the one belonging to Fitzwilliam Darcy in the Austen novel) or because of the a larger number of items to be auctioned.

The auction houses developed a system where, first and foremost, the goods were seen within the rooms in which they would normally be found. Then common items—linens, rugs, china, etc.— would be set in “common” rooms and often presented as one item, if someone wished to clam them all, as these would quite often appeal to a different buyer than those interested in a Joshua Reynolds’ portrait or Thomas Hope cabinet. These “different” items were often auctioned off several days prior to the main household auction. If you have any concept of a probate inventory, you will understand what I mean by the two types of sales.


The Regency Reader tells us, “In Regency era England, there were several popular furniture makers and designers.  These included: Thomas Sheraton, Thomas Hope, George Seddon and Sons, and George Hepplewhite.  These furniture makers were influenced by Georgian Thomas Chippendale, a Georgian cabinet-maker and furniture designer associated with the English Rococo and Neoclassical styles.

“Reflecting the neo-classical style which appeared in the Georgian era, Regency furniture featured plain, slender, elegant lines and avoided shapes and curves for surfaces. Carving and elaborate forms of decoration and ornament like marquetry declined, giving way to brass work and use of rosewood and zebrawood. These woods allowed striking use of colour in veneers, alongside mahogany, which was still the wood of  choice for most library, dining room, and regency bedroom furniture. (http://www.furniturestyles.net).  Regency furniture style was an adaptation of the French Empire sensibilities (http://www.english-classics.net/blog/furniture-commentary/regency-furniture) and included animal ornamentation and scrolled ends in rosewood.”


Most assuredly, these sales were the precursor to the estates in England which are set up for a large number of visitors today. The “guided tour” type experience keeps many of the estates we most cherish from crumbling to the ground. In my opinion, these early auctions were the beginning of the house tours. The country house has been rendered into a money-making endeavor.

Naturally, most who attended the auctions wished to purchase “second-hand” merchandise available, but there more than a few who simply wished to view how the other half lived. They permitted those who would never know a day of such luxury to view it up close and personal.

Many of you who regularly follow me know I am an Austen fan (notice I did not say “fanatic”). Austen is said to have been influenced by Frances Burney, and, as I was an English teacher for some 40 years, I have read Burney’s Cecilia. If you have read it you might well remember when Miss Larolles means to visit the sale going on at Lord Belgrade’s estate.

“All the world will be there, and we shall go in with tickets, and you have no notion how it will be crowded.”

“What is to be sold there?” asked Cecilia.

“O every thing you can conceive: house, stables, china, laces, horses, caps, every thing in the world.”

“And do you intend to buy anything?”

“Lord, no, but one likes to see the people’s things.”

I will close with another episode from Downton Abbey, Season 6. This is the one where the Crawleys open the house to raise money for the local hospital. What is most poignant of the scene is how many people want to visit the house, but none of them find it cozy. Equally as important, the Crawleys do not seem to know much about the rooms for which they are serving as guides.


From Mic.com we learn: “In order to raise money for the ever-problematic local hospital, the Crawleys are throwing open their drawing room doors, inviting an entire village’s worth of plebeians to ogle their artworks.

“When the big day dawns, Cora and her daughters tour groups through their home and are largely unable to field questions from the crowd due to their utter lack of knowledge about their environs. Pressed for details on the fireplace molding, the paintings, the architects behind the grandeur, the Crawley women are largely at a loss. Except for Granny. The Dowager Countess of Grantham is never at a loss, as demonstrated when she storms the open house and interrupts Mary’s tour in the library. Mary seizes the opportunity and prompts her to comment on the room’s history. “

“The library was assembled by the fourth Earl,” the dowager tells the tour group. “He loved books.”

“What else did he collect?” Mary asks.

“Horses and women,” the Dowager responds, curtly.

The most illuminating lesson anyone learns at Downton Abbey all day. As well as …

Cora: No, the third Earl built it. Well, he didn’t really build it so much as envelope it, because this room is originally medieval. It was the monks’ refectory of an abbey that King Henry sold after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Visitor: Is that why it’s called Downton Abbey?
Cora: … I guess so.

Posted in British history, commerce, estates, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Auctioning Off Household Goods in the Regency Era, Part 3

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

Auctioning Off Household Goods During the Regency Era, Part 2

You may find Part 1 HERE.

One thing we should assume in sales of household goods, meaning furniture, portraits, silver, etc., is this was an activity of the wealthier tradesmen, the gentry, and the aristocracy. After all, who wished to purchase items from the poor? And what auction house would think of taking on anything not worth the time to sell it? The most important items being offered were furniture, books (yes, books because few were mass produced at the time), household goods, silver plate, paintings, musical instruments, tapestries, porcelain, jewelry, pottery and earthen ware, Persian rugs, items brought in from other countries, such as wall hangings, suits of armor, carriages, and even a few “oddities,”as in stuffed animals. However, the sales were not limited to the house itself. Often, we might also find sales involving livestock.

Unlike in today’s auction house sales, those of the Georgiana era also listed the reason the items were being sold. Therefore, the sales catalogues might offer a bit of gossip for the community. The catalogue might tell a person if the owner of the items had known bankruptcy or whether he meant to use the income to pay debts. One might also learn if the person meant to invest in a new capital gain venture. Or he might require the funds to establish a legacy for his minor children or he might be what we now refer to as “downsizing” and moving to a different residence. Or perhaps a family death called for a change of circumstances. The listing of the “reason for the sale” presented the activity a sense of being “legitimate” and not some sort of scam. The sales items were as listed, and those conducting the sales were respectable members of the community, who held a reputation for honesty and fairness.

Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) and Augustus Charles Pugin (1762–1832) (after) John Bluck (fl. 1791–1819), Joseph Constantine Stadler (fl. 1780–1812), Thomas Sutherland (1785–1838), J. Hill, and Harraden (aquatint engravers)[1] – File:Microcosm of London Plate 006 – Auction Room, Christie’s.jpg ~ Public Domain ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auction#/media/File:Microcosm_of_London_Plate_006_-Auction_Room,_Christie’s(colour).jpg

One other thing to consider is this was no yard sale experience where the owner of said item lists it for $10 and the potential customer haggles and gets the price down to $2 before walking away with a bargain. In these sales, the goods offered retained their value, perhaps even going for more than what was expected if more than one person wished to purchase it.

Those wishing to sell, especially in the shires, generally, turned to one of the tradesmen in the community to conduct the auctions. More often than not, the gentry and the aristocracy chose someone from one of the London auction houses. These “professional” auction houses, unlike those in the shires who mostly survived by word of mouth for their “advertising,” placed adverts in the newspapers of the day. Catalogues of the items available where made available in the larger municipalities at places such as coaching inns.

The first step in selling the goods was to create a flyer that displayed the name of the auctioneer (indicating the sale was legitimate), the owner of the items, and then a listing of the more important or larger items to be included in the sale. The catalogues themselves presented the potential buyer with not only the particular items up for bidding, but also the location of the item within the house itself, meaning the room. The catalogue also contained the “order” in which the items would be sold, and this did not always mean all the items in one room were addressed before moving on to another room. The descriptions of each item were carefully crafted to entice the buyers into purchasing pieces they made not have initially meant to add to their households. We all understand the “impulse buy” in today’s society. Trust me, this is not a new concept.

A Peep at Christies (1796) – caricature of actress Elizabeth Farren and huntsman Lord Derby examining paintings at Christie’s, by James Gillray ~ Public Domain ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auction#/media/File:Peep-at-Christies-Gillray.jpeg

The idea of advertising to draw in the most sales is also not a new concept. As I am writing this piece, I just purchased several items for my grandchildren’s Christmas on Amazon Prime Days. (Yes, I am one of those who customarily has a large portion of my Christmas shopping completed by September. Yes, I am a Virgo. Yes, I am a bit weird about some things. Enough said.) We all know something of when is the best time to purchase linens, televisions, cars, etc. Those who ran these auctions also knew a great deal about when to offer which items. Obviously, the more prestigious items were held for last, much as we see at modern-day auctions. Those who produced the catalogues also were very particular in their choice of words. We all know the temptation for descriptors such as “one-of-a-kind,” “elegance,” “value,” “cultured,” but also words such as “antique” (not for furniture, that did not happen until mid 1800s) but perhaps for armor) or “genteel” or even the names of countries, such as “Persian” rug. These house sales brought commercialism to the country house and used it as a commercial space. In many ways, such still remains, but the house’s history is now the sales point. All around the world, houses of historical importance are restored to their glory days and opened to the public for tours, where we might look again upon a life none of us will every know.

Posted in British history, business, estates, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Living in the Regency, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Breach of Promise in the Regency + an Excerpt from MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Miss Austen brings up the issue of “Breach of Promise Suits” as they apply to Lydia and Wickham. This exchange actually occurs after Darcy’s second proposal (chapter 60) when Elizabeth is asking Darcy when he fell in love with her:

“Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement.”

“But I was embarrassed.”

“And so was I.”

“You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.”

“A man who had felt less, might.”

“How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable to admit it! But I wonder how long you would have gone on, if you had been left to yourself. I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect. Too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? for I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do.”

A breach of promise suit could be pursued by both men and women during the Regency, and it may surprise some to learn, more men than women filed for compensation in the ecclesiastical courts. A “promise” to marry had long been looked upon by the church courts as a legal marriage. The promise = the marriage. By the 1600s, this practice became part of common law.

To constitute a breach a promise case in court there first had to be a valid betrothal. Among the aristocracy of the Regency era, one might find the engagement announcement in the newspapers, but not necessarily the wedding announcement. That is because the betrothal was as good as a marriage in the minds of many of the time. But why did the couple not simply go their separate ways when they decided not to marry?

A female often found herself as “damaged goods” when the nuptials were called off. Although premarital sex was deeply frowned upon by society, as a whole, often an engaged couple would consider the betrothal as good as the marriage. If the engagement was broken after sexual intimacies, the “future bride” would be ruined. She could not go to another as anything less than a virgin. Therefore, she was unlikely never to marry. Women of society depended upon a husband to take care of their financial course. If a woman did not marry, she would be a poor relation, depending on the kindness of a brother or a cousin to keep her.

A gentleman might file a suit if he had borrowed money against the dowry he was to receive when he married the lady. He was to become in control of the lady’s fortune once their vows were officially spoken. A break in the promise to marry would leave him at the whims of the moneylenders.

Neither the potential bride or the groom were permitted to enter testimony during the court proceedings. The jury was to award the compensation based upon the actual costs incurred, the loss of reputation, the length of the engagement, and the defendant’s ability to pay, but often the awards were based on “other factors,” for example the most entertaining barrister between the pair representing the plaintiff and the defendant. Jurors would likely award a woman as low as £50 and as high as several thousands, depending upon how comely her countenance might be or how badly she had suffered in the public’s eye. However, just going to court could add insult to injury. The proceedings were often posted in the newspapers.

Ginger Frost in her book Courtship, Class, and Gender in Victorian England speaks to “the myth of breach of promise” in popular literature and culture:

Suits for breach of promise of marriage were well know to the public in Victorian England. From at least the 1830s, a variety of writers recognized the inherent humor and drama of the action and began to fictionalize the cases as they were then brought. The depictions of trials during the century gave a strangely uniform representation of the people who brought such litigation and the outcome of their conflicts. This interpretation built up an idealized myth of breach of promise, one which influenced the perception of the suit far more than actual cases did.

MDF eBook Cover Introducing MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs…

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.

ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, her father’s heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go askew.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” is arrives at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?

In this EXCERPT from Chapter 18 of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs, we hear Darcy’s take on his aunt’s insistence that he marry his cousin Anne De Bourgh, although Anne left him waiting at the altar the first time they were to speak their vows.

“So this is the welcome I am to receive,” her ladyship harrumphed. “Your mother would be ashamed of you, Darcy.” She sat heavily in an armed chair.

Darcy remained standing beside his desk. He spoke in clipped tones. “I was considering something similar as to Lady Anne’s reaction to your poor manners, Aunt. I can guarantee that George Darcy would never have tolerated your ordering his servants about, and neither will I. This is Pemberley, madam, not Rosings Park. I am the master here.”

His aunt snarled, “I see your insolence continues.”

“And I see you still think that the world will bend to your whims,” he countered.

Rather than to fuel their standoff with more inflammatory accusations, Lady Catherine switched tactics, a devise he had observed her employ previously. Darcy had always thought her doing so was an intelligent means for a woman to earn agreement over business matters in a man’s world, but her diversion would not work on him. “Is that girl in this house?” she demanded.

Darcy propped a hip on the corner of his desk and attempted to appear casual when he responded, “I fear Georgiana is not at home at this time. My sister will be sorry to have missed your call.”

Lady Catherine’s chin rose in stubbornness. “So that is the way you wish to discuss this matter. Very well. Then I shall be more direct. Did you bring Miss Elizabeth Bennet to Pemberley when you left Matthew Allard’s estate in Scotland?”

Darcy schooled his features. Someone would pay dearly for sharing his business with Lady Catherine. “I am not in the habit of discussing my personal life with anyone, and you of all people should realize I am more Darcy than Fitzwilliam. Your line of questions will not win you my favor.”

“I see you mean to protect this upstart! Are you so enthralled with the woman’s arts and allurements that you cannot see reason? If you fancy her, Darcy, then make her your mistress. Anne will ignore your indiscretions. I will instruct my daughter in the ways of men. Anne can be your wife while this strumpet can suffer your lust.”

His aunt’s description of aristocratic life sickened Darcy. “I have no intention of marrying Anne. You may beg. You may threaten. You may cajole. You may bargain. But I will never change my mind. I permitted you to use the memory of my dear mother to coerce me into agreeing to marry Anne, but Fate had other ideas. Anne was late, and I spoke my vows to another.”

“We both know those vows are not legal,” she drawled in warning tones.

Darcy had heard from his solicitor regarding those first vows exchanged with Elizabeth, and as expected, his first marriage to the woman had proved void. Mr. Jaffray had filed the papers to have the ceremony declared null. “Such knowledge does not change my resolve. I will not marry Anne.”

“Would you prefer that I instruct Anne in suing Miss Bennet for criminal conversation?” she challenged.

“Although neither Anne or I could officially testify in such a suit, the truth would win out. A skilled barrister can make certain all the facts are relayed to the judge. The lady in question could not have claimed my affections away from your daughter, for beyond a fondness between cousins, I never loved Anne.” He would not say that Elizabeth Bennet held his heart in her delicate hands. “Moreover, as I did not hold the lady’s acquaintance until several hours after that morning at St. George, it would be impossible for her to draw me away with her arts and allurements. All such a suit would do would be to bring ruin upon Anne’s head and mar my family name. You would have your vengeance and little else to keep you warm in the winter. No man would ever claim Anne after such a public display, but I suppose that is what you wish. You wish Anne forever to remain under your control.”

“Anne’s dowry of thirty thousand pounds can cover any flaw you name,” Lady Catherine argued.

“Yes, I suppose her dowry and the promise of Rosings Park can conceal all but one of my cousin’s failings: that of possessing an overbearing and controlling mother. Only the most desperate of men would consider aligning his name with Sir Lewis’s daughter. You would turn over Anne’s future to a man of no principles. That fact should surprise me, but it does not,” he said in sad tones. “Such a man would run through every penny of Anne’s inheritance, leaving you and your daughter as Matlock’s poor relations. I suppose that much be my justice.”

“You think me so cold-hearted?” his aunt demanded. “Everything I do, I do for Anne.”

“You may tell yourself these lies,” Darcy cautioned, “but your family and soon society will recognize you as a bitter, vindictive woman.” He sighed heavily. “If you persist in this madness, I will sue Anne for breach of promise. Her fortune will be greatly reduced, for I will win my suit. There were at least two dozen witnesses that can swear to the fact that she left me at the altar. If not for the false exchange of vows, I would have been long gone from the church by the time Anne arrived. You, too, would have been gone, likely looking for your wayward daughter to strangle her, as you attempted to do when she did arrive. Are you willing to tarnish your daughter’s name twice in the court of public notice? Poor Anne who has never had a Season. Who has never been permitted the freedom to form a friendship. Who is poorly educated beyond what her governess provided her. That Anne will be irretrievably ruined.” His tone held the warning of winter’s embrace. “I do not wish to see Anne suffer, but I will not permit you to injure an innocent just to puff up your consequence.”

“An innocent?” his aunt accused in her most implacable voice. “The woman traveled with you to Scotland where she passed herself off as Mrs. Darcy. You see, Mr. and Mrs. Allard were quite pleased to tell my man of your indiscretions. Allard was most displeased that you withdrew your financial support of his latest venture.”

Allard’s financial future would be nonexistent when Darcy finished with the man. He would permit no one to bandy about Elizabeth’s name in a vile manner. “We could debate this matter all afternoon,” he announced as he stood. “I believe somewhere within your hard resolve you want what is best for Anne, and I am flattered that you think me a suitable match for my cousin, but I wish to marry in affection, and my feelings for Anne are more brotherly than those of a potential husband.” A profound sadness crept into his tone when Darcy spoke of his cousin’s situation. He should have done more to assist Anne before things had reached this turning point. Like most in the family, he had thought all would change when Anne inherited Sir Lewis’s properties and fortune. He had never considered the fact that Lady Catherine would do all she could to shove Anne out Rosings Park’s door in order to maintain control of all of Sir Lewis’s holdings. “Do you not wish something more for your daughter and your dearest sister’s only son that a marriage of convenience?”

“I wish to see Anne well settled,” she declared in undisguised contempt.

Darcy hesitated briefly before accepting the gauntlet. His aunt would force him to be ruthless. “Then you leave me no choice, madam. If you force me into marrying Anne, I will leave you with little more than a humble cottage and a pair of servants to tend you for the remainder of your days. Anne will be five and twenty in two months. I will postpone the wedding until your daughter inherits Rosings Park per Sir Lewis’s will. All of it will belong to her, and as the estate and the fortune are entailed upon the female line, when we marry, as Anne’s husband, I will have control of it all. I have no intention of bringing Anne to child, so all your manipulations will be for naught. As you say, I will take my lust elsewhere. At Anne’s death, I will sell Rosings Park and all it holds piece-by piece, until nothing remains of Sir Lewis De Bourgh’s legacy. All you hold most dear will be scattered among the households of those with the funds to purchase it. I will destroy everything you have ever loved: Rosings Park and Anne. And each day of your miserable life you will know that I did these things in retribution for your foolish sense of consequence.” Needing to be away from his aunt, Darcy started for the door. “Good day, your ladyship. I will have Mr. Nathan see you out.” With that, he was gone, never looking back to view the look of astonishment upon his aunt’s features.

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Auctioning Off Household Goods in the Regency Era, Part 1

The Georgian era of which the Regency is a part saw greater economic prosperity for new groups, hoping to become a part of the genteel class. Think of Mr. Bingley in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Although he had a larger income than Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s clergyman ; theoretically, Collins, who depended upon her ladyship for ever morsel of his daily life, outranked the tradesman, Charles Bingley. Following his father’s wish for wanting more for his family, Bingley sought out a country life in the form of letting Netherfield Park. We readers assume Netherfield Park came furnished, for nothing is mentioned of the need for furniture and the like in Austen’s classic, but what if it was an empty house and needed to be furnished? Where might one acquire such items? (Remember: If one wished no to appear a “newby,” so to speak, all new furniture would be a dead giveaway.) What one required was the “used” furniture from the “rich and famous” to dress one’s home.

Moreover, the range of goods available greatly increased. The middling sort often purchased used goods through auctions. These public auctions “redistributed” goods, allowing those with new wealth to claim the articles while blurring social distinctions. New money came to rub elbows, so to speak, with the establishment.

The sale of goods from country houses became common. Do you recall in Season 6 of Downton Abbey when in a development that would have been unthinkable back in Season 1, Robert and his wife, Cora, the Countess of Grantham, find themselves attending an auction of a nearby estate (the aristo inhabitants are downsizing to a London-only lifestyle). Of course, this episode were set in 1925, but they were just as poignant in the early 1800s. As it was in the Downton episode, many houses held a “walk through” for people to come a few days ahead of the actual auction to view what was available. I know the contents of Lady Blessington’s house was auctioned in that manner. The auctioneers held an open house before the auction where serious buyers and curious people could tour the house and  the serious could choose what they wanted to buy before the auction started. I imagine that the auction house had people stationed all through the house who listened to comments and upped the reserve on the items that garnered the most interest.

1822 Painting by Thomas Lawrence ~ Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington ~ Public Domain ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marguerite_Gardiner,_Countess_of_Blessington#/media/File:Maguerite,_Countess_of_Blessington.jpg

From Encyclopeida.com “Marguerite, Countess of Blessington (1789 – 1849) Irish author who published a number of popular novels of fashionable life and for many years presided over the most brilliant salon in London. Name variations: Marguerite Gardiner; Marguerite Power; Lady Blessington; Margaret, Sally. Born Marguerite Power on September 1, 1789, at Knockbrit, near Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland; died in Paris, France, on June 4, 1849; daughter of Edward (or Edmund) Power (a landowner, magistrate and newspaper editor) and Ellen (Sheehy) Power; educated at home and for a short period at boarding school; married Captain Maurice St. Leger Farmer, in 1804 (died 1817); married Charles John Gardiner, 1st earl of Blessington, in 1817 (died 1829); no children.

“However melodramatic the plots of Lady Blessington’s novels, few could have been more unlikely than the story of her own life. Born in poverty and obscurity in the Irish countryside, she was a plain child who became a dazzling beauty. Married against her will at 14 to a vicious husband, whom she left after just a few months, she went on to marry into the aristocracy and to become London’s most celebrated hostess. Despite her scandalous reputation, her wit, intelligence and generosity made her the confidante of many of the most eminent men of her day, and her close friends included the poet Lord, George Gordon Byron, the novelist Charles Dickens, and the future prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli. Renowned for the extravagance of her lifestyle, she was also an indefatigable worker, who supported herself and her establishment by a constant stream of literary works, which included novels, travel books, and memoirs, as well as journalism. Nevertheless, it is clear that the disruption and unhappiness of her early years left an indelible mark on her, in her unconventional private life, in her improvidence and compulsive generosity, and in her need for admiration and attention. Ultimately, she was to find herself bankrupt and ignored by many of those whom she had regarded as her friends. Even in that final disaster, however, she retained the courage, optimism, and sense of style which had enabled her to make her first, unlikely escape, to reshape her identity, and to shine for so many years as ‘the gorgeous Lady Blessington.'”

During the 18th and 19th centuries, one must recall the sale of land/estates was greatly restricted, but, for those in dire straits financially, a person could generally sell the contents of a house. Valuable paintings. Furnishings. Silver. Imported wine collections. Etc.

Any number of reasons could cause need for such an auction: family neglect, the need to what now call “downsize” to a different property, failure to produce an heir, etc. In fact, the new heir may not have liked his predecessor’s “taste” in furnishings and decided to earn some money to furnish the estate as he wished by holding an auction to be rid of the items.

Most assuredly, those in London had their up-scale auction houses, but those in the country increasingly depended upon those not part of the fashionable sect. These “would be” country gentlemen and ladies were must more accustomed to bargaining at a variety of venues from artisan shops to market stalls.

Newspapers of the day, especially those in the countryside, carried advertisements for auctions of household goods. Now, this is not to say all such sales were restricted to the homes of the aristocracy. It would be equally possible to find one being conducted in the home of a wealthy tradesman. One thing we discover is more money could be raised by selling the items directly from the house itself, rather than moving them into a large auction house in London or one of the larger municipalities for the sell.

Those of you who have ever purchased a new house totally understand the concept. You look at a home you think to purchase, and it has been staged by the realtor. However, when you move your own things in, it does not look so well organized.

The items in a country house would be likewise. The grandeur. The elegance. The ambiance. All would be part of the sales’ point.

One thing we rarely mention in such scenarios is what these sales did for the house’s future, as well as its history. A once in a lifetime type sale might not decrease the value of the home, but what if there were repeated sales over a matter of years. Such happened more often than we would like to think.

Take, for example, the three sales of goods from Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire. These sales took place in 1772, 1824, and then again 1831. After that, Kirby Hall died a slow death, left to rot.

From Wikipedia, we have a quick overview of the house. “Kirby Hall is an Elizabethan country house, located near Gretton, Northamptonshire, England. The nearest main town is Corby. One of the great Elizabethan houses of England, Kirby Hall was built for Sir Humphrey Stafford of Blatherwick, beginning in 1570. In 1575 the property was purchased by Sir Christopher Hatton of Holdenby, Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I. It is a leading and early example of the Elizabethan prodigy house. Construction on the building began in 1570, based on the designs in French architectural pattern books and expanded in the Classical style over the course of the following decades. The house is now in a semi-ruined state with many parts roof-less although the Great Hall and state rooms remain intact.

Posted in art, British history, England, estates, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Industrial Revolution, Living in the Regency, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments