The Battle of the Bees: A Revolutionary War Skirmish Won by American Patriots and a Swarm of Bees


I live close to the town of Matthews, in the lower right-hand corner. The Battle of the Bees took place just a little north of Charlotte, about 7 miles, out Beattie’s Ford Road.

I live outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Battle of Bees plays an important role in the region’s history. Also known as the Battle of McIntyre’s Farm, the Battle of Bees was a Revolutionary War incident, which occurred on October 3, 1780. When the British commander, Lord Charles Cornwallis, left Charlotte on 12 Oct. 1780, after a 16-day occupation, he was heard to say that the defiant and rebellious town was a ‘damned hornet’s nest.”‘Although the British were figuratively stung by unrelenting hostility and violent ambushes, one foraging party was stung, both, literally and figuratively, by Patriots and by bees in the skirmish at McIntyre’s Farm.

Cornwallis had ordered Major John Doyle to lead a foraging expedition into the countryside surrounding the town of Charlotte (Note: Both the town and the county were named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, King George III’s royal consort.) Supplies were low, but the British did not take the mission lightly. Their 40 wagons were accompanied by 450 foot soldiers, as well as a cavalry detachment. Doyle’s contingent were trailed by 13 American patriots, under the command of Captain James Thompson. Thompson’s men kept out of sight as the British halted seven miles from town at McIntyre’s farm. There, some of the British remained behind to plunder the farm while Doyle and the rest of the party began to march on.

At the farm, some of the soldiers accidentally knocked over a beehive and were forced to scatter to evade the bees’ combined anger. Taking advantage of the situation, the Patriots attacked, killing a British captain, nine soldiers, and two horses. Because the Patriots fired from cover with great accuracy and constantly shifted their positions, it seemed to the startled Redcoats that they were under attack from a much larger force.


McIntye’s Cabin. Image from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. Available from (accessed Sept. 3, 2018)

Thinking themselves under heavy attack and outnumbered, Doyle foolishly ordered his men to retreat. The Americans managed to kill some of the horses pulling the supply wagons, which created a road block, of sorts. A few of the British soldiers cut away the uninjured horses and made their escape. The American soldiers from the neighborhood took a turn at firing on the escaping Redcoats, creating more havoc. The Battle of McIntyre’s Farm was only one of several sharp clashes fought between Cornwallis and local Patriots around Charlotte. [The Battle of McIntyre’s Farm, NC Pedia] provides a summary of this incident: 

After a week in Charlotte, Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis needed to send out foraging parties to replenish his supplies. A large foraging party of 450 Provincials under the command of Capt. John Doyle moved out of Beattie’s Ford Road with sixty wagons. A local boy notified the McIntyre family that the Loyalists were coming.Then, the boy rode on and informed Capt. James Thompson of the local militia. Capt. Thompson quickly rounded up Capt. James Knox and thirteen farmers to harass Capt. Doyle’s troops, and then hid the riflemen in two locations at the McIntyre farm.

Capt. Thompson watched as Capt. Doyle’s men plundered McIntyre’s barns and raided their livestock pens. The Provincials tied their horses to the farm wagons while they went about their work. When the baggage wagons arrived they loaded bags of corn and oats onto them.

During the pillaging, the Loyalists accidentally knocked over some beehives and found themselves under attack by the swarming bees. One Loyalist officer stood in the doorway and laughed as the men swatted at the bees and ran from the danger.

As they were occupied, Capt. Thompson and his men approached the raiders. He yelled out that he would take out a captain he had spotted and that every man should quickly select their target. Capt. Thompson and a militiaman named Francis Bradley fired at the same time. Thompson’s shot found its mark and the man thought to be a captain fell dead. The enemy mounted their horses and formed a line, but Capt. Thompson and his men were able to reload and fire a second time.

Dogs were set loose on the Patriots and they pursued one group of Capt. Thompson’s men:

“The dogs came on the trail of these retreating men, and the leading one sprung upon the heels of a man who had just discharged his rifle. A pistol shot laid him dead, and the other dogs, coming up to him, paused, gave a howl, and returned.”

Capt. Doyle believed that his men were being attacked by a much larger force and ordered a speeedy retreat back to Charlotte. More of the local farmers showed up and began firing at the British from concealment, in a skirmish that resembled the start of the war at Concord, Massachusetts.

Later, Rev. William Henry Foote wrote:

“The leading horses of the wagons were some of them shot down before they ascended the hill by the branch, and the road was blocked up; and the retreat became a scene of confusion in spite of the discipline of the British soldiers, who drew up in battle array and offered to fight the invisible enemy that only changed their ground and renewed their fire.”

Capt. Doyle’s men rode so hard that “many of their horses fell dead in the streets.”

Eight Loyalists were killed, along with two horses. Twelve others were wounded.

Known Patriot Participants Known British/Loyalist Participants
Capt. James Thompson – Commanding Officer

Mecklenburg County Regiment of Militia detachment of two (2) known captains:
– Capt. James Thompson
– Capt. James Knox, with 13 local farmers:

Frank Bradley
Joh Dickson
Thomas Dickson
George Graham
James Henry
George Houston
Hugh Houston
John Long
Thomas McClure
John Robinson
Robert Robinson
Edward Shipley
George Shipley

Reinforced later by unknown number of more farmers

Capt. John Doyle – Commanding Officer

450 Provincials (likely the Volunteers of Ireland)

60 Cavalry (unit unknown)

40 Wagons

Posted in Act of Parliament, American History, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, research | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Edward Oxford, the First to Attempt to Assassinate Queen Victoria

There was a total of eight attempts to assassinate Great Britain’s Queen Victoria. The first came at the hands of Edward Oxford, a man who was considered to be a half-wit. On 10 June 1840, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria had called upon her mother, the Duchess of Kent. They were in a low carriage making their way along London’s Constitution Hill when the attack occurred. 


Edward Oxford shooting at Queen Victoria, June 10, 1840; the Queen and Prince Consort driving in a phaeton with four horses towards Constitution Hill; Oxford standing in front of the Green Park railings pointing a pistol in an attempt to assassinate the Queen, while a policeman runs towards him, one of the Queen’s attendants on horse at left. By G. H> Miles, 1840, British Museum. Watercolour, strengthened with gum This image is either reversed horizontally or inaccurate, as the carriage had the railings of the park on its right at the time of the attempt. ~ public domain ~ G. H.Miles (Life time: 1840) – Original publication: June-Dec, 1840 Immediate source: British Museum ~ assassination_attempt_on_Queen_Victoria,_ G.H.Miles,_watercolor,_1840.jpg

Born in 1822, Edward Oxford was the third of seven children. His father, George Oxford, made his living as a gold chaser, [While repoussé is used to work on the reverse of the metal to form a raised design on the front, chasing is used to refine the design on the front of the work by sinking the metal.] After attending school, Edward worked in a bar owned by his aunt and was later employed as a pot boy in other public houses. At the time of the attack he was barely eighteen years old, unemployed and living with his mother and sister in lodgings in Camberwell, having recently quit his job at the Hog-in-the-Pound in Oxford Street. Since his mother had returned to Birmingham on a regular trip to see family over a month before, Oxford was, in effect, living alone at the time of the event. [Edward Oxford]

It turned out that Oxford’s attempt was not a spur-of-the-moment lark. He had purchased two guns and a gunpowder flask the week prior to the attempt. He had even practiced shooting the weapons in a variety of shooting galleries. He purchased 50 copper percussion caps from a former classmate named Gray and asked where he might purchase gunpowder and bullets. Gray sold Oxford the gunpowder and recommended another establishment for the bullets. [The Newgate Calendar: Edward Oxford]

As the Queen, who was four months pregnant at the time, and Prince Albert had developed a habit of riding about in a phaeton in the late afternoon and early evening, and without proper protection from dissidents, and the like, it was not difficult to know something of their route on this particular evening. Oxford simply waited for their return from the Duchess’s residence. He fired both pistols, thankfully missing both times. He was immediately seized on by onlookers and taken into custody. Oxford openly declared: “It was I, it was me that did it.” [Edward Oxford]

In a letter from Prince Albert to his brother, Prince Ernest of Saxe-Coburg, Albert explains what happened: 

12 June 1840: I saw a most disagreeable looking man leaning against the rail of Green Park only six paces from us, holding something toward us. Before I could see what it was, a shot cracked out. It was so dreadfully loud that we were both quite stunned. Victoria, who had been looking to the left, towards a rider, did not know the cause of the noise. My first thought was that, in her present state, the fright might harm her. I put both arms around her and asked her how she felt, but she only laughed. Then I turned round to look at the man (the horses were frightened and the carriage stopped). The man stood there in a theatrical position, a pistol in each hand. It seemed ridiculous. Suddenly he stooped, put a pistol on his arm, aimed at us and fired, the bullet must have gone over our heads judging by the hole made where it hit the garden wall. [Raymond Lamont-Brown, How Fat Was Henry VIII, The History Press, ©2008, page 147]

When the authorities searched his room, after Oxford’s arrest, not only did they find more ammunition and other weapons, but they discovered the rules and regulations for a made-up martial society in which Oxford created officers and correspondence. The members were to be armed with a brace of pistols, a sword, and a dagger. [ The Proceedings of Old Bailey: Edward Oxford]

Because no spent bullets were found at the scene, the Crown could not prove that Oxford could actually harm another. Later, Oxford claimed there were no bullets in the pistols, only gunpowder. “Oxford appeared to be oblivious for most of the proceedings. The prosecution presented much eyewitness evidence, while the defence case consisted of various family members and friends who testified that Oxford had always seemed of unsound mind, and that both his grandfather and father were alcoholics who had exhibited signs of mental illness. This carried a great deal of weight, as it was thought during this time that both drink and hereditary influence were strong causal factors for insanity. Oxford’s mother testified her late husband had been violent and intimidating, and that her son was not only prone to fits of hysterical laughter and emitting strange noises, he had been obsessed with firearms since he was a child. Various eminent pathologists and physicians testified that due to “brain disease” or other factors, such as the shape of his head, Oxford was either a mental imbecile or simply incapable of controlling himself.” [Edward Oxford]

Oxford was imprisoned at Newgate and tried on a charge of high treason at the Central Criminal Court before Lord Chief Justice Thomas Denman. Sidney Taylor defended Oxford, and the man was found guilty, but was declared insane. Oxford was ordered to Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam) for the insane at Moorfields. He spent 35 years in the facility. At age 52, he was released to travel to Australia. 


Henry Hering, photographer (1814-1893) – Bethlem hospital museum ~ public domain ~

“Central Criminal Court, to wit.– The jurors for our lady the Queen, upon their oath present, that Edward Oxford, late of Westminster, in the county of Middlesex, labourer, being a subject of our lady the Queen, heretofore, to wit on the 10th of June, in the year of our Lord 1840, within the jurisdiction of the said court, as a false traitor to our lady the Queen, maliciously and traitorously, with force and arms, &c., did compass, imagine, and intend to bring and put our said lady the Queen to death. And to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect his most evil and wicked treason, and treasonable compassing and imagination aforesaid, he the said Edward Oxford, as such false traitor as aforesaid, to wit, on the said 10th day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1840, aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of the said court, with force and arms, maliciously and traitorously did shoot off and discharge a certain pistol, the same then and there being loaded with gunpowder and a certain bullet, and which pistol he the said Edward Oxford then and there had and held in one of his hands at the person of our said lady the Queen, with intent thereby and therewith maliciously and traitorously to shoot, assassinate, kill, and put to death our said lady the Queen. And further, to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect his most evil and wicked treason and treasonable compassing and imagination aforesaid, he the said Edward Oxford, as such false traitor as aforesaid, afterwards, to wit, on the said 10th day of June, in the year of our lord 1840, aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of the said court, with force and arms maliciously and traitorously did shoot off and discharge a certain other pistol, the same then and there being loaded with gunpowder and a certain bullet, and which pistol he the said Edward Oxford then and there had and held in one of his hands, at the person of our said lady the Queen, with intent thereby and therewith maliciously and traitorously to shoot, assassinate, kill, and put to death our said lady the Queen, and thereby then and there traitorously made a direct attempt against the life of our said lady the Queen, against the duty of the allegiance of him the said Edward Oxford, against the form of the statute in that case made and provided, and against the peace of our said lady the Queen, her crown, and dignity.” [The Newgate Calendar: Edward Oxford]

Wikipedia tells us, “Oxford lived out the rest of his life in Melbourne, Australia.  Oxford landed in Melbourne with a new alias, John Freeman. Setting out to reform himself and become a respectable citizen, Freeman became a house painter and joined the West Melbourne Mutual Improvement Society. In 1881 he married a widow with two children, and became a church warden a St Paul’s Cathedral. Under the pseudonym “Liber” he wrote articles for The Argus about the city’s slums, markets and racetracks, and these became the basis for an 1888 book, Lights and Shadows of Melbourne Life. Freeman died in 1900.

“His patient record at Broadmoor includes a letter sent in 1883 by George Haydon, a Steward at Bethlem, to Dr. David Nicolson. It includes an article from The Age, a Melbourne newspaper, which reports that on 4 May 1880, a “John” Oxford, identified as the man who shot at the Queen many years ago, and who had subsequently been a patient in an asylum before he was discharged to Australia, had recently been convicted of stealing a shirt and spent a week in jail. Upon his release, the prison governor requested the police to keep an eye on him, “in consequence of the old man’s eccentric conduct”. The police subsequently arrested Oxford for vagrancy, and he was reportedly remanded for further medical examination. There were no further updates to the record. It is not certain that this person was Edward Oxford.

“The connection between Oxford and “John Freeman” was established by F. B. Smith’s 1987 article “Lights and Shadows in the Life of John Freeman”. Freeman wrote several letters to Haydon, beginning in 1888 and apparently ceasing on Haydon’s death in 1889. Freeman’s wife and stepchildren appear to have been totally ignorant that he might be anyone other than John Freeman. Additionally, a photograph of John Freeman taken for the 1888 Centennial Exhibition in Melbourne matches a portrait of Oxford held in the archives of the Bethlem aslyum. Freeman’s correspondence to Haydon was donated to the National Library in the 1950s by the family. Stevens points out that the former Steward contributed nothing more to Oxford’s Broadmoor record about his progress beyond the troubling report published in the newspaper, and never confirmed that Oxford was the author of Freeman’s book. This may have been because Haydon was departing Bethlem at the time he began receiving the letters.”


Posted in British history, history, political stance, research, Victorian era, weaponry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rites of Mourning and the Recent Release of “Where There’s a FitzWILLiam Darcy, There’s a Way”

The mourning rites we customarily think of as being so strict during the Regency era, were actually those imposed by Queen Victoria after the death of her husband, Prince Albert. Victoria was known to wear black for many years and strict forms of comportment during the mourning period. The Georgian Era/Regency held its moments, especially during the country’s mourning for King George III and later, King George IV. But the mourning of individuals differed. 

The wealthy might have an open coffin in a drawing room where the deceased could be viewed by the family and others could pay their respects. More than likely, the poor permitted the body to decompose in one of the rooms and later the bones were buried. If a coffin was used, the poor were more likely to “rent” a coffin. The deceased was sewn into a wool shroud. The coffin had an open end and the shrouded body would be tipped into the grave and covered up with dirt. The coffin would be used again for another service. Funeral meats were served at the home of the deceased. 

From, we find: “Funeral baked meats” is famous from Hamlet and I had assumed baked meats referred to roast beef/venison/pork/suckling pig etc.

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898. 
Baked Meat 

means meat-pie. “The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage table” (Hamlet); i.e. the hot meat-pies (venison pasties) served at the funeral and not eaten, were served cold at the marriage banquet.

“Presumably those pies and pasties were cooked in shortcrust pastry, and such meat (and veg) pies are still popular in the UK and the Antipodes, but not in the States where pies are fruit with a different kind of pastry I believe. (This is true of British fruit pies anyway.)” has:

  /ˈbeɪkˌmit/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [beyk-meet] Show IPA 
–noun Obsolete. 
1.  pastry; pie. 
2.  cooked food, esp. a meat pie. 
Also, baked meat.

1350–1400; ME bake mete, OE bacen mete baked food. See bake, meat

This is reminiscent of the legend of the Sin-Eater. A sin-eater is a person who consumes a ritual meal in order to take on the sins of a person or household. The food was believed to absorb the sins of a recently deceased person, thus absolving the soul of the person. Sin-eaters, as a consequence, carried the sins of all people whose sins they had eaten. A local legend in Shropshire, England, concerns the grave of Richard Munslow, who died in 1906, [“Last ‘sin-eater’ to be celebrated with church service”BBC News. 19 September 2010.] said to be the last sin-eater of the area:

By eating bread and drinking ale, and by making a short speech at the graveside, the sin-eater took upon themselves the sins of the deceased”. The speech was written as: “I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen.

ngsinsof16.jpgThere is an episode of Rod Sterling’s 1970s Night Gallery (Season 2, Episode 59) entitled “The Sins of the Fathers,” and starred Richard Thomas of “The Waltons” fame as the sin-eater’s son and Geraldine Page as his mother. When I saw it years ago, it creeped me out and the images of it stayed with me all these years. Ethan Renoe tells us something about the episode: “The episode takes place in 13th century Wales, where famine is destroying the country. An old man has just died, so his family is looking for a sin-eater to come and relinquish the man of his sins. The belief is that this person, known as the sin-eater, comes and feasts on fine foods from the chest of the corpse and, once the meal is complete and the proper prayers are recited, the sins of the deceased enter into the soul of the sin-eater. He screams in agony and the family watching knows that the dead man is relieved of his trespasses.

“If you know anything about Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, you know that creepy and weird is just what lives inside his head. The episode follows a midget as he rides his pony 12 miles to fetch the sin-eater, who, it turns out, has also just died. His wife coerces their son to go instead and eat the sins of the dead man.” Obviously, if you read the title above, you know the ironic twist at the end.

(Air date: February 23, 1972)

Teleplay by Halsted Welles • Story by Christianna Brand
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Not for the squeamish is “The Sins of the Fathers,” based on the old Welsh custom of sin-eating: cleansing a man of his sins
by feasting in the presence of his corpse.

Geraldine Page as Mrs. Evans
Richard Thomas as Ian Evans
Michael Dunn as the Servant
Barbara Steele as the Widow Craighill
Cyril Delevanti as the First Mourner
Alan Napier as the Second Mourner
Terence Pushman as the Third Mourner
John Barclay as the Fourth Mourner


In my story, Where There’s a FitzWILLiam Darcy, There’s a Way, Mr. Bennet has passed and the Bennet family is thrust into mourning. During the Regency, Mrs. Bennet would be expected to mourn her husband for a year, while the daughters were only required to mourn their father for six months. This meant wearing black or dark gray. After six months, Mrs. Bennet would be in half mourning, meaning she should could wear a combination of black and white. After that she could wear black, gray, or lavender until the year was complete. Many women continued to wear mourning long after their husbands had passed.

The “rules of propriety” said a year of mourning for a husband or wife, and six moths for a parent or one’s in-laws. Donna Hatch has a full breakdown of how long one must grieve for aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, and the like on her Mourning Customs in Regency England. I know many of you will find the excerpts she quotes quite interesting. 

Geri Walton has a wonderful post entitled “Mourning in the Georgian Era,” in which she tells us: 

Mourning rules were also associated with families, relatives, and servants in the Georgian Era. In the Life of Harriot Stuart, written in 1750 by the English poet and authoress, Charlotte Lennox, she noted:

“[The] length of time devoted to mourning, and the apparent intensity with which one mourned, were determined to a large extent by the relationship that … existed between the two people and the ‘public knowledge of that relationship’ … mourning was usually only done for kindred, and … the formal rules that governed mourning, which specified an exact amount of time for each degree of kinship, ‘showed that servants were excluded from family.’”


Where There’s a FitzWILLiam Darcy, There’s a Way 

ELIZABETH BENNET’s world has turned upon its head. Not only is her family about to be banished to the hedgerows after her father’s sudden death, but Mr. Darcy has appeared upon Longbourn’s threshold, not to renew his proposal, as she first feared, but, rather, to serve as Mr. Collins’s agent in taking an accounting of Longbourn’s “treasures” before her father’s cousin steals away all her memories of the place.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY certainly has no desire to encounter Elizabeth Bennet again so soon after her mordant refusal of his hand in marriage, but when his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, strikes a bargain in which her ladyship agrees to provide his Cousin Anne a London Season if Darcy will become Mr. Collins’s agent in Hertfordshire, Darcy accepts in hopes he can convince Miss Elizabeth to think better of him than she, obviously, does. Yet, how can he persuade the woman to recognize his inherent sense of honor, when his inventory of Longbourn’s entailed land and real properties announces the date she and her family will be homeless?


WTaFD eBook Cover-01

The eBook is available from these outlets: 




Excerpt from Chapter Ten of Where There’s a FitzWILLiam Darcy, There’s a Way. In this section, Darcy and Elizabeth have been inspecting the home farms as part of Darcy’s duty to Mr. Collins. They stop to enjoy a meal he brought for them. 

Darcy knew he could never permit such a future for her, but he could not speak promises without the bonds of an engagement, and having such at this time would drive her away, so he swallowed the words on the tip of his tongue. “I, too, find London difficult,” he said lamely.

Again, they sat in quiet contemplation for several minutes, each finishing the food on their plates. It amazed him how those silent moments between them no longer felt awkward, for there was an understood acceptance now.  At length, she returned their plates and silver to the basket. When finished, she turned to him to ask, “I know this will sound personal, and you must not respond, if doing so makes you uncomfortable, but after your father passed, did you ever walk into a room and believe you could feel his presence? Smell the soap he used or the cigar he had just smoked?”

“Often,” he admitted. “My sister claims she has been awakened by his touch on her shoulder, but I have not experienced such an encounter. However, I have repeatedly thought that if I turn my head, I would find George Darcy watching me go about my daily business to the estate.”

“Does such frighten you? This feeling, I mean?” she asked quietly.

Darcy sipped his wine before responding. “No. I find it comforting, especially when I am addressing a pressing or a difficult problem. My father always wished my success; therefore, why should I be frightened?” He took a longer drink of the wine before he asked, “Do you feel Mr. Bennet’s presence?”

She nodded in embarrassment. “More than I would have thought. Even when I was at Hunsford. The last night.” She brought her eyes to meet his. “The night of your—”

“Proposal,” he said softly.

“Yes.” Sunlight filtered through the leaves to slant across her beloved features. “It was as if, for the first time in many years, my father looked upon me with disapproval.”

“I suppose you realize that evening would have been the day of his passing.” A brief breathless moment slid between them, and Darcy reached across the blanket to cover her hand with his.

“I thought of little else upon my return to Longbourn,” she admitted.

He dared not ask what she considered to be the source of her father’s disdain. Did Mr. Bennet disapprove of Darcy’s proposal? Of her refusal? Or the fact his favorite daughter was not at Longbourn so Bennet could speak his farewells?”

“Have you seen him since?” he asked, at last.

“No, but I often feel him—his warm embrace—my nestling into his sturdy body.” With a sigh, she entwined their fingers. “Much as it was with us in the orchard.”

Darcy relished the ease with which she reached for him and the comfort she appeared to take in his touch, but he did not wish to replace her father in her life. He desired her affection.

“It is natural for you to seek the security Mr. Bennet provided your family,” he assured. “You were not at Longbourn when the incident happened, and your life has been full of the repercussions since. You must promise me you will permit yourself time to grieve.”

“Would grieving not mean I accept Mr. Bennet’s loss?” Tears formed in the corner of her eyes.

He caressed her cheek. “Not accepting will not alter what has occurred. It will only delay your healing.”

“I know you speak the truth,” she said on a sob. “But how do I make myself believe my father will never sit at his desk again and enjoy a book from his library?”

“Things will settle once you know the disposition of your father’s will. You are much of the same nature as I in that manner. You are strong and willing to face whatever life delivers to your door. It is the unknown that brings you anxiousness. Such is what has you questioning yourself.”

“Did you question yourself with your father’s passing?”

“I lost my mother when I was but thirteen. My father met his end some five years past. The loss of my mother was devastating. Lady Anne Darcy was my champion, and her passing left a gaping hole in the happiness we all had known at Pemberley. Yet, we knew for months that Lady Anne’s passing was inevitable. We had time to prepare ourselves for the void. But it was my father’s sudden collapse that frightened me to my core. I did not wish to accept that I was now not only Pemberley’s master, with all that entails, but I was also Georgiana’s guardian. It was quite daunting. In many ways, it still is.”

“How old is Miss Darcy?”

Darcy realized Elizabeth had yet to read his letter. “Barely sixteen. Georgiana is twelve years my junior. I treasure her and worry every day if I am serving her well.”

She smiled upon him. “Surely, you have never failed her.”

However, before he could respond, the sound of laughter from some place along the road leading to where they sat had them jerking apart.

“My sisters,” she mouthed.

He leaned close to whisper. “I will circle around to the orchard and pretend to have been examining it.”

She nodded her agreement and stood quickly. “What of the basket and blanket?

“I will think of something.” He gave her a gentle nudge in the direction of her sisters’ approach.

* * *

Elizabeth strolled casually from the woods to encounter her two youngest sisters. “Where are you about?”

Lydia and Kitty pulled up short. “We could ask the same of you,” Lydia said smartly.

Elizabeth gestured to the empty phaeton. “Mr. Darcy wished to walk through the orchard. To observe the condition of the trees or some such nonsense,” she said with what she hoped sounded of boredom.

“What were you doing in the woods?” Lydia taunted. “Please tell me you did not permit Mr. Darcy a kiss.”

“If you must know,” she said in hushed tones. “I was seeing to my personal needs while the gentleman was not about.”

“Were you not ashamed?” Kitty questioned.

Elizabeth gestured to them to keep their voices low. “It is not as if we were within a hundred yards of each other. Besides, sometimes urgency outweighs embarrassment. Now tell me where you were going.” She meant to change the subject before her sisters questioned her too closely.

“Mama said we could walk into Meryton,” Kitty responded before Lydia could warn Kitty with an elbow to their sister’s ribs.

“It is too soon,” Elizabeth protested. “It has been but twelve days since our father’s passing, even less since his burial. You cannot go about in society as if Mr. Bennet meant nothing to us.”

“But there is little to entertain us at Longbourn,” Lydia protested.

Elizabeth shook her head in denial. “It is not a time for entertainment. Surely you cannot mean to insist we go about our days as if nothing of importance has occurred in our lives. Our father is dead, and we all will be soon at the mercy of charitable relations.”

“But the militia means to go to Brighton soon,” Lydia reasoned. “What if Denny and Mr. Wickham and the others leave without our speaking our farewells?”

“Lydia, you must accept the fact we no longer hold the exalted position we once did in the neighborhood. Mr. Collins is now Longbourn’s master, and, within a month, we will be vacating our home forever. The militia has no place in our future.”

“But Mrs. Forster has asked me to go to Brighton with her. Harriet says we will have  a jolly good time,” Lydia argued.

Elizabeth said in strict tones. “Mrs. Forster’s invitation was extended prior to Mr. Bennet’s death. We are all in mourning. You cannot leave on a holiday.”

“But Mama said—”

“Mrs. Bennet had no right to make such promises. Even if we were not newly in mourning, neither Uncle Gardiner or Uncle Philips can afford to send you off on a holiday. We will each be farmed out to relatives or be expected to work for our keep. Our days of socializing and enjoying balls are over.” She glanced behind her to note Mr. Darcy’s approach from the far side of the orchard. “Now no more arguing, especially before Mr. Darcy,” she warned.

As he came near, Elizabeth said, “I am pleased you have returned, sir. If you will pardon me, I mean to walk back to Longbourn with my sisters.”

“I do not want—” Lydia began, but Elizabeth shot her sister a glare of fury.

“I said we would walk back together,” she hissed.

“Certainly,” Mr. Darcy was quick to say. “I will finish my examination of the orchard and then rejoin you at Longbourn.” He bowed to them. Thankfully, the gentleman understood her need to accompany her sisters’ return to the manor, and he protected her reputation. Elizabeth was determined not to permit her sisters to continue to embarrass the family and their father’s good name.



Posted in Austen Authors, book excerpts, book release, books, British history, eBooks, estates, Georgian England, Georgian Era, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, Pride and Prejudice, reading, research, romance, tradtions, Vagary, Wales, word origins, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Tale of Richard Bertie Continues, Part III



Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk (Wikipedia)

Briefly, Richard Bertie (ca. 1517 – 9 April 1582) was an English landowner and religious evangelical. He was the second husband of Catherine Willoughby, 12th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby and Duchess Dowager of Suffolk. As his wife was a baroness in her own right, Bertie made claims to be styled as “baron.” The claim was denied, but it was appealed. In the opinion of Bertie and his wife, her right to her father’s Barony held no relevance to his claim to bear the title in her right, but was rather the cause of his claim being initiated. They based this appeal on the grounds that her right to the Barony had been upheld against her uncle’s claim against it. Moreover, her uncle’s son was refused the title of Willoughby of Eresby and assigned the title of Willoughby of Parham in 1547. Therefore, why could Bertie not bear the title of Lord Willoughby and Eresby?


William Cecil, Lord Burghley ~ via Wikipedia

Two years after the first ruling against them, Bertie was granted a second hearing to make his claim. In a letter dated 14 April 1572, Bertie writes to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I’s chief advisor throughout most of her reign. The draft of that letter is among Burghley’s papers. In the letter, Bertie included a list of other men who had made claim in right of their wives and who enjoyed the dignity of “baron” and who had been called to Parliament in every King’s government since the Conquest. 

That list included  one “John Talbot, a Norman, who came to England with William the Conqueror and married Matilda daughter of Richard, Lord Talbot of Longhope, in whose right the sayde John was Lord Talbot of Longhope, of whom the Earl of Shrewsbury is descended.” (Peerage and Pedigree, Study in Peerage Law and Family History)

The Domesday book states that during the time of William the Conqueror, Longhope belonged to William the son of Baderon. Longhope descended through William’s line, who were called the Lords of Monmouth. Eventually, the line ran out of male heirs. Some 200+ years after the Norman Conquest, Longhope passed into the hands of a Talbot. 

The list also included Josselyne (Jocelin), son of the duke of Brabant, who married Agnew, the daughter and heir to William Lord Percy. Josselyne was styled as Lord Percy. The earl of Northumberland descends from this line. (Collins, Arthur. The Peerage of England: Containing a Genealogical and Historical Account of All the Peers of That Kingdom. Vol. VI of VIII)

The complete list was sent to Burghley in April 1572. Bertie pressed for an agreement on two points: the right of an heiress to inherit a barony and to transmit said right to her heirs. The Berties won on this account. The the claim of Richard Bertie to hold his wife’s title and to be summoned to Parliament in her right had proven obsolescent, falling out of use and unable to be transferred from one situation to another. 

Many experts believe that Richard Bertie’s petition was ignored because it came at a time when people argued over the legality of such claims. How far was Bertie’s claim valid? It was determined that “the writ of summons to his son (in his own lifetime) on his mother’s death (1580) was, in this, an epoch-marking event, being absolutely fatal to the view that a barony could be held by ‘the curtesy of England.’

“The lawyers’ perplexity is seen in the report on Bertie’s claim by the Attorney General and Solicitor General, to whom Burghley had referred it:—

‘We have conferred with four of the judges that be now in London concerning Mr. Bertie’s case, and they be all of opinion that he cannot challenge to have the Barony and the Title thereof in right of his wife, or else as tenant by the courtesy after her decease. We did make doubt whether her Majesty might not do. But because the course if very rare, they desired to have conference with the rest of the judges, when they shall come to town, etc.” (Peerage and Pedigree, Study in Peerage Law and Family History)

Posted in British history, England, estates, heraldry, Inheritance, marriage, marriage customs, peerage, primogenture, research, titles of aristocracy | Tagged , , , , , , ,

That’s Right, It’s a Post about Privies, a Guest Post from Sophia Turner

This post originally appeared on Austen Authors on 6 July 2018.

It’s much more fun to view the Regency era through rose-colored historical glasses, focusing on the flattering empire-waisted dresses, pretty bonnets, beautiful countryside, well-stocked elegant country house libraries, and of course the handsome men wearing handsome clothes. Better to ignore the position of women (as the property of either their fathers or their husbands), the fact that most of us would have been scrubbing away in the kitchen rather than sitting in the drawing-room, the lack of good medical or dental care, and of course all of those other less-savory details, am I right?

But in this post, I’m going to go there anyway! The topic of where to, um, go, came up in the comments of one of my posts a while back, and as I’ve captured quite a few photos over the years, I decided for this month’s installment to go digging and show the various ways people went to the bathroom/restroom/toilet/water closet (the difference in terminology for this between the US and the UK never ceases to amuse me) back then.

In medieval times, the place for this would have been the garderobe, ironically a bit closer to what we have today than what followed it. This was a portion of a castle that hung over the side, and had a seat (or very often seats) with a hole in them. You, uh, went, and it would land on the ground below, where it was some unfortunate soul’s responsibility to periodically clear it away.

A garderobe at the medieval portion of Dover Castle.

For those in the Regency era still living in castles that were more than just castle in name only, these might still have been within old portions of the building, but they wouldn’t have been in use. They’d been replaced by the outdoor privy, which might be more genteelly referred to as a cabinet d’aisance, and the chamber pot. Outdoor toilets don’t tend to be something that survives from historic houses – perhaps, again, because they detract from the romance of history, and are less likely to be saved. But I have run across a few in my travels. See if you can spot this one at Mompesson House in Salisbury:

The garden at Mompesson House.

Don’t see it? We’ll get a little closer…

Outdoor privy at Mompesson House.
Presumably they’ve omitted the hole in the restoration to avoid some prankster trying to use it, or this is a hinged cover; I can’t recall.

Here’s another, at Mount Vernon in Virginia, also located within the garden. It’s a farther hike from the house than the one at Mompesson House, and shows that the old communal medieval setup has not at all gone away:

The privy at Mount Vernon.
Communal privy at Mount Vernon.

This raises a lot of questions for me, particularly: just who would have been in here together? I have to assume that the sexes would not mix, and so presumably one would wait if someone of the opposite sex was in there. But is my assumption correct? Caricatures from the era do seem to bear it out.

I have to think, as well, that women would not have gone out there alone. Consider the Netherfield Ball, for example. All of those ladies and gentlemen were there for many hours, and I have to think most of them would have needed a visit outdoors at some point. I think the ladies would all have found at least one other person to go with, and they would then have gone in together if it was communal. For a lady, she could only have gone alone at risk to her reputation, to be out in the gardens in the dark by herself.

There was, of course, that other indoor option, the chamber pot (which I’ve once seen referred to as a voilder, and have picked up for use in my writing because, again…romance; who wants to be reminded of the existence of chamber pots in a romance novel?). Many historic houses show these in a sort of traditionally expected location under the bed, but in truth they were often cleverly hidden away in public rooms:

Hidden chamber pot in a parlour at Number One Royal Crescent in Bath.
Close up of the hidden chamber pot in Number One Royal Crescent.

The guide in this room indicated that anyone would have just used this chamber pot as needed when the family was sitting around in the morning, which I am a bit dubious of, both because I heard a few other inaccuracies going through the house, and because it doesn’t quite jive with what I’ve heard and read about elsewhere. Perhaps in the time of wider Georgian skirts this could have been done discreetly, but during that era the more purpose-made bourdaloue would have been more likely to be used.

Based on everything else I’ve seen and heard, it’s more likely that use of the chamber pot was also not done in a mixed-sex environment. The story that comes up most frequently is that of the gentlemen making use of the chamber pot within the dining room after the ladies had departed. You can see evidence of this in the Robert Adam-designed dining-room at Saltram:

Dining-room at Saltram.
Hidden away in a beautiful cabinet like this one…
…are a pair of chamber pots.

The separation of the sexes after dining was something England was famous for during this time, and nobody quite knew how it had come about. One of the better explanations I’ve read is that it started when tea-drinking became popular, and began with the ladies departing to the drawing-room to prepare the tea. The gentlemen would at first join them when it was ready, but before long they got to talking about politics and drinking port and brandy for longer and longer periods of time, therefore delaying the tea preparation as well.

Yet I wonder if the cause was even simpler…did the sexes separate so they could each relieve themselves in these hidden chamber pots after a long dinner of eating and drinking?

They are also to be found within bedrooms, yet again hidden away in bedside tables or even stairs:

Bedside table with built-in pot at Number One Royal Crescent.
Bedstairs with a built-in pot, at Chatsworth.
Here’s a rather pretty one, along with a basin, hidden away in a little closet in Jane and Cassandra Austen’s bedroom at Chawton.
This chamber pot in a bedroom at Saltram was given a lid and matched with the decor, rather than being hidden away.
Poorer households, such as this one recreated at Buckler’s Hard, would also use chamber pots, although they made no attempt to hide them. In Edinburgh’s medieval skyscrapers, people of the city were infamous for crying “garde loo!” and dumping them into the street.

Round about now, you might be wondering about the water closet. They had been invented for centuries by now – indeed, Queen Elizabeth I had one – and Joseph Bramah had obtained a patent in 1778 for what might be called the first fully functional flush toilet.

Water closet at George III’s Kew Palace.

Yet while some great houses installed them, they were by no means commonplace. Labor was cheap, and it was easy enough to pay servants to carry the chamber pots downstairs and dispose of them. Indeed the biggest development in great houses related to this was to build separate stairs so the wealthy did not need to meet servants carrying their nocturnal effusions on the stairs, rather than the widespread installation of water closets.

Part of the reason water closets didn’t catch on was the lack of more modern plumbing – without sufficient plumbing to thoroughly carry away the waste they could be no more convenient than a chamber pot. Still, in the Regency era, when you consider the comfort of seating and the lack of residual, err, waste, I think the people who actually had it best were naval captains. In the great cabin of any naval ship of size, there is what’s called a quarter gallery, a toilet very similar to the old medieval garderobes, except that it emptied into the water (something we now, of course, know to be an environmental problem). With an unlimited supply of seawater to regularly flush it out, I think it probably would have been my choice for that time:

Quarter gallery in HMS Victory.
Officers’ “seat of ease” on HMS Victory.
Seamen did not have it quite so good: there are two seats in that box-looking structure on the left, the “head.”

It was ultimately the need for sanitation in the Victorian era that led to the spread of the water closet; the rise of cholera (which may be linked to the year without a summer in 1816; more on that in future posts) meant that the olden days of dumping waste in streets and rivers could not continue. London was by necessity a pioneer in sanitation and plumbing, and English potter Thomas William Twyford invented the single piece ceramic toilet. Thomas Crapper commonly gets credit for inventing the flush toilet, but he was merely a major manufacturer.

An old Crapper toilet, in underground Seattle.

Interestingly, many water closets continued to look much like the old medieval garderobe, or that naval quarter gallery:

The water closet at Agatha Christie’s Georgian house, Greenway.

And the chamber pot took a while to completely go away! Here is one in Winston Churchill’s bedroom, at the World War II Cabinet War Rooms:

Winston Churchill’s bedroom in the underground Cabinet War Rooms.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at one VERY behind-the-scenes aspect that would have been going on in Jane Austen’s novels. Now let us return to those rose-colored glasses, and be grateful for our lovely modern flush toilets!                                           

sign saying, "Now wash your hands"











91LI0634PlL._UX250_ Meet Sophie Turner: 

Sophie Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.

She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through. Alas, the Constant Love series is only planned to be seven books right now.

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Posted in architecture, British history, buildings and structures, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, inventions, real life tales, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Winners from the “Where There’s a FitzWILLiam Darcy, There’s a Way” Giveaways


These are the winners of an eBook of Where There’s a FitzWILLiam Darcy, There’s a Way. All eBooks have been ordered and claimed.  The list includes those from Austen Authors, More Agreeably Engaged, My Jane Austen Book Club, and those from this blog. They are listed alphabetically. 

Kate B.



Mary Campbell

Charlene Capodice


Eva Edmonds

Delores Erwin 

Ginna Hoppes 

Sahadha Kadirbaks



Daniela Q

Katherine Voroshuk

Amy Zelenka

WTaFD eBook Cover-01


Posted in book release, eBooks, giveaway, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Mean Girls in Jane Austen’s Books, a Guest Post from Bronwen Chisholm

This post was originally posted on Austen Authors on 7 July 2018.

Most of my readers are not aware that my husband and I have a non-profit organization for teens. It is a long story how it all came about and that is not the focus of this blog, so I will just put a link to our website here and an article that was written about it and move on. (,

The reason I mentioned it now is that being part of this organization brought me into contact with many talented young writers who were searching for a writing group where they could learn and share their talents. Through a series of events that I now realize God set in motion a decade earlier, I became the coordinator of the Riverside Young Writers. The blessings of working with these kids and bringing in speakers to open their eyes to possibilities have been overwhelming.

One of these beautiful, bright young ladies was invited by one of our speakers to write a blog and she chose to discuss The Evolution of Strong Female Characters: From the Classics to Today’s Young Adult Fiction ( I cannot tell you how tickled I was when she focused a good portion of her blog on Jane Austen, listing her as one of our “Founding Writer Mothers”.

With that in mind, a recent discussion about feminism with my Darcy-in-training son, and watching some of the teen dramas with my fifteen year old Elizabeth-like daughter made me start thinking about women, real and fictional, and how we treat each other. (As my son pointed out, men don’t “slut shame”; they have no problems with a girl who is easy.)

Though many things have changed since I was in high school, one always seems to remain the same: the way girls treat each other. When I first started playing with this topic, I immediately zeroed in on Caroline Bingley of Pride and Prejudice, Fanny Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility, and Mrs. Elton of Emma.

Caroline Bingley and Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, 1995
Mrs. Elton, Sense and Sensibility, 2009
Mrs. Dashwood and Fanny Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, 1995

Who could deny that these “ladies” mastered the ability to undercut any woman who dared to consider drawing the attention of one of their gentlemen, whether brother or imagined suitor? But when I sat down with a list of characters from each book, I found myself having difficulty putting the women in categories of guilty vs. innocent of affronts to women-kind. Sure there is Jane Bennet who will only find the good in others, but even Lizzy admits uncharitable thoughts regarding Mary King following Lydia’s description of her as “a nasty little freckled thing”.

Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, 1995

“Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable of such coarseness of expression herself, the coarseness of the sentiment was little other than her own breast had harboured and fancied liberal!” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 39)


Mr. Willoughby and Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, 1995

It does not surprise us when Marianne Dashwood displays an “invariable coldness of her behaviour towards (the Steele sisters), which checked every endeavour at intimacy on their side” (Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 22), but would we want our daughters to treat others in this manner?

Though I rarely admit it in public, and will probably hear about it for saying it here, I am not a fan of Emma. The only adaptation that I watch on a regular basis is Clueless.

Emma, 1996, and Cher from Clueless, 1995

In reading passages to find examples for this blog, I zeroed in on why Emma has always been a struggle for me. I don’t like her. Emma Woodhouse is the queen bee, the Regina George (Mean Girls), the Heather Chandler (Heathers).

Rachel McAdams as Regina George in Mean Girls, 2004
Poster from Heathers the Musical based on the 1988 movie, Heathers

She is the one who thinks it is her place to decide what and who all the other women around her should be. Okay, I will allow that she is not as cruel as some of the examples I have mentioned, but she is no saint either. Her own creator had this to say of her:

“The real evils, indeed, of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.” (Emma, Chapter 1)

And Mr. Knightley seemed to always be correcting her, reminding her to think of others.

“Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do: a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation?—Emma, I had not thought it possible.” (Emma, Chapter 7)

In attempting to draw this blog to a close, I was at a loss. Mean girls will always exist, sometimes within ourselves. I suppose that all we can do is try to pay more attention to what we say and how we say it, and to encourage our daughters to be more accepting of each other. Jane Bennet might sound naïve at times and be a bit too trusting, but perhaps a page from her book is the best place to end.

“I (Jane) would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; but I always speak what I think.”

“I know you do; and it is that which makes the wonder. With your good sense, to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others! Affectation of candour is common enough—one meets with it everywhere. But to be candid without ostentation or design—to take the good of everybody’s character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad—belongs to you alone.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 4)

Jane an Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, 1995


Who is your favorite Austen mean girl?


711-vO68COL._UX250_.jpgMeet Bronwen Chisholm: 

Bronwen Chisholm began her writing career working on Women’s Fiction and Suspense Romance, but finally became a published author with her Pride and Prejudice Alternatives. She takes great pleasure in searching for potential “plot twists” and finding the way back to a happy ending. Her current work is told entirely from Georgiana Darcy’s point of view and should be released by late summer, 2016. 

Her love of writing has led her to several writing groups, and she is currently serving as the Vice President of The Riverside Writers.

For more information, visit her at

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Posted in Austen Authors, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, reading, reading habits, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,