Claiming a Title in the Regency Era

2x6_bookmark - side 1Many of the minor plot lines in my latest Regency romantic suspense concern who could inherit a title? There is the matter of the Marquess of Malvern’s losing his memory. Should the Duke of Devilfoard declare his eldest son incompetent and petition for his second son to assume control of the dukedom? Was such even legal? And what of the missing Earl of Sandahl? The original earl falls overboard on his “honeymoon” and cannot be found. Should he be declared dead? If so, who inherits? The logical answer is the second son, but that solution is not what it seems.

So, what do we know of peerages? When reading historical fiction/historical romance there are many misconceptions about titles. First thing a reader must know is not all titles are created equal. For example, a baronet may pass on his title to his heir, but he is not considered part of the Peerage in the United Kingdom. There are some 800+ peers in modern day England whose titles may be inherited. Peers include Dukes/Duchesses, Marquesses/Marchionesses, Earls/Countesses, Viscounts/Viscountesses, and Barons/Baronesses. The law that applies to a particular British title depends upon when it was bestowed upon the family and the method of its creation.

Peerages of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom follow English law; the difference between them is that Peerages of England were created before the Act of Union 1707, Peerages of Great Britain between 1707 and the Union with Ireland in 1800, and Peerages of the United Kingdom since 1800. Irish Peerages follow the law of the Kingdom of Ireland, which is very like English law, except no Irish peers have been created since 1898, and they have no part in the present governance of the United Kingdom. Scottish Peerage law is generally similar to English law, but differs in innumerable points of detail, often being more similar to medieval practice.” (Burke’s Guide to British Titles: Courtesy Titles. Burke’s Peerage and Gentry. 2005)

A title may be created by a writ of summons, which means that a person is summoned to Parliament. A writ of summons is a document calling Members of the House of Lords to Parliament. Members of the Lords may not take their seats until they have obtained their writ of summons. Writs of summons are issued by direction of the Lord Chancellor from the office of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. New writs are issued before the meeting of each Parliament to all Lords Spiritual and Temporal who have a right to seats in the House. (Francis Palgrave (1788-1861), Parliamentary Writs and Writs of Military Summons (2 volumes, 1827 and 1834)) Writs of summons set out the titles of the Sovereign and the recipient of the writ. They state the reason for Parliament’s calling upon the individual.

When the Earl of Berkley died, his oldest son applied for a writ of summons to the House of Lords. The Committee on Privilege turned him down and said he and the other brothers born before 1795 were illegitimate and that the earldom had fallen to the 16 year old born in 1796. The boy was too young to do anything about the matter and his oldest brother and mother ran things. When he came of age, he 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.


Letters patent granting the Dukedom of Marlborough to Sir John Churchill were later amended by Parliament (via Wikipedia)

Titles may also be created by letters of patent. This method sets out a created peerage and names the person in question. It may limit the course of descent to the male line, with only legitimate children having a right to the title. (Scottish titles permit the “legitimacy” to be determined by a marriage, not simply a marriage at time of the birth.) Traditionally, only the peer sits in the House of Lords, but from the time of Edward IV, an heir to the title (who also held additional titles) could sit in the HOL as one of his father’s subsidiary dignities. This is possible through a writ of acceleration.

Letters Patent can be amended by Act of Parliament. Likely, the two most famous examples of amending Letters were the Dukedom of Marlborough in 1706 and the Duke of Windsor in 1936.

A person who is a possible heir to a peerage is said to be “in remainder.” A title becomes extinct (opposite to extant, which means alive) when all possible heirs (as provided by the letters patent) have died out, i.e., there is nobody in remainder at the death of the holder. A title becomes dormant if nobody has claimed the title or if no claim has been satisfactorily proven. A title goes into abeyance if there is more than one person equally entitled to be the holder.

In the past, peerages were sometimes forfeit or attainted under Acts of Parliament, most often as the result of treason on the part of the holder. The blood of an attainted peer was considered “corrupted,” consequently his or her descendants could not inherit the title. If all descendants of the attainted peer were to die out, however, then an heir from another branch of the family not affected by the attainder could take the title. The Forfeiture Act 1870 abolished corruption of blood; instead of losing the peerage, a peer convicted of treason would be disqualified from sitting in Parliament for the period of imprisonment.

Nothing prevents a British peerage from being held by a foreign citizen (although such peers cannot sit in the House of Lords). Several descendants of George III were British peers and German subjects; the Lords Fairfax of Cameron were American citizens for several generations.

“Hereditary peers do not have the automatic right to a writ of summons to the House. Irish peerages may not be disclaimed. A peer who disclaims the peerage loses all titles, rights and privileges associated with the peerage; his wife or her husband is similarly affected. No further hereditary peerages may be conferred upon the person, but life peerages may be. The peerage remains without a holder until the death of the peer making the disclaimer, when it descends normally.” (Hereditary Peers


London Herald

So what can a person do if he does not wish to accept the title? He could simply refuse to take up the title or touch the money. Technically he’d still be the title’s holder, but to have the full title and honors he must be confirmed before Parliament, and all the legal stuff has to be done to ensure he is the correct heir. He can simply not claim the title and not style himself by the title, but it remains it place at his disposal. The person 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 may claim the title while he is alive. He can also do something drastic, such as commit treason, in which case he and his family would be stripped of the title, but no one would recommend such a step. It would be easier simply not to claim the title.

Like it or not, the heir cannot be disinherited to prevent his assuming the title. If there is a living person and the lawful successor to a title, he cannot be displaced unless 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.

AnAngelComes_LargeAngel Comes to the Devil’s Keep

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Angel Comes to Devil’s Keep is a well-written tale of courage and sacrifice and what women went through in order to marry well in Regency England. The author did her homework and it shows in an authenticity that we don’t often see in Regency romances.

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Leave a comment below to be eligible for an eBook copy of Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep (Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy). The giveaway ends at midnight EDST, August 7, 2016.

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Sir Philip Sidney, Author of the Finest Love Poems in English Before Shakespeare

Sir Philip Sidney was born at Penhurst, Kent on 30 November 1554. He was the first child of Sir Henry Sidney and his wife, Mary, née Dudley. Present at the birth were his royal Spanish godfather and his maternal grandmother, whose husband, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and son Guildford had been beheaded in 1553 following the failure of the Northumberland plan to place Guildford’s wife, Lady Jane Grey, on the throne. His father was often from home for Queen Elizabeth had appointed Sir Henry lord president of the Marches of Wales, a post that required him to spend months at a time away from home.

“The dominance of women in the poet’s early life was doubtless formative. Sidney’s skill in portraying female characters, from the bewitching, multifarious Stella of Astrophil and Stella (1591) to Philoclea and Pamela, the bold, beautiful, and articulate princesses of the Old Arcadia (written circa 1581) and the New Arcadia (1590; written circa 1583-1584) is, as C. S. Lewis notes in his English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama (1954), without equal before William Shakespeare. The two versions of the Arcadia, Sidney’s most ambitious works, were written under the guiding spirit and often in the presence of Mary Sidney Herbert, his “dear Lady and sister, the Countess of Pembroke,” herself a great patron of writers, to whom the two versions of the Arcadia are dedicated. Mary went on to serve as Sidney’s literary executor after his death.” (Poetry Foundation)

Young Philip began his education at the Shrewsbury School, where he proved an apt and eager student and forged a lifelong friendship with Fulke Greville (later Baron Brooke), who would write a laudatory epitaph and biography of his bosom buddy. At the age of 13, Sidney transferred to the University of Oxford’s Christ Church College. Sir Philip attended Oxford and from 1572-1577 was successively in the suite of the Earl of Lincoln, Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Charles IX, at Heidelburg, Frankfort, in Vienna, in Italy, Prague, Dresdaen, in the Court of Queen Elizabeth, and on an embassy to Germany.  Sidney was the grandson of the Duke of Northumberland and heir presumptive to the Earl of Leicester and the Earl of Warwick. Sidney spent little time in the Elizabethan court until his appointment as governor of Flushing in 1585.

“From his youth, Sidney was respected for his high-minded intelligence, and frequently provided diplomatic service to Queen Elizabeth I as a Protestant political liaison. His opposition to her French marriage earned her displeasure, however, and he later left court and began writing his poetical works. In 1586, Sidney accompanied his uncle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to the Lowlands to defend the Protestants and was wounded in battle, dying a few weeks later, on October 17. Considered a national hero, Sidney was given a lavish funeral. When his poetry was subsequently published, he became lauded as one of the great Elizabethan writers.” (

In 1579, a heated fracas known as the “tennis-court quarrel” between Sidney and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was ostensibly about rank and the rights of play, but beneath the facade were tensions between factions for and against the queen’s marriage. (The two had also been rivals for the hand of Anne Cecil—William Cecil, Baron Burghley’s daughter—and Oxford had married her.)

“Viewed in his own age as the best hope for the establishment of a Protestant League in Europe, he was nevertheless a godson of Philip II of Spain, spent nearly a year in Italy, and sought out the company of such eminent Catholics as the Jesuit martyr Edmund Campion. Widely regarded, in the words of his late editor William A. Ringler, Jr., as ‘the model of perfect courtesy,’ Sidney was in fact hot-tempered and could be surprisingly impetuous. Considered the epitome of the English gentleman-soldier, he saw little military action before a wound in the left thigh, received 23 September 1586 during an ill-conceived and insignificant skirmish in the Netherlands outside Zutphen, led to his death on 17 October, at Arnhem. Even his literary career bears the stamp of paradox: Sidney did not think of himself as primarily a writer, and surprisingly little of his life was devoted to writing.” (Poetry Foundation)

Songs of Arcadia The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, also known simply as the Arcadia, is a long prose work by Sidney written towards the end of the 16th century. Having finished one version of his text, Sidney later significantly expanded and revised his work. Scholars today often refer to these two major versions as the Old Arcadia and theNew Arcadia. The Arcadia is Sidney’s most ambitious literary work by far, and as significant in its own way as his sonnets.The poet begs to be delivered from women who treat lovers scornfully. The poet cries, “Love is dead./ His death-bed, peacock’s folly/ His winding sheet is shame.” Finally, the poet decides that his song is not true after all. Love is merely sleeping. “Therefore from so vile fancy,/ To call such wit a frenzy/ Who love can temper thus,/ Good Lord, deliver us.” 

Sidney’s manuscripts of the Old Arcadia were not published until the 20th century. The New Arcadia, however, was published in two different editions during the 16th century, and enjoyed great popularity for more than a hundred years afterwards. William Shakespeare borrowed from it for the Gloucester subplot of King Lear; traces of the work’s influence may also be found in Hamlet and The Winter’s Tale. Other dramatizations also occurred: Samuel Daniel’s The Queen’s Arcadia,  John Day’s The Isle of Gulls, Beaumont and Fletcher’s Cupid’s Revenge, the anonymous Mucedorus, a play of the Shakespeare Apocrypha, and most overtly, in James Shirley’s The Arcadia. 

Astrophel and Stella -Probably composed in the 1580s, Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella is an English sonnet sequence containing 108 sonnets and 11 songs. The name derives from the two Greek words, ‘aster’ (star) and ‘phil’ (lover), and the Latin word ‘stella’ meaning star. Thus Astrophil is the star lover, and Stella is his star. Sidney partly nativized the key features of his Italian model Petarch, including an ongoing but partly obscure narrative, the philosophical trappings of the poet in relation to love and desire, and musings on the art of poetic creation. Sidney also adopts the Petrarchan rhyme scheme, though he uses it with such freedom that fifteen variants are employed.This series of sonnets treat the love of a man (likely Sidney) for a woman (likely Lady Rich) after her marriage. At first, she repels his suit. Eventually, he learns his attention are returned. The woman’s virtue keeps them from consummating their love. 

In sonnet 1, the Muse bades Astrophel to write of his love. “Fool,” said the Muse to me, “look in thy heart and write.”

Sonnet 2 describes the young man’s passion. His love was not sudden. He knew Stella for a long time and learned to love her. At first he did not tell her of his love, and now she is married, it is too late. 

In Sonnet 31, there is a change of mood. Hitherto, the poet has written poems of praise and has pictured his love as a pastime. Now his passion becomes deeper and more sorrowful. In this sonnet, he sees the moon looking upon the earth with great melancholy. He asks if ladies in heaven scorn their lovers as they do on earth. 

Sonnet 39 is an apostrophe to sleep: “Come, sleep! O’ Sleep, the certain knot of peace,/ The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,/ The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release”/etc. He would have sleep console him. 

In Sonnet 41, he says that people looked on and approved of his prowess and gave many reasons, but the real reason was “Stella looked on, and from her heavenly face/ Sent forth the beams which made so fair my race.” 


Astrophel and Stella 

The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia


Poetry Foundation

Sir Philip Sidney 

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Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert, Fourth Son of Queen Victoria and a Hemophiliac

prince leopold duke of albanyOn 7 April 1853, Queen Victoria delivered her fourth son and eighth child. Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert was the first of the queen’s children to be delivered with the aid of chloroform, a controversial procedure at the time. The belief by many in the medical field and the theological circles was that God meant women to “suffer” during childbirth so a symbol of Eve’s betrayal in the Garden of Eden. The queen’s use of the drug created quite a debate. It was also argued that a painful delivery assured that mother’s would wish to protect the children for whom they had suffered. The press thought the procedure too dangerous to the queen’s health. It was Victoria’s approval of the procedure that finally broke this archaic “male” perspective of women’s health. 

At the birth was Miss Lilly, the midwife who had assisted the Queen with Victoria’s other deliveries, and Dr. John Snow, the renown Edinburgh anesthetist, as well as the queen’s personal physician. The queen was not rendered unconscious by the chloroform. She was given only one once of the chemical. 

Unfortunately, the ease with which Leopold entered the world did not lessen the suffering he would know until his death. He was very thin compared to his siblings, and shortly after his second birthday, Leopold was diagnosed as being a hemophiliac, and even suffered from occasional epileptic seizures. The least scape or childhood accident translated into bed rest and a long time in healing. Victoria, in her usual candor, referred to Leopold as “the ugliest” of her children. 

Leopold_Duke of AlbanyThe diagnosis of hemophilia was not met well by either Victoria or Albert. “Blame” for the condition was denied by both the queen and her consort. So, who can be a hemophilia carrier?  “A daughter gets an X chromosome from her mother and an X chromosome from her father.  Suppose the X chromosome from her mother has the gene for normal blood clotting.  Suppose the X chromosome from her father has the gene for hemophilia. The daughter will not have hemophilia since the normal blood clotting gene from her mother is dominant.  It won’t allow the instructions from the hemophilia gene to be sent.

“The daughter is called a carrier for hemophilia.  She has the gene on one of her X chromosomes and could pass it on to her children. Does this mean that the mother alone is the one responsible for having a child with hemophilia? Not really. The mother is the one who passes the hemophilia gene.  However, it is the father’s sperm that determines if the child will be a boy or a girl.  It is not the “fault” of one parent since both parents contribute to the outcome.

“What are the chances of having a child with hemophilia?

  • No sons of a man with hemophilia will have hemophilia.
  • All daughters of a man with hemophilia will be carriers (called obligate carriers).
  • If a carrier has a son, the son has a 50% chance of having hemophilia.
  • If a carrier has a daughter, the daughter has a 50% chance of being a carrier.” (How Hemophilia is Inherited)

In other words, women are themselves not hemophiliacs. Only in the case of daughters of marriages between first cousins have been recorded. None of these females lived past puberty for the onset of menses would cause them to bleed to death. Females are the primary carriers of the hemophilia gene. Therefore, Queen Victoria was the likely carrier, Some experts argue that she became a carrier from a spontaneous mutation, while others speak of a sort of “conspiracy theory,” saying the mutation came from one of her parents.

Needless to say, the Duke of Kent would have had difficulty hiding such a condition, especially as the children of King George III were “watched” with the most astute of quizzing glasses. The Duchess of Kent’s medical history is also quite extensive and well researched. These leads many to believe that the Duke of Kent was not Victoria actual father.  

An article on History and Other Thoughts says, “An intelligent boy, Leopold wanted to attend Oxford. With the help of his brothers, he got his wish, although he was never allowed to complete a full course of study, but had to make due with a honorary degree. Still, the prince enjoyed the university life and made a lot friends. One of these was Alice Liddell, who inspired Alice in Wonderland. His cleverness, though, meant that he was prone to argue. As a result, he never got along too well with his mother.” Ironically, Leopold’s mind was the sharpest of Victoria’s sons. He became a confidential secretary to his mother. The position permitted him to meet with foreign and domestic ministers. His elder brother, the Prince of Wales, was not happy that Leopold was permitted information that he was not. However, Victoria ignored Bertie’s protestations. 

prince leopold with wife helenaEventually, Leopold won his mother’s permission to marry. However, his medical condition prevented many eligible princesses from accepting an offer. “Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont agreed to marry him. The couple tied the knot in 1882. Although when they married they barely knew each other, they soon grew to love, and became very devoted to, each other. The following year, Helen gave birth to a child, Alice. Unfortunately, Leopold didn’t get to spend a lot of time with his beloved family. In March 1884, he went, alone (his wife was pregnant and couldn’t travel) to the south of France, something he always did to escape the cold English winters. While there, he slipped, bruising his knee and hitting his head. That night, he died. The cause is unclear, but the most likely explanation is that he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Four months later, Helen gave birth to their second child, a boy named Charles Edward.”


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Child Birth During the Regency

AnAngelComes_LargeAngel Comes to the Devil’s Keep is the first book in a new romantic suspense trilogy: The Twins. It comes from Black Opal Books. In “Angel” there are several sets of twins. The hero, Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, is a twin. Malvern and his sister, Henrietta, Viscountess Stoke, are fraternal twins, as are Henrietta boys. She is in the family way a second time in the book and obviously expecting twins again. Her husband, Viscount Stoke, is also a twin. Malvern’s father, the Duke of Devilfoard, possesses a twin. The second book in the trilogy, which will be released soon, contains a set of identical twins. It is called The Earl Claims His Comfort, while the last book, Lady Chandler’s Sister, returns to the idea of fraternal twins.

So, what does all this have to do with the “birth experience” in the Regency Era? Did you realize that during this period a woman would experience pregnancy some ten times. The women gave birth an average of six times during their lifetimes. Edward Shorter in Women’s Bodies: A Social History of Women’s Encounter with Health, Ill-Health and Medicine says, “The indifference of men to the physical welfare of women is most striking in regard to childbirth. …child bearing was a woman’s event, occurring with the women’s culture; a man’s primary concern was to see a living heir brought forth. I am not [Shorter] trying to cast the husbands of traditional society as fiends but want merely to show what an unbridgeable sentimental distance separated them from their wives. Under these circumstances it is unrealistic to think that men would abstain from intercourse in order to save women from the physical consequences of repeated childbearing.”

In her book In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860, Judith Schneid Lewis shares some interesting facts of the time period. Ms. Lewis studied 50 aristocratic women for the book. From these studies we learn that these 50 women averaged 8 children over an eighteen year period. The women in the group married typically at 21 and gave birth to her first child within 2.25 years. They continued to present their husbands with children until the age of 40.

Ms. Lewis tells us that 80% of the women gave birth within two years of marriage, with 50% presenting their husbands with a child within the first year of marriage. On my blog, I have been doing a series on the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It amazes me how many of these men were from large families. For example, Benjamin Franklin was the youngest of 17 (although there was more than one wife). But Franklin’s family could not hold a light to another of Lewis’s statistics. The Duchess of Leinster birthed 21 children over a 30 year span. She was 46 years of age when the last one was born.



Typical of the period, a male midwife would ask the woman if she were prepared to “take a pain,” meaning a vaginal examination.  For this procedure, a pregnant woman would customarily lie on her left side upon a bed. She would be asked to draw her knees up to her abdomen. This was the position recommended by Doctor Thomas Denman, a prominent male midwife of the period. Denman also cautioned for discretion and tenderness during the examination. (Thomas Denman)

From the examination, the midwife could determine how advanced was the pregnancy, whether the woman’s pelvis was deformed or not, and whether the baby had turned head down. If delivery occurred within 24 hours, it was considered natural. We see much of what happened to Princess Charlotte (daughter of the Prince Regent) as how it was for women during the Regency.

Charlotte_Augusta_of_Wales“About 7 o’clock on the evening of Monday, the 3rd of November, at 42 weeks and 3 days gestation, the membranes spontaneously ruptured and labor pains soon followed. The contractions were coming every 8 to 10 minutes and were very mild. Examination of the cervix at that time revealed the tip of the cervix to be about a half penny dilated. On Tuesday morning, around 3 a.m., the 4th of November, Princess Charlotte had a violent vomiting spell and Dr. Croft thinking that delivery was eminent, sent for the officers of the state and Dr. Matthew Baillie. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, The Lord Chancellor, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of war and Dr. Baillie, all arrived in their coaches and four before 8:00 a.m. But alas, the Princess was only three centimeters dilated at this time.

“The pains continued. They were weak and ineffectual but still sharp enough to be distressing, occurring about 8 minute intervals with little progress in the labor. Around 11:00 a.m. that morning after 16 hours of labor the cervix the size of a crown piece (probably 4 cm.) with think margin (effacement). At this point Dr. Croft began to worry that the uterus was acting irregularly and that some assistance might be necessary to bring about delivery. Thus a consultation was desirable. It had been agreed before that Dr. John Simms would be the consulting physician. He therefore wrote a note to Dr. John Simms, but put off sending it because he felt like contractions were beginning to improve. At 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, she was noted to have just an anterior lip of cervix, and by 9:00 p.m., she was completely dilated. At this point, she had had about 26 hours of the first stage of labor.

“At this point, Dr. Croft must have felt some relief for he could feel the ear for the first time; the head was noted to be low in the pelvis and Princess Charlotte was well. Nevertheless, the pains continued to be of poor quality and he sent his note to Dr. Simms summing him to immediate attendance. Dr. Simms arrived at 2:00 a.m., on the 5th of November after the second stage had been going on for 5 hours. Charlotte’s progress was discussed with Dr. Baillie and Dr. Simms and a ‘hands off,’ watch and wait type policy was agreed upon.

“Labor was advancing, but the progress was very slow. The patient was in good spirits; pulse was calm; the ‘instruments were in readiness,” but the use of them was never considered a question. At noon, on Wednesday, the 5th of November after the second stage of labor had gone on for 15 hours, the uterine discharge became a dark green color, which made the medical attendants fear that the child might be dead. Between three and four p.m. after the second stage had gone on for 18 hours, the child’s head began to press on the external parts, and by 9:00 p.m., was born by the action of Charlotte’s pains only.

“The child, a 9 lb. boy, was dead and had evidently been dead for some hours. The umbilical cord was very small and was of a dark green or black color. Attempts were made by Drs. Simms And Baillie for a good while to reanimate the child by inflating the lungs, use of friction, hot bathes, and other methods, but with effect. The heart could not be made to beat not even once.

“About ten minutes after the delivery, Sir Richard Croft discovered that the uterus was contracted in the middle in an hourglass form. The consultants agreed that nothing should be done unless hemorrhage should start. Approximately 20 minutes later, the princess began to hemorrhage. The uterus had contracted down so as to only admit the tips of three fingers, but with some pressure he was able to pass his hand with tolerable ease and peeled off the remaining two-thirds of the adhering placenta without difficulty and before much blood appeared to be lost.

“At this, Charlotte complained of this being the hardest part of the whole labor. Croft grasped the placenta; brought it down into the vagina and left it there. The Princess complained of pain in the vagina because of the placenta being left there, stating it was giving her great inconvenience and that it was protruding considerably. Thus the doctor removed the placenta from the vagina and this was followed by a moderate discharge of fluid and coagulum. At this time as well as he could feel from the abdominal wall, the uterus appeared to be moderately well contracted.

“Princess Charlotte appeared quite amazingly well as women commonly do after so tedious and exhausting a labor and much better than they often do under other such circumstances. For the next 2 hours Croft felt no apprehension. The patient took plenty of nourishment, made only a few complaints and had a pulse less than 100. It was felt by Dr. Simms (in his letters) that the patient had lost less blood than usual at this point. About 11:45 a.m., Charlotte became nauseated and complained of a singing noise in her head. She was treated with a camphor mixture. Shortly afterwards she vomited. She took a cup of tea and went to sleep for about a half an hour. At that point she became more irritable and more restless and began to talk somewhat incoherently. She was given at that point 20 drops of laudanum in wine and water. About 12:45 am. on the 6th of November she complained of great uneasiness in her chest and great difficulty in breathing. Her pulse became rapid, deep and irregular, and she extremely restless and was not able to remain still for a single moment. Attempts were made to give her cordials, nourishment, and anti-spasmotic and opiates. Dr. Matthew Baillie requested that Dr. Barren Stockmore (personal physician of Prince Leopold) see the patient towards the end of her illness. He was reluctant but at last went with him. Dr. Stockmore describes in his “Memoirs” that the princess was “suffering from spasms in the chest and had difficulty in breathing and was in great pain and very restless.” She threw herself continuously from one side of the bed to the other, speaking out to Baillie and Croft. Baillie said to her, ‘here comes an old friend of yours.’ She held out her left hand to me hastily and pressed mine warmly, twice. I felt her pulse, it was going very fast, the beats now strong, now few, now intermittent.” She commented to him, “They (meaning the doctors) had made me quite tipsy.” Near the end, Dr. Stockmore noted that the death rattle continued. The pretty Princess turned several times upon her face, threw up her legs, they the hands grew cold and she died.” (The Death of Princess Charlotte of Wales

An Obstetric Tragedy, Charles R. Oberst, .D., Spring 1984) (

2x6_bookmark - side 1Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Early Review: The story is charming, with interesting and realistic characters, a complex plot with plenty of surprises, and a sweet romance woven through it all. The author has a good command of what it was like to be a woman in nineteenth-century England–almost as if she had been there. She really did her research for this one.

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Giveaway: Leave a comment below to be eligible for a giveaway of an eBook of Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep. The giveaway ends at midnight EDST on August 27.

Posted in Black Opal Books, book release, British history, customs and tradiitons, eBooks, George IV, Georgian England, kings and queens, legacy, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, medicine, Regency era, suspense | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Below Stairs: Increase in the White-Slave Traffic

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The Stranger’s Guide, or Frauds of London Detected, 1808, London, George Andrewes.

Back in March, I spoke of the Fallen Female Servant, those young (often innocent) girls who were seduced or conquered by their masters. Today, I wish to speak of what the future held if the mistress of the house drove them from their positions without a character. These girls were always at great risk of joining the ranks of those populating London’s brothels. The proper Regency or Victorian lady may have found the young girls at fault for “enticing” the men of the household, but what of the woman’s responsibility to the girls? Where was her humanity? Often the threat of dismal was used as “incentive” to get the female servants to perform without complaint. Many young servant girls had no choice but to enter prostitution. These unsuspecting girls filled the disreputable registry offices. 

Some of these offices were run by legitimate charities that provided these girls with cheap accommodations while the girls waited for new employment. The girls would share space two others, but they would be safe and not on the street. 

Then there were those fringe registry groups, which were tracked by the National Vigilance Association and local police offices (during the Victorian era). These fringe registry groups recruited girls for the brothels. They used adverts claiming high wages and little work to draw in the unsuspecting. Like modern day scam operations, the owners of these false agencies would open up another outlet as quickly as another was shut down by the police. A name change and a new address and they were back in business. 


Prostitution – The British Library Touch for Touch: satirical print depicting a prostitute

Frank Huggett in Life Below Stairs (pages 124-125) says, “It was often difficult for the police to accumulate sufficient evidence to bring charges. The owner of one agency in Bishops Road, London, was ultimately convicted of obtaining half a crown by false pretences from an 18-year-old who had been induced to leave a good situation in Worcester in the hope of obtaining an even better job as a lady’s maid in the capital. Another office in Park Street, London, was closed by the proprietor before any charges could be made, after the police had begun to investigate complaints by girls from many different parts of the country. One London brothel employed a procuress at ‘a considerable salary’ to go out into the country to hire young girls, often with their parents’ consent, for some fictitious situation in the capital: on arrival, they were taken direct to the brothel, where ‘their ruin was effected.’ One London brothel keeper, a Mrs Harris, set up a fake servants’ agency on Slough-Windsor road and employed her sister, Mrs Barnett, to recruit good-looking local girls for service. After they had engaged, they were sent first to Mrs Harris’s highest-class establishment in Great Titchfield Street, in the heart of London, and then relegated in uneasy stages to the five other lower-class bordellos she owned in the capital.”

The servant industry increased the white slave trade on cross-Channel steamers in Victorian times. Girls from throughout the Continent were lured to London for better working conditions. Meanwhile, English girls, who knew the reality of domestic service, were lured to the Continent, where they expected to be swept up in silk and know fame and fortune. In truth, brothels on both sides of the Channel knew the influx of “foreign” girls. Girls less than age 21 were provided birth certificates to satisfy the official inspectors of Continental brothels. They were examined (usually by the procuress) prior to boarding ship to make certain they did not have some form of venereal disease. They were inspected a second time by a doctor upon their arrival. 

Cassatt_S2_1941-71.ashx While Cassatt celebrated bourgeois mothers and children, her male contemporaries turned their gaze to “public women,” the actresses, dancers and prostitutes of the entertainment class of fin-de-siècle Paris. Mary Cassatt

Huggett (page 127-129) says, “In the 1870s two of the biggest white slave traffickers were a couple who went under the name of Mr and Mrs Klyberg; they helped to stock the Dutch brothels in the Hague, Amersterdam and Rotterdam with fresh English girls at £12 a time. Many other girls were shipped off to Belgium. One sixteen-year-old housemaid from Brixton ‘with an open honest face, and a bright clear complexion, and healthy-looking, like an English cottage girl’ was procured in England in 1878. She was taken to Brussels where she was found two years later, by a British official, in a manson de débauche under a false name and sent back, not unharmed, to her parents in Chepstow, Monmouthshire.

“Estimates of the number of full-time prostitutes in London in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign varied wildly from a modest eight thousand to ten thousand (by Richard Mayne, one of the Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police) to twenty thousand, fifty thousand, eighty thousand or even more. With such a clandestine and unregulated trade, there could be no certainty about numbers as new foreign and native recruits were being added daily to replace those decimated by death or disease. It is equally difficult to state precisely how many of them had once been domestic servants, though it appears that the proportion was very high. The London Female Dormitory admitted 711 women between 1850 and 1856. Of the 157 women and girls with known occupations, 130 had been servants; two governesses; and another two, charwomen: in all about 85 per cent. Another London rescue organisation found that about three-quarters of its clients had been domestic servants. (It should be remembered that the proportion of servants in the female working population was also extremely high.) Most of the prostitutes were young. Many in Superintendent Dunlap’s division were only twelve to fifteen years of age; of the first thousand patients admitted to Edinburgh Lock Hospital, 662 were aged from fifteen to twenty, and another 42 were under fifteen.” 

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, servant life, Victorian era, William IV | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Gavelkind, Inheritance in Opposition to Primogeniture

CompleteEnglishLawyer-185x300 2012/07/06/gavelkind-and- borough-english/

In the past on Every Woman Dreams, I discussed the 19th Century Entail and the legalities of primogeniture during the Regency period.  Today, I am adding the exceptions to the practice of the eldest son inheriting everything. Customs throughout the world vary. Some peoples divide their land and moveable property equally among all the sons, or among all the children, present it to the eldest, to the youngest, to the daughter(s), or to the child who cares for his/her parents until their deaths, or deal it out to each child when he/she marries.


More details Monument at Swanscombe recording the legend of how Kent managed to extract concessions from William the Conqueror. Wikipedia

However, in the county of Kent (yes, the Kent that is Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s home shire in Pride and Prejudice), Ireland, and Wales there was a system of land tenure referred to as “Gavelkind.” Gavelkind is a system of partible inheritance, which resembles Salic patrimony. [Salic patrimony, or inheritance or land property, after the legal term Terra salica used in the Salian code, refers to clan-based possession of real estate property.] Gavelkind appears to have its roots in some sort of ancient Germanic tradition. Under Gavelkind, land was divided equally among sons or other heirs.

These practices were in place until the Administration of Estates Act of 1925. Until then, there were a number of estates “degaveled.”

“All land in Kent was presumed to be held in gavelkind until the contrary was proved. It was more correctly described as socage tenure (or Borough English), subject to the custom of gavelkind. The chief peculiarities of the custom were the following:

**A tenant could pass on part or all of his lands as a fiefdom from fifteen years of age.

**On conviction of a felony, the lands were not confiscated by The Crown.

**Generally the tenant could always dispose of his lands in his will.

**In case of intestacy [Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies without having made a valid will or other binding declaration. Alternatively this may also apply where a will or declaration has been made, but only applies to part of the estate; the remaining estate forms the “intestate estate”.], the estate was passed on to all the sons, or their representatives, in equal shares, leaving all the sons equally a gentleman. Although females claiming in their own right were given second preference, they could still inherit through representation. [Hello, Anne De Bourgh!!! Plot Point!!!! It seems Miss De Bourgh could inherit Sir Lewis’s estate!]

**A dowager was entitled to one half of the land. [Another plot point! Lady Catherine De Bourgh could own half of her Rosings Park.]

**A widow who had no children was entitled to inherit half the estate, as a tenant, as long as she remained unmarried.

“Gavelkind, an example of customary law in England, was thought to have existed before the Norman Conquest of 1066, but generally was superseded by the feudal law of primogeniture. Its survival in one part of the country, is regarded as a concession by the William the Conqueror to the people of Kent.” [R. J. Smith, “The Swanscombe Legend and the Historiography of Kentish Gavelkind,” in Medievalism in the Modern World. Essays in Honour of Leslie J. Workman, ed. Richard Utz and Tom Shippey (Turnhout: Brepols, 1998), pp. 85-103.]

Wales held a similar custom to gavelkind. It was known as cyfran. Under cyfran, upon the landowner’s death, the property was divided equally among all the man’s sons, including any illegitimate sons. This dividing of ever smaller pieces of land by successive generations of sons created a sort of “Theban war” among brothers, according to Welsh historian, Philip Yorke. The Welsh eventually took up the idea of primogeniture, but the custom of gavelkind was not replaced completely. Like those in Kent, there were pockets of resistance.

The Irish system was closer to the tradition of tribal succession. Unlike the Welsh system of dividing the land among all the sons, the Irish placed the property into “common stock,” where the property was redivided among the surviving member of the sept. [Sept comes from Síol, a Gaelic word meaning “progeny” or “seed” that is used in the context of a family or clan with members who bear the same surname and inhabit the same territory.] Under Irish law, the land was divided among the landowner’s sons. It was the Norman conquerors who gave this Irish inheritance law the name Gavelkind for its apparent similarity to the Saxon Gavelkind inheritance found in Kent.

AnAngelComes_LargeSo what does all this have to do with my recent Regency romantic suspense release? In Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep, there are multiple questions of inheritance. The hero, Huntington McLaughlin, cannot fulfill his duties to the dukedom because of a debilitating accident. The heroine’s father learns he is the new heir apparent to the Earl of Sandahl, a brother who despises him and will do anything (including murder) to prevent his younger brother from inheriting.

“Angel” is the first book in a new trilogy: The Twins. It is a “sweet” romantic suspense set in the Regency, which will appeal to a general audience.

Book Excerpt:

Another hour passed before Angel could speak privately with her father. “What did the duke say?”

Horace Lovelace frowned, and the chiseled hardness upon his lips took Angel by surprise. “It was an odd conversation. Devilfoard appeared both mollified and concerned over my reunion with Sandahl. Even so, the duke did not demand my withdrawal. In fact, Devilfoard summoned his duchess to his study and explained the situation. The duchess expressed a like determination to act in a responsible manner. It was as if I played a role in an intricate dance. As crass as it sounds to say so, I felt as if my appearance brought the duke and duchess to a new understanding.”

“But, Papa,” Angel protested. “The duke and duchess chose Sandahl’s daughter as Lord Malvern’s future mate. If the situation deteriorates, we shall be asked to leave. Would it not be better to depart upon our terms, rather than to be driven from the duchess’s festivities?”

Her father’s steady gaze made Angel uneasy, but she remained in place. “What is the truth of your objections, Angel? Is Lord Malvern your concern in this madness?”

“No, sir.” She dropped her eyes in submission. “But I would not have you humiliated. Mama would not wish it.”

“What do you know of your mother’s wishes?” he asked harshly, and Angel flinched. “Victoria suffered every day of our married years because our impetuous joining robbed both of us of the blessings of family. If Lady Victoria Lovelace were here at this moment, she would demand I face Carpenter again. My brother did all he could to destroy my marriage felicity. It will be good for him to know his disdain only served to strengthen Victoria’s commitment to my success. To our success.”

Angel’s bottom lip trembled. “What if my uncle chooses to challenge you to a long overdue duel? I could not bear to lose you, Papa.”

Her father gathered her into his embrace. “What, ho?” he said teasingly. “You think your papa too old to defend his family?” He chucked her chin lovingly. “Have you forgotten I am the youngest of Jonathan Lovelace’s sons?”

“No—o—o,” she sobbed.

Horace gave an uncharacteristic snort of disapproval. “If Carpenter would be so foolish, my brother would lose. I would have the choice of weapons, and although I have lost my touch with a sword, I am still quite accurate with a gun.”

It bothered Angel to hear her father speak with such coldness. This was a side of him she never knew. “You could not kill your brother.”

“In a duel, death is not necessary,” he assured. “Surrender is all that is required.”

“But if you would accidentally kill Lord Sandahl?” she pleaded.

Her father smiled with irony. “I would be forced to flee to the Continent or even go to America.”

“Do not jest.”

Her father embraced her more tightly. “Trust me, Angel. I find no humor in this situation. However, nothing worth possessing comes easily.”

She clutched his lapels. “Please promise me you will take care in this matter. If you did not consider it previously, you are now Sandahl’s heir apparent. He has no male heirs, and at Lady Sandahl’s age, she is not likely to present him with one.”

“I did not think upon the title in that respect. You opened my eyes, Angel.”

Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Early Reviews

The story is charming, with interesting and realistic characters, a complex plot with plenty of surprises, and a sweet romance woven through it all. The author has a good command of what it was like to be a woman in nineteenth-century England–almost as if she had been there.

Angel Comes to Devil’s Keep is a well-written tale of courage and sacrifice and what women went through in order to marry well in Regency England. The author did her homework and it shows in an authenticity that we don’t often see in Regency romances.

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Posted in Anglo-Normans, Anglo-Saxons, Black Opal Books, book excerpts, book release, estates, excerpt, Georgian England, historical fiction, history, Inheritance, Living in the Regency, primogenture, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Author’s Voice

Years ago, when I was still beating my head against the wall while teaching English in the public classrooms of three different states, I attempted repeatedly to explain “author voice” to my students. I encouraged my students to write with clarity and directness, but most of them chose to open up the nearest thesaurus and choose a “plethora of linguistic samples that accentuated their meaning, including long Latinate words and involved syntax.” The appropriate voice is the one that is direct, clear, and unstrained. To explain this point further, I will “borrow” an example from Jo Ray McCuen and Anthony C. Winkler’s Readings for Writers, a personal favorite of mine from some 40+ years back.

What if Patrick Henry had said, “It would be difficult, if not impossible, to predict on the basis of my limited information as to the predilections of the public, what the citizenry at large will regard as action commensurate with the present provocation, but after arduous consideration I personally feel so intensely and irrevocably committed to the position of social, political, and economic independence, that rather than submit to foreign and despotic control which is anathema to me. I will make the ultimate sacrifice of which man is capable – under the aegis of personal honor, ideological conviction, and existential commitment, I will sacrifice my own mortal existence.”  or

“Liberty is a very important thing for a man to have. Most people – at least the people I have talked to or that other people have told me about – know this and therefore are very anxious to preserve their liberty. Of course I cannot be absolutely sure about what other folks are going to do in this present crisis, what with all these threats and everything, but I have made up my mind that I am going to fight because liberty is really a very important thing to me, at least that is the way I feel about it.” 

instead of

“I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

9780205309023_p0_v4_s192x300Another favorite of my teaching days was William Strunk and E. B. White’s Elements of Style. It was a standard in many college classrooms of the later half of the 20th Century. In it, Strunk and White make a case for economy in word choices [something that drives me crazy when I am writing for the Regency period]. “A sentence should have no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short or that he avoid all detail…but that every word tell.” 

Cervantes said, “All affectation is bad.” In other words, avoid embellishment. A natural unpretentious style is best. 

“A voice in literature is the form or a format through which narrators tell their stories. It is prominent when a writer places himself / herself into words and provides a sense the character is real person conveying a specific message the writer intends to convey.” (Defining Voice from Literary Terms)

Sydney Bauer on Sophia Learning says, 

The author’s voice is expressed through:

  • word choice
  • sentence structure/rhythm
  • the figures of speech that the author uses (such as simile or metaphor)
  • the author’s use of humor and irony

It is the personality of the writer shining through the characters, narrator, and descriptions.


Defining Voice

What is Writer’s Voice? 

What is “Voice” in Fiction Writing?

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