‘Tis the Season, Celebrating What is Known as “Christmastide”

ye-old-yule-logChristmastide (also Christmas or the Christmas season) is one of the seasons of the liturgical year of most Christian churches. It tends to be defined (with slight variations) as the period from Christmas Eve to the Epiphany. This period is also commonly known as the Twelve Days of Christmas, as referred to in the Christmas carol of the same name, or Yuletide, as in “Deck the Halls.” [Christmastide]

Many Protestant churches add an Epiphany season after the Christmas season, extending the celebration of Christmas for forty days until the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas) on 2 February (or a nearby Sunday). In the Missal and Breviary of the Roman rite, since 1970, the Christmas season runs a shorter period, from Christmas Eve to the Baptism of the Lord, which depending on the place and the year can occur between 7 January and 13 January. In the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the season runs from Vespers on 24 December till Compline on 2 February.

scene-from-emmaDuring the season, various festivities are traditionally enjoyed and buildings decorated. In some countries the superstition has arisen that it is bad luck to leave the decorations up after Twelfth Night.

Advent, anglicized from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming”, is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. It is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on Advent Sunday, called Levavi. The Eastern churches’ equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs both in length and observances and does not begin the church year, which starts instead on September 1.

The progression of the season may be marked with an Advent calendar, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. At least in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Moravian, Presbyterian, and Methodist calendars, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, the Sunday from November 27 to December 3 inclusive.

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

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Did You Know These Facts Regarding Thanksgiving?

First, I wish all my lovely friends and family a most joyous Thanksgiving Day. Thank you for reading my blog. 

 Elvis Deputy Sherriff of Shelby County | Linda Hood Sigmon Truth lindahoodsigmontruth.com

Elvis Deputy Sherriff of Shelby County | Linda Hood Sigmon Truth

From History.com, we learn the following facts regarding Thanksgiving Day: 

It took more than 200 years after the first Thanksgiving before it became an official holiday.

The first Thanksgiving was a three day feast, which included hunting, athletic games, and eating. The Pilgrims dined on venison, NOT turkey. There was also NO pumpkin pie or potatoes or cranberry sauce.

In 1789, George Washington announced the first NATIONAL Thanksgiving holiday, but Thanksgiving did not become an annual tradition until the 19th Century. The Americans celebrated on Thursday, November 26, 1789.

As the first Thanksgiving (1622) was to celebrate the Pilgrims’ first successful harvest, the celebration was not repeated.

American writer, Sarah Josepha Hale, was inspired by A Diary of Pilgrim Life. In 1827, Hale began a 30 year campaign to make to make Thanksgiving a national tradition. At her own expense, Hale published recipes for pumpkin pie, stuffing, turkey, etc. (By the way, Hale is the author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”)

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving will would be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

thanksgiving-gallery.jpg www.kidzworld.com


In 1939, FDR moved the holiday to the 3rd Thursday in November to give retailers an extra week to make money during the holiday buying season. It was the Depression, after all.

Ironically, in 1941, FDR signed a bill to keep Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of November.

In 1989, George H. W. Bush gave the first official turkey pardon.

 These facts and lots more about Thanksgiving can be found at History.com.

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Regency Happenings: The Thames River Police Are Founded

When I was writing The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery LOTS of research was required, especially information about the policing practices in Regency Era London. One of my discoveries was the River Thames Police….

John Harriott - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia en.wikipedia.org

John Harriott – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the 18th Century, importers docking along the River Thames in London had lost £500.000 annually as cargoes were unloaded on the unprotected River Thames. In 1797, an Essex Justice of the Peace, farmer, and inventor from Great Stanbridge, Mr John Harriott, came up with a plan to change all that. Mr Patrick Colquhoun, LLD. (the principle magistrate of Queens Square Police Office), advocated for Harriott’s plan with the West India Merchants and the West India Planters Committees to finance preventative policing of the central shipping area of the Thames. The government approved the establishment of the Marine Police on 2 July 1798 in Wapping High Street. Originally, the West India Merchants Company Marine Police Institute was to operate for just one year, but as the Government was involved with the war with France, the time was extended.

A Surveyor (equivalent rank of an Inspector, by today’s standards) and three waterman Constables under the direction of a Superintending Surveyor manned each of the rowing galleys. The Superintending Surveyor also had a supervision galley with a crew of four. The Surveyors had taken an oath to the Crown and were issued an excise warrant by the Customs and Excise Service.

In addition, ship and quay guards were employed on a part-time basis. They were only employed when the West India fleets were on the river. Otherwise, they were dismissed until needed again. These “guards” were supervised by the boat patrols, which eventually became the first River Police Special Constables. Initially, it cost £4.200 to set up the force (hires and premises), but , by all  estimates, they had saved £122.000 in cargo and had saved a dozen individuals.

Only numbering in the low 50s, these Officers were expected to control some 30.000 + people who made their living on the river. One must realize a large portion (some 25-35%) of that 30.000 were likely criminals. Unfortunately, during the first six months, a riot took place outside the Office, and a crowd of 2000+ threatened to burn the building to the ground, with officers and magistrates inside. Harriott managed to quell the riot. Sadly, Gabriel Franks (Master Lumper) was shot and killed – the first recorded police death. “After a year, Harriott was able to give his first report to the Home Office stating ‘instead of many waterman’s boats hovering nearby while ships unloaded, the river now appears quiet and peaceful, except for those going about their lawful business.” (River Thames Police – History – Establishment)

Ship owners convinced the government of the value of the Marine Police. Letters from importers, shipmasters, and wharf owners praised the deterrent tactics of the boat patrols and quay guards. On 28 July 1800, Parliament passed the Marine Police Bill making the river police a public domain. The bill also increased the number of officers to 88. “They were taken with the Magistrate John Harriott to be directly under the control of the Home Secretary, who used their hard won experience throughout the whole of the Metropolis until such times as the Metropolitan Police were formed.” In 1800, Patrick Colquhoun released a book entitled The Commerce and Policing of the River Thames. “As the only police body extant whole chapters were included about criminals of the Thames, its policing and the effect. The book was widely read and approved of, so much so that many other police forces were formed throughout the world on his principles, the most famous being Dublin, New York and Sydney, Australia.” (River Thames Police – History – Government Support)

By the time the Metropolitan Police began in 1829, the River Thames Police had grown in numbers and in stations. They had extended their jurisdiction to above Chelsea and down to Woolwich and had acquired two old naval vessels to patrol the extent of the Thames. “In 1817 an excise “Cutter” was purchased to patrol the lower reaches as far as the Downs, firstly to protect the Kings stores at Sheerness, a Magistrate with powers in the surrounding counties was then essential to empower the River Police to prevent such crimes and in particular crimping. Winter for the officers patrolling in open boats was most rigorous.” (River Thames Police: History

By 1839, the Metropolitan Police, under Commissioners Sir Richard Mayne and Sir Charles Rowan, who operated with the Home Secretary’s permission, had unified other police bodies in London, including the Bow Street Runners, Horse patrols, and the River Police. The only exception was the City of London Police force, which was founded in 1834 and remains a separate entity even today.

With this unification, the Thames Magistrate Office was moved to Arbour Square and renamed the Thames Magistrates Court. “Thames Division of the Metropolitan Police was built on the officers and experience of its earlier force. It was always that the land police were formed (and indeed their uniform suggests it) on the pattern of an army regiment and the River Police on the pattern of a Royal Navy ‘man of war’ (Hence their reefer jackets and naval boaters.).

Thames Police rowing galley around 1900. http://www.thamespolicemuseum.org.uk/h_police_3.html

Thames Police rowing galley around 1900. http://www.thamespolicemuseum.org.uk/h_police_3.html

For the next forty years the rowing galleys and sailing patrols continued and were found adequate, while the river trades slowly became merchandised and to a large extent iron replaced wood. In 1878 the loss of over 600 lives in the disastrous collision between the paddle steamer “Princess Alice” and the collier “Bywell Castle” made it obvious that at least some powered craft were necessary. In 1884, two steam launches were purchased for supervisory purposes and later a third was found necessary.” (River Thames Police: History)

PoMDC Cover-2-2The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery
(Mystery/Suspense/Thriller; Fiction/Historical Fiction)

Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying his marital bliss. His wife, the former Elizabeth Bennet, presented him two sons and a world of contentment. All is well until Darcy receives a note of urgency from his sister Georgiana. In truth, Darcy never fully approved of Georgiana’s joining with their cousin. Major General Edward Fitzwilliam for Darcy assumed the major general held Georgiana at arm’s length, dooming Darcy’s sister to a life of unhappiness.

Forced to seek his cousin in the slews of London’s underbelly, at length, Darcy discovers the major general and returns Fitzwilliam to his family. Even so, the Darcy’s troubles are far from over. During the major general’s absence from home, witnesses note Fitzwilliam’s presence in the area of two horrific murders. When Edward Fitzwilliam is arrested for the crimes, Darcy must discover the real culprit before his cousin is hanged for the crimes and the Fitzwilliam name is marked by shame.





Posted in British history, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Uncategorized, Victorian era | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

How Was It to Shop in Market Towns and Villages of Early 1800s England?

17 Of The Most Beautiful Villages To Visit In Britain! - Hand ... handluggageonly.co.uk

17 Of The Most Beautiful Villages To Visit In Britain! – Hand …

Needless to say there would not be street vendors, but rather peddlers, who would travel from village to village, selling their ware. “A peddler, in British English pedlar, also known as a canvasser, cheapjack, monger, higler or solicitor (with negative connotations since the 16th century), is a traveling vendor of goods. In England, the term was mostly used for travellers hawking goods in the countryside to small towns and villages; they might also be called tinkers or gypsies. In London more specific terms were used, such as costermonger. There has long been a suspicion of dishonest or petty criminal activity associated with pedlars and travelers. The origin of the word, known in English since 1225, is unknown, but it might come from French pied, Latin pes, pedis “foot”, referring to a petty trader travelling on foot. Peddlers usually travelled on foot, carrying their wares, or by means of a person- or animal-drawn cart or wagon (making the peddler a hawker).” (Peddlers)

Because they did not fit into clear professional categories, peddlers could be highly mobile. They brought the products to the consumer’s door. Without the cost of maintaining permanent shops, the peddlers could charge lower prices for a variety of small goods. (Sixteenth Century Journal)

Also, men would travel mending tin pots, sharpening knives, acting as at catchers, rag and bone men, sellers of chapbooks and cheap repository tracts, etc. Let us take a quick look at several of these types. 

The Bone-Grubber by Richard Beard. Henry Mayhew described one bone-grubber he encountered as wearing  a "ragged coat...greased  over, probably with the  fat of the bones he gathered". Henry Mayhew  - http://books.google.co. uk/booksid=iBIIAAAAQAAJ &printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_ summary_r&cad =0#v=onepage& q&f=false The Bone-Grubber, daguerreotype  by Beard - created 31 December 1850 - Public Domain

The Bone-Grubber by Richard Beard. Henry Mayhew described one bone-grubber he encountered as wearing
a “ragged coat…greased
over, probably with the
fat of the bones he gathered”. Henry Mayhew
q&f=false The Bone-Grubber, daguerreotype
by Beard – created 31 December 1850 – Public Domain

Rag-and-bone men collected unwanted household items and resold them to merchants. The traditional rag-and-bone man carried a bag over his shoulder and made his way about on foot. Occasionally a wealthier rag-and-bone man would have a cart pulled by a small pony or donkey, however these were few. Most of these men lived in extreme poverty. They collected old rags, bones, and bits of metal.

A chapman was another early itinerate pedlar. A chapman was a hawkers of chapbooks, broadside ballads, etc. A chapbook was an early popular type of literature, which was produced cheaply. They were generally small, paper-covered books, customarily printed on a single sheet, which was folded into books of 8, 12, 16, and 24 pages. Woodcuts, not related to the text, were often included. The tradition originated in the 16th Century and rose in popularity through the 18th Century. The text included folk tales, nursery rhymes, poetry, religious tracts, political tracts, children’s tales, etc. (Chapbook)

Meanwhile, broadside ballads (popular songs) sold for a penny or a halfpenny. They preceded chapbooks. “There are records from Cambridgeshire as early as in 1553 of a man offering a scurrilous ballad ‘maistres mass’ at an alehouse, and a pedlar selling ‘lytle books’ to people, including a patcher of old clothes in 1578.” (Chapbook)

A badger was a dealer in food or victuals which he “purchased in one place and carried for sale in another place. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest entry as being from Bristol in 1500, but there were bager(s)gates at York in 1243 and in Lincoln by 1252. It continued in use until the 19th century in Great Britain. Badger was specifically applied to those dealing in grain for food, but was also applied generically to food commodity dealers. These included those dealing in grain for brewing (maltsters) or meal for bread-making, (mealmen) while others specialised in butter and cheese. Other grains, beans, peas or even vetch were traded in years when wheat and barley prices were high. The legislation also referred to kidders, drovers of livestock, laders and carriers.” (Badger)

 Some of the towns were large enough that we would call them cities, and others were so small one one would barely describe them as villages. At this time they were not officially designated by size, but by the form of government and the founding documents as well as whether or not the place had a cathedral or abbey. Jane Austen has villages in both Pride and Prejudice and Emma. In Pride and Prejudice, readers travel to the villages of Meryton in Hertfordshire, Lambton in Derbyshire, and Hunsford in Kent. In Emma, Emma stands in the doorway of Fords in Highbury–the general store, and looks down the street. “Emma went to the door for amusement . . . ; and when her eyes fell only on the butcher with his tray, a tidy old woman travelling homewards from shop with her full basket, two curs quarrelling over a dirty bone, and a string of dawdling children round the baker’s little bow-window eyeing the gingerbread, she knew she had no reason to complain, and was amused enough; quite enough still to stand at the door. A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer. (Emma, 233)” “Jane Austen’s famous literary advice to her niece Anna—“3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on” (9 September 1814) — has been widely accepted as a summary statement of her own praxis, and Emma is the novel most frequently cited as the exemplar of Austen’s focus on isolated and insulated country communities.” (“It must be done in London”: The Suburbanization of Highboy by Tara Ghoshal Wallace)

Market towns had a special status, but were not cities. They were generally larger than the surrounding villages, and shopping did not come from street vendors, except on market day. One would likely find a blacksmith, dressmaker, sundry’s store, a small circulating library, a couple of inns, possibly, a shop that sold meat pies, a hat maker, etc. An established church was likely. Physicians, surgeons, lawyers were some of the professionals found in the market towns. “Market town or market right is a legal term, Markoriginating in the medieval period, for a European settlement that has the right to host markets, distinguishing it from a village and city. Farmers and their wives brought their produce to informal markets held on the grounds of their church after worship. Market towns grew up at centres of local activity and were an important feature of rural life.  Markets were located where transport was easiest, such as at a crossroads or close to a river ford.

“The English monarchy created a system by which a new market town could not be established within a certain travelling distance of an existing one. This limit was usually a day’s worth of travelling to and from the market, and buying or selling goods. If the travel time exceeded this standard, a new market town could be established in that locale. As a result of the limit, official market towns often petitioned the monarch to close down illegal markets in other towns. These distances are still law in England today. Other markets can be held provided that they are licensed by the holder of the Royal Charter, which tends currently to be the local town council. Failing that, the Crown can grant a license. As traditional market towns developed, they had a wide main street or central market square. These provided room for people to set up stalls and booths on market days. Often the town erected a market cross in the centre of the town, to obtain God’s blessing on the trade.” (Market Town)

51GplnnLiBL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_A book I would recommend is THE ENGLISH VILLAGE, which was a study of a large cross section of little villages and the kinds of things they have in common. Here is the book blurb from Amazon: The village remains a quintessential and much-loved treasure of the English countryside. This rural idyll has inspired generations of great poets, novelists, and artists including the likes of Constable, Hardy, Wordsworth, as well as providing the picturesque setting for modern TV series such as Lark Rise to Candleford and Cranford. The English Village celebrates all that is unique and loved about a typical village—the pub, the green, the school, the church, the pond, the local shop and more—as well as exploring how the village has changed over the centuries. Also includes fascinating information on the origins of village names—Siddington, for example, means the farm of the valley (sidd: valley, in: belonging to, ton: farmland). Beautifully illustrated, and filled with facts, figures, customs, and lore, there is a wealth of fascinating information to be discovered in this charming book.

Actually, each village seems to have its own odd little eccentric thing about it, some quirky little detail like a local product or a haunted tale about the village green or what-have-you. Depending on the region, they could also have different things, like in the Midlands, pottery related shops, or in the North, woollens-related businesses, and along the coast, shipbuilding or timber processing and/or lots of extra pubs for all those sailors, as well as inns for travelers. Each village was constructed around a church, a rectory or parsonage for the minister to live in, a pub, a hall, a general store with post office, maybe a doctor’s home office, possibly a school or a building or home that serves as a dame school, a green with a few trees and/or a pond. Country villages are obviously very agricultural so one should not neglect the possibility of related businesses like blacksmiths, smokehouse, bakers. Maybe even a mill or a nearby river or canal. 

“In Britain, peddling is still governed by the Pedlars Act of 1871, which provides for a “pedlar’s certificate”. Application is usually made to the police. In the late 20th century, the use of such certificates became rare as other civic legislation including the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 for England & Wales introduced a street trader’s licence. As of 2008 the pedlar’s certificates remain legal and in use, although several local councils have sought to rid their area of peddlers by way of local bylaw or enforcement mechanisms such as making them apply for a street trader’s license.” (Peddler)

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Uncategorized, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Age of Consent to Marry in the Regency Period

18th and 19th Century: Gretna Green - The Place for Elopements 18thcand19thc.blogspot. com

18th and 19th Century: Gretna Green – The Place for Elopements

During the Regency, despite what some authors may include within the story line, the age of consent for females was twenty-one, not twenty-five as some would lead the reader to believe. Although I do not know from where the idea of the female having a guardian until age 25, what I assume is happening is the author (and therefore, the reader) is confusing the idea of a female’s guardianship with the age of majority. The confusion likely comes from fathers or another person setting up a trust for a female. The trust would provide the woman a “fortune” at age 25 or when she married (if she married with the approval of the man named as guardian of her money.)  

If the woman did not have her guardian’s approval (and was less that age 21) and chose to marry, she just would not receive the money.  So age of consent was not the issue as much as age of majority. In most places it was 21. In the Danish West Indies it was 25. 

If an underage lady eloped to Gretna Green without her guardian’s consent, can the guardian have the marriage declared illegal and annulled? The answer is “No.” One could marry in Scotland at 14 without permission.

English males and females considered a journey to Gretna Green when permission was withheld because Scottish Law meant they required only a witness, not even a priest, and as long as they were over fifteen then English Law accepted a marriage that was witnessed in Scotland. The “Smithy” is just the first building one came across over the Scottish border, and that is how the Smithy became the place the deed was done, but when English Law first changed there were about ten different people all over Gretna who set themselves up to offer to be a witness to couples crossing the border.  

A book about Robert Elliot: Gretna Green Anvil Priest 1814-1840 describes his stint

as a “marriage priest” in Gretna. “Elliot was born in Northumberland, the son of a farmer. While working for a stagecoach company, he met Ann Graham, the granddaughter of Joseph Paisley. They were married in January 1811 at the village church in Gretna Green, as was considered proper; very few of the local people were married in the irregular way.

“The couple lived with Paisley, and Elliot assisted the old man with his marriage ceremonies. When Paisley died in 1814, Elliot was a natural successor and he continued the marriage trade.

“In 1842 Elliot had his memoirs published. In them he states that he performed between 4,000 and 8,000 ceremonies. He also claims that he was the only priest working in Gretna Green at that time and had been for the last thirty years. However, it had been put beyond doubt that there were at least two other priests at the time. 

Gretna Green and the Runaway Regency Bride | Shannon Donnelly's ... shannondonnelly.com

Gretna Green and the Runaway Regency Bride | Shannon Donnelly’s …

“The majority of Elliot’s history is taken from his memoirs in which he also gives accounts of ‘noteworthy elopements’ but it is likely that the events of some of his stories occurred before he became a Gretna Green Priest. Unfortunately the majority of his registers, and those of Paisley, were lost when Elliot’s handicapped daughter set fire to her bed one night, and burned herself to death together with the registers that were stored on the bed’s canopy.” (Visiting Gretna Green)

“He [Elliot] gives the form of service he used for celebrating marriages – which, though much abbreviated, appears to be taken almost direct from the Marriage Service of the Church of England. He also narrates several stories of runaway marriages – some of them tragic ones. The most dramatic, if I remember aright, told of the shooting of a bridegroom, immediately after the consummation of the marriage, by the father of the bride – infuriated to find that his pursuit had been in vain…. These tragic occurrences, however, would appear to be matters of the far past. Nothing of the kind was ever mentioned by Mr Linton – who succeeded Elliot as Priest – as I was informed by Mrs. Armstrong, his daughter, when I came to examine Gretna Hall Registers; which, together with copies of the marriage certificates, are in her keeping. In these Registers – which date from the year 1825, and some of which are in the handwriting of Robert Elliot appear, among many of less note, the names of a Bourbon Prince of Naples, Duke of Capua; of a Duke Sforza Cesarini, a Lord Drumlanrigh, and a Lady__Villers, a daughter of one of the Earls of Jersey. (The Scot’s Magazine. Volume 4, June-November 1888-1889, Edited by the Rev. W. W. Tulloch, B. D., Perth: S. Cowan & Co., Printers and Publishers, 1889)

The Scottish “priest” asked the couple their purpose in appearing before him and then asked the traditional question of whether M took F to be his wife and if F took M to be her husband. He also presented them with a marriage certificate and recorded the marriage in his books. Scotland had  a civil register years before such a recording appeared in England. One could be married merely by going to this registrar and having him record the marriage. Quite often the man was willing to predate the entry back several months if the woman was pregnant even though it legally didn’t matter when the child was conceived. All that mattered was whether or not the parents were married when the child was born.

What about marrying by common license?  Did those have to be done at the local parish as well, or could they be done at any church? Also, how common were common licenses?  

Some sources lead us to believe that most aristocratic marriages were done by common license and only the lower classes had the banns read.  Is this true?

The Common license required the name of the parish church in which the wedding would take place. According to the parish registers, many people of the gentry and middling sort, as well as aristocrats married by common license. However, some felt that the ribald remarks and boisterous fun executed by some of the villagers/friends kept them from having the banns called. Most of the special licenses were used by the aristocracy.

Did couples need to receive special approval to marry at a local church, like St James or St. Peter’s? A couple married at their parish church unless they had a special license when they could marry at any place a clergyman would conduct the ceremony.

Although it was legal to marry in Scotland at 14 without permission. English children needed permission until they were 21.  However, a child could be married off at age seven in England with parental permission. Supposedly this child had the right to deny the marriage at age 12. Any marriage after age 12 for girls and age 14 for boys was considered valid if done with parental permission. The number of marriages of infants decreased during the age of enlightenment until the 18th century when  people started to think 16 was too young. Also, the trend was towards  nuclear families instead of  more communal living with many generations in the same house. Marriage statistics take in all classes of people. A peer of the realm or his wealthy heir could marry at any age. A man of lower status had to be established in his profession or job to be able to afford a wife. Quite often the would-be bride was also working in some way to acquire money for the new home.

The fact that it was legal to marry at fourteen does not mean it was common. There are statistics that say during the early 19th Century the average age for women to marry in the British Isles was mid-twenties. As for the short life expectancy, one must look at how the statistics were developed. For example, many who passed early on did so in the first few years of infancy and childhood. If one had six children, and three passed before the age of one and the other three lived to be fifty, their average life expectancy was only twenty-five. We must remember that numbers can be manipulated to prove whatever we wish. 

Posted in British history, Gretna Green, Living in the Regency, marriage licenses, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Peerage, Abdication, Inheritance, and a “Ton” of Questions of Legality

When reading historical fiction/historical romance the issue of the title the gentleman holds often comes into play. There are many misconceptions, and I admit for those of us in the States, the concept can be a bit confusing.

First thing a reader must know is that 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. 

In addition to hereditary peers, ones whose titles can be inherited, there are also Life peers and Representative peers. Life peers are appointed to the peerage, and their titles cannot be inherited. A life peer must meet age and citizenship qualifications under the Life Peerage Act of 1958. Prior to the Act’s passage, a member of the House of Lords had essentially to be male and in possession of an hereditary title (only a few exceptions occurred). Life peers receive the title of baron or baroness and are members of the HOL until their passage. Their legitimate children may assume the privilege of hereditary titles by being address by the prefix “The Honourable.” A representative peer, on the other hand, is  member of the Peerage of Scotland or the Peerage of Ireland, who is elected to sit in the British House of Lords. Representative peers created after 1707 as Peers of Great Britain and after 1801 as Peers of the United Kingdom held the right to sit in the House of Lords. 

What does all this mean exactly? 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 in referring to the Irish Parliament and Irish officials, generally no longer appointed; 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.” (Hereditary Peer)

Constitution Committee reports on status of the Leader of the ... www.parliament.uk

Constitution Committee reports on status of the Leader of the …

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 Lords to Parliament. Members of the House of 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.” (Writ of Summons) 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 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 still never put forth a claim to the earldom . However, he was, by right and law, the earl so anything requiring the signature of the earl had to be signed by him. He signed responsibility over to his oldest brother but the title itself went dormant until he died.

Letters patent granting the Dukedom of Marlborough to Sir John Churchill were later amended by Parliament Sir Godfrey Kneller - http://www.artunframed.com/kneller.htm ~ Public Domain

Letters patent granting the Dukedom of Marlborough to Sir John Churchill were later amended by Parliament
Sir Godfrey Kneller – http://www.artunframed.com/kneller.htm ~ Public Domain

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 have 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. If the title was Scottish, the line of descent could remain unspecified. In such a case, Parliament would determine the course of inheritance. 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 (an opposite to extant, 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.

“The Titles Deprivation Act 1917 permitted the Crown to suspend peerages if their holders had fought against the United Kingdom during the First World War. Guilt was to be determined by a committee of the Privy Council; either House of Parliament could reject the committee’s report within 40 days of its presentation. In 1919, King George V issued an Order in Council suspending the Dukedom of Albany (together with its subsidiary peerages, the Earldom of Clarence and the Barony of Arklow), the Dukedom of Cumberland and Teviotdale (along with the Earldom of Armagh) and the Viscountcy of Taaffe (along with the Barony of Ballymote). Under the Titles Deprivation Act, the successors to the peerages may petition the Crown for a reinstatement of the titles; so far, none of them has chosen to do so (the Taaffe and Ballymote peerages would have become extinct in 1967).

“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.

“A peer may also disclaim a hereditary peerage under the Peerage Act 1963. To do so, the peer must deliver an instrument of disclaimer to the Lord Chancellor within 12 months of succeeding to the peerage, or, if under the age of 21 at the time of succession, within 12 months of becoming 21 years old. If, at the time of succession, the peer is a member of the House of Commons, then the instrument must be delivered within one month of succession; meanwhile, the peer may not sit or vote in the House of Commons. Prior to the House of Lords Act 1999, a hereditary peer could not disclaim a peerage after having applied for a writ of summons to Parliament; now, however, 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)

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.

london-herald-edward-viii-abdicationThe Duke of Windsor’s (Edward VIII) abdication was a very complicated legal process, and one Parliament allowed and had to handle legally due to the duke’s marrying a divorced woman, which actually made him unfit to be head of the Church of England, which is a job the King of England must claim, and there are laws about the monarch’s marriages. This situation carried itself forward to the present with Prince Charles marrying Camilla, another situation sorted out legally before Parliament.

Like it or not, the heir can not 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.

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What Does It Mean to “Be Knighted”?

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Sir William Lucas has been knighted by the King for his service as to Meryton. But what exactly does it mean to be knighted?

David I of Scotland knighting a squire Unknown - http://manuscriptminiatures.com/3913/14012/ ~ Public Domain

David I of Scotland knighting a squire
Unknown – http://manuscriptminiatures.com/3913/14012/ ~ Public Domain

Knighthoods likely date back to ancient Rome. At that time there existed an order of mounted nobles referred to as Ordo Equestris. Knights became the standard of military excellence in European countries. Each “knight” practiced a strict military training from the time he was but a youth. He often learned his trade by serving as an “esquire” to a knight during war years. He would be expected to embrace the strictures of chivalry: generosity, bravery, self-denial, fighting skills, and faithfulness. He would also be expected to maintain the expenses of his trade: arms, armor, horses, assistants, etc., as well to provide followers who would also take arms in service to the King/Queen. Knights were not born; they had to receive their position at the disposal of their Sovereign.  Some of the kings of England were knighted after coming to the throne; they included: William I, Edward III, Henry VII, and Edward VI. (The Monarchy Today)

Strict religious rites were involved in the conferment of a knighthood. Those who received early knighthoods were expected to fast, to maintain a vigil, to bathe, to make a confession, and be granted absolution before the ceremony. Many received their knighthood as part of their military service. The person receiving the knighthood would kneel before the Royal commander of the army  and “dubbed” a knight by the touch of a sword upon the back and shoulders and the words “Advances Chevalier au nom de Dieu.” Starting with Henry VIII, the number of people who received knighthoods greatly diminished. “Eventually, it became the custom for monarchs to confer all knighthoods personally, unless this was quite impracticable. In a ceremony of knighting, the knight-elect kneels on a knighting-stool in front of The Queen, who then lays the sword blade on the knight’s right and then left shoulder. After he has been dubbed, the new knight stands up, and The Queen invests the knight with the insignia of the Order to which he has been appointed, or the Badge of a Knight Bachelor. Contrary to popular belief, the words ‘Arise, Sir…’ are not used. (The Monarchy Today

The Steps of Knighthood Picture #88009702 | Blingee.com blingee.com

The Steps of Knighthood Picture #88009702 | Blingee.com

“Since 1917, the British government has been awarding notable citizens with spots in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Although the Order was originally meant to honor top-notch civilian and military behavior during war, it quickly expanded to include peacetime achievements as well. The Order has five separate ranks: Knight Grand Cross (Dame Grand Cross for women), Knight Commander (Dame Commander), Commander, Officer, and Member. Achieving one of the first two ranks earns a person a slot in the knighthood, which means they can add ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ to their names. All members of the Order of the British Empire can add the initials of their rank to the end of their names, though, which is why you sometimes read about celebrities with ranks following their names, like ‘Roger Daltrey, CBE.’” (Mental Floss)

“What are the benefits of being a knight [in present time]? You don’t get to joust or wear armor, but you do pick up a few unusual garments. Knights and Dames Grand Cross get to wear special gear to formal events like coronations. This getup includes a pink-with-gray-edges satin mantle and a collar of six gold medallions. All members of the Order are allowed to wear the group’s badge. The badge is basically a cross hanging from a pink ribbon with gray edges, although various ranks wear their badges in unique ways. Members and Officers simply wear their badges like military medals pinned to their chests, while higher-ups wear theirs on sashes or around their necks. Other benefits include getting a spot in the British order of precedence, the arcane system that develops the hierarchy of ceremonial importance for things like state dinners. Furthermore, knights win their wives the right to be called ‘Lady,’ and Knights and Dames Grand Cross can modify their coats of arms to reflect the honor.” (Mental Floss)

“If we begin at the bottom rung of the ladder, the lowliest person of title amongst Jane Austen’s people, we must choose Sir William Lucas who had been knighted during his mayoralty, a practice which still obtains. The “Lord” mayor of London, for example, is always knighted. Knighthoods are bestowed for eminence or success in one’s field: Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Francis Austen.

“A knight is always addressed and referred to as Sir Firstname. Nothing more. This is not disrespect, but correct and proper usage. Sir Yehudi, Sir Winston, Sir Francis. Never, never, Sir Menuhin, Sir Churchill or Sir Austen. Wives of knights, on the other hand, are always addressed as Lady Husband’s Lastname: Lady Menuhin, Lady Churchill, Lady Austen. A knight’s title is not inherited. The young Lucas who would drink a bottle of wine a day if he were as rich as Mr. Darcy will never be Sir Firstname Lucas. If writing a letter to a knight and his first name is not known, the address is Sir – Lastname. Never, never Sir Lastname. These are things that used to be learned at one’s mother’s knee. All these forms of address apply equally to baronets, who are the next rung up the titled ladder.” (JASNA)

“Sir William Lucas had been formerly in trade in Meryton, where he had made a tolerable fortune, and risen to the honour of knighthood by an address to the king during his mayoralty. The distinction had perhaps been felt too strongly. It had given him a disgust to his business, and to his residence in a small market town; and, in quitting them both, he had removed with his family to a house about a mile from Meryton, denominated from that period Lucas Lodge, where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and, unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world. For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at St. James’s had made him courteous (19-20 beginning of ch. 5).

“Though Knights are very romantic and heroic characters throughout history, the Knighthood of Sir William Lucas works differently. Whereas Kinghts used to be born into nobility and trained to protect their feudal lords, in the 19th century, knighthoods were purchased as a symbol of status.

“In the case of Sir William, he spent all of his money on the title, then felt too good for his job in the city and moved into ‘Lucas Lodge.’ The irony in the purchase of his knighthood was that he spent all of his money on the title, and caused his family to be relatively poor because of it. Though he now has the symbol of status that Knighthood represents, he no longer has the wealth that is associated with this status. This was a selfish and vain decision by Sir William, because he sacrificed the comfort and security of his family as well as lowering the possibility of marrying off his daughters in order to boost his personal pride. (WHSHBLJaneAusten)

How did knighthoods work during the Regency Period? During the Regent’s years, Prince George’s powers to bestow titles were limited by Parliament. Such was one of the conditions of making naming him as Regent, so honors had to be approved by Parliament. It was assumed that Prince George would name a large number of Whig peers.

In reality, the Regent’s powers to grant peerages, as well as confer government offices and

The Age of Chivalry - CDA's World History Wiki cdaworldhistory.wikidot. com

The Age of Chivalry – CDA’s World History Wiki

pensions, was only restricted for the first year of his Regency. After 6 February 1812, the first anniversary of Prince George becoming Regent, he gained full power to grant any honors he chose.

Prinny could award titles during the Regency, but as mentioned above he was expected to have Parliament’s okay  (as with the current monarch, who can only bestow titles with Parliament’s approval). In 1820, Prince George was not crowned until mid July. Therefore, no baronies were created in 1820. One may view a list of what was created during the Regency and from 1821 and on HERE .

For information on knights invested By George IV, try: The Knights of England: A Complete Record from the Earliest Time by William Arthur Shaw, with information on investures from that book is HERE.

There is not just one type of knight. More information is HERE.

Posted in Anglo-Normans, British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Uncategorized | 9 Comments