Children, Food, Marriage, Society

Mistress of the Manor: Lady of Leisure or Full Time Working Mom?

Think all those Regency romance heroines do nothing but pay calls all day? Think again. Author Maria Grace takes us inside the life of landowner’s wife.


“Period dramas have left many of us with the notion that ladies of the landed gentry in the Regency era had little to do but dress in lovely gowns, embroider and gossip.  Reality could not be farther from this image. In general, both master and mistress of the manor did a great deal of work around the estate, often working alongside the servants in the efforts to get everything done.

Labor tended to be divided along gender lines. So much so that single men sought female relatives to manage their households. Bachelors looked to sister or nieces while widowers often called upon daughters or the dead wife’s kin.  So, even if a woman did not marry, there was a very strong possibility she might take on the responsibilities of a household sometime in her lifetime.  Gentlemen tended to respect the household mistress’ authority; her contributions to the home had worth equal to his.”

Read the rest of the article here.


Horseless Carriages of the 1820s

Think cars are a modern invention? Check out this article by Loretta Chase on “horseless carriages” from as early as 1827.

Mr. Gurney's New Steam Carriage 1827-12

“Loretta reports:

While researching something else altogether, I stumbled on this description of an “Improved Steam Carriage” in a magazine published on this date in 1829.

Not being good with matters mechanical, I’m not at all clear on the two-vehicle approach or what makes the 1829 version an improvement over the 1827 model. I post both for you to compare and contrast, as well as links to the descriptions.  If like me you find the prose less than enlightening, you might simply enjoy looking at the pictures of early horseless carriages.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorite: Jane Austen’s World Pinterest Boards

Pinterest perusers, Austenites, and Regency romance lovers, prepare to be wowed.

If Jane Austen’s World doesn’t have the largest Pinterest collection of Georgian/Regency information, it’s pretty darn close. There are also boards for more modern pursuits and fashion. Get a cup of coffee and find an hour–or four–to browse. It will totally be time well spent!

Covent Garden Theatre 1808 J. Bluck

Fashion, Friday Favorites

Friday Favorite: (Un)Dressing Mr. Darcy

Our Friday Favorite this week comes to us from Brian Cushing, a Regency period re-enactor who gives workshops and talks about gentlemen’s dress in the early 19th century. This video is taken from his demonstration at Burdett’s Tea Shoppe in Springfield, TN. Mr. Cushing begins with the outermost layer of clothing and works his way inward, explaining the function and development of each piece as he goes–great for those of you who like visual aides!

Flat Arthur

Flat Arthur Visits HNS 2013

Ever hear of Flat Stanley? He’s a character in a children’s story who accidentally gets flattened when a cork board falls on him. He then takes advantage of his two-dimentional-ness to slide underneath doors and go places no one else can.

In 1994, a man named Dale Hubert thought it would be fun if children created their own Flat Stanleys and mailed them to friends and family all over the world. The receiving families would “host” the Stanleys, showing them around town and keeping a journal about the places they’d gone. When the “visit” was over, the receiving family would mail the Stanleys back to their owners, along with the journals. Children could learn about other places in the world in an authentic, non-textbook sort of way. And thus the Flat Stanley Project was born.

I thought it would be entertaining to have a Flat Stanley for the historically-minded, one to take with me on my (admittedly few) travels. Since I’m writing a Regency-era novel, I wanted a prominent, recognizable figure from that time period. It also made sense to continue the theme and use a person who had traveled extensively during his or her lifetime. I settled on Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who I was familiar with…and who would look good on camera 🙂

Duke of Wellington 1814

I cut him out and pasted him to some sturdy cardboard to help him survive his journeys. Then I packed him in my suitcase and took him to the Historical Novel Society’s 2013 Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida.

We spent most of our time at the hotel, the beautiful Renaissance Vinoy. Photo credit goes to Margaret Rodenberg, who stepped in with her camera when mine threw a tantrum. Thanks Margaret!

Flat Arthur HNS sign

His Grace was also kind enough to come with me to my Blue Pencil Cafe appointment, where I had the first two pages of my WIP critiqued by the lovely Kris Waldherr. He was supposed to give us privacy, but I think he was eavesdropping–listening for his own name, perhaps?


I did not take him with me to David Blixt‘s sword fighting workshop, mostly because I didn’t want to hear him prattle on about his own prowess. Or how my form was wrong. Or how the exit sign that I nearly decapitated never did anything to me. Since I ended up with a nice medieval broadsword rather than a rapier or smallsword (which he’d be more familiar with), His Grace probably wouldn’t have been too critical. But I think he enjoyed his quiet time in the hotel room. I certainly enjoyed the workshop!


We did take a walk together, though, on the last day of the conference, and talked over our experiences in this pretty little park across the street.


Sitting on a bench in the shade, I asked His Grace if he had enjoyed his stay in St. Petersburg. He told me it wasn’t bad–better than his last trip to Spain. But he wished we’d gotten out more, seen more of the town than just the hotel and the park.


Maybe you can help, my wonderful readers! Are you going to a conference or convention involving history or writing? Taking a trip to a historic place with the family? Researching for school, work, or pleasure? Perhaps you could make a Flat Arthur of your own, and take him with you 😀


Please Allow Me to (Re)Introduce Myself

It’s been a while since I posted to this blog on a regular basis, and I’m afraid I never introduced myself properly in the first place. Oh, sure, there’s the “official” bio on the About page, and all my contact links appear if you click on my picture to the left. But that’s only a small part of who I am.

By day I am a high school teacher—not in English or in History, as most people would assume, but in Mathematics and Psychology. I majored in History because I Quantum_Calculations_by_throttledanloved it (still do, more than any other subject). But by the time I realized my place in the world was in a classroom, I had half of an engineering degree completed…including a whole bunch of math. And so I’ve been teaching high school math for the last 10 years. Psychology was kind of an accident–it was part of the position when I applied, and no one wants to take it over. I’m okay with that, though, because it’s actually a really fun class! And I can’t even count how many times I’ve had an insight into one of my characters while teaching a lesson.

By night—and on weekends, school vacations, and over the summer—I’m a writer. I love books of all kinds, and get ideas in a bunch of different genres, but my Leonid_Pasternak_001specialty is historical romance. Right now I’m working on the first book in a Regency series that focuses on three brothers and their attempts (consciously done or otherwise) to reunite with the women they loved, but lost. Some parts (mostly the big things) are progressing well. Some parts (mostly the little details) are taking forever. I have no representation or publisher, just two wonderful critique partners and a fabulous circle of friends who support me as I muddle through 🙂

At all times, I’m a patient with three chronic illnesses. I have doctors and medications to help me along and regulate many of my symptoms, but one thing I never seem to have enough of is energy. Most of it is spent at school with myDoctors_stethoscope_1 students, their parents, and my fellow educators. Tasks are prioritized not just by due date, but by size and the amount of effort required of me for each one. I’m very careful to watch my schedule, weighing each invitation and event against the big picture, and what it will cost me physically to go. I write more slowly, don’t devote as much time to social media, take longer to research things because of my health. But when I get published, the victory will be all the sweeter because I worked so hard to get there.

Most of my posts here will be history-related, focusing on the Regency period (because that’s what I’m writing) but including anything else I find interesting. Some posts will deal with writing, or the life of an as-yet-unpublished writer. Occasionally I’ll post about other things: school, my personal life, my illnesses, sports, Psychology, how the hero of my first novel is like Batman (yes, really!). Whatever the subject, I hope to inform and entertain. And I hope you’ll keep coming back for more 😀


The 95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles): The first of all Services in the British Army

“In this distinguished Service, you will carry a Rifle no heavier than a Fowling-Piece. You will knock down your Enemy at Five Hundred Yards, instead of missing him at Fifty.

On Service, your Post is always the Post of Honour, and your Quarters the best in the Army; for you have the first of everything; and at Home you are sure of Respect—because a BRITISH RIFLEMAN always makes himself Respectable.

GOD SAVE the KING! and his Rifle Regiment!

 —Wellington’s Rifles: Six Years to Waterloo with England’s Legendary Sharpshooters by Mark Urban


Who says you can’t learn things from fiction?  I was first introduced to the 95th Rifles in Mary Jo Putney’s book The Bargain, where the hero was a wounded officer from that regiment.  (Bernard Cornwell also uses them in his Richard Sharpe series.)  I wouldn’t have thought anything else about it except that she included an author’s note and explained why she picked the 95th.  I’m one of those strange souls who think history is a whole lot of fun, so I went right from the book to the computer and starting poking around the Napoleonic Wars and the 95th Rifle Regiment.  It turns out they were quite different from the rest of their infantry brethren.

The first thing I noticed was that the men and officers of the Rifles wore green uniforms rather than the familiar red—not a huge revelation if one is familiar with the British Army, but a small surprise for me.  Their belts and trim were black instead of the white of the other regiments.  Recruitment advertisements touted these darker uniforms as more comfortable and easier to care for.  In practice, they drew the ridicule of other units (at least in the beginning—once the Rifle Brigade had proved its value, the taunting slowed considerably).

Also, while most officers of the time were still purchasing their commissions and promotions, the majority of officers of the 95th were commissioned or promoted based on merit or seniority.  “Soldiers of fortune” they called themselves, neither nobility nor gentry for the most part.  Perhaps because of this, the Rifles were known as a more egalitarian outfit than their musket-bearing counterparts.

The biggest difference between the Rifles and the rest of the infantry, of course, was their weapon.  While everyone else carried muskets, the 95th carried the Baker rifle which had grooves inside the barrel to spin the bullet as it was fired (you CSI fans and gun enthusiasts will recognize this as the “rifling”).  The spinning increased accuracy immensely—like spiraling a football—allowing these soldiers to fight differently.  Riflemen did not stand shoulder to shoulder and fire into a block of the enemy.  Instead, they could fire individually and from standing, sitting, and kneeling positions, or even laying down, and were trained accordingly.  They were, in fact, founded to emulate the sharpshooters of Continental Army and militias during the American Revolution.  (There’s irony for you!)

The 95th Rifles went on to become wildly famous for their actions during the Peninsular War, being awarded regimental battle honors for Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Vittoria, The Pyrenees, Toulouse, and Waterloo, among others.  Curiously, though, they were rarely awarded individual medals and recognition, though other soldiers in other units were regularly honored.


You Bastard! Illegitimacy During the Regency

Because I had to rein myself in last week replying to Barbara’s comment, and because I can use one of my favorite characters as an example (see if you can guess which one it is), this week’s blog post is about legitimacy (or the lack thereof).

In order to be considered a legitimate child during the Regency, your parents had to be married at the time of your birth.  It didn’t matter what their status was at your conception, as long as they made it to the altar—together—before you made an appearance in the world.  If you came before the nuptial ceremony, you were illegitimate, forever, even if your parents married later*.

If your mother was married to another man at the time of your birth, you were legitimate, but legally the child of her husband.  There are all kinds of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) jokes and references in Regency and Georgian novels about ladies letting a “cookoo” in the nest—passing off the child of an affair as one belonging to her husband.  It’s even a major plot point in Julia Quinn’s It’s In His Kiss: the hero and his “father” both know he’s the product of his mother’s affair, but he’s still the legal heir to his “father’s” title and fortune.

Illegitimate offspring could not inherit titles or entailed property (property that, by law, passed to the next legitimate male heir).  Ever.  They could inherit unentailed property (property that could be disposed of in any manner), money, or goods by will—as could anybody else.

A great example of this is Mary Balogh’s A Secret AffairThe hero, Constantine Huxtable, was born two days before his parent’s wedding, thus rendering him ineligible to inherit his father’s earldom (this is actually the basis for the series, as a cousin inherits instead).  But wait, you say.  Grace Burrowes has a hero who’s illegitimate, and he’s an earl!  In The Soldier, Devlin St. Just is the bastard son of a duke, and he does gain an earldom, but not through inheritance. St. Just’s title was granted for service to the Crown during the Napoleonic Wars, and it was the monarch’s prerogative to confer the honor.  (Where do you think all those nobles came from in the first place?)

Bastardy was also a bar to society, for the most part.  According to Allison Lane, an illegitimate daughter was not accepted or welcome at all socially, while a son could be admitted to the fringes of society with the help and sponsorship of his father.  The heroine of Julia Quinn’s An Offer from a Gentleman is a good illustration: she was the bastard daughter of an earl, but never acknowledged as anything other than the earl’s ward, nor did she move in society (except once, but I won’t spoil it for you).

There were exceptions to this rule (there always are, right?), and a big one was William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV) had ten (yes, ten!) illegitimate children with an actress known as Mrs. Jordan.  Being the bastard get of a royal duke was clearly a better lot than that of other illegitimate children (and many legitimate ones, too).  Since their father was the son and brother of a king (then later a king himself), the FitzClarences, as they were called, did well socially.  They were given the precedence of the children of a marquess, the eldest son was granted an earldom, and the rest married nobles or the children of nobles.

*For those of you that are familiar with the medieval period, you’re probably jumping up and down right now, yelling “John of Gaunt!” or “Beaufort!” (or maybe you’re yelling something else at me!).  Yes, John of Gaunt (son of Edward III) had four children with his mistress Katherine Swynford and given the surname Beaufort (after one of John’s properties).  And yes, they were eventually legitimized by the pope and their cousin Richard II when John scandalized everyone and married Katherine (their children were adults by then).  But this was under the medieval Catholic Church, where rules could be bent for the right price, and John was a very powerful man.  And this legitimacy was questioned a couple of generations later when Henry Tudor, great-great-grandson of John through his eldest Beaufort son, claimed the English throne.  The Regency was several hundred years after the Reformation, andBritain’s aristocracy was (for the most part) steadfastly Protestant.  Different time, different church, different rules.


Annulments: 99 Problems, But A Wife Ain’t One

After reading Regina Jeffer’s blog post about the rules of marriage in Regency England last week, I started thinking about ways to dissolve a marriage (I know, ever the optimist, aren’t I?) during the period.

Marriages of convenience show up in romance novels of all types, usually with the understanding that the couple can part ways after their union is no longer useful.  In Regency romances, I’ve seen a lot of marriages dictated by a will (as in “you must marry by a certain age/time frame or you will lose your inheritance”), and marriage to one person to escape marrying another (often a “my father wants me to marry this horrible, old man, and I don’t want to” sort of thing, though sometimes it’s a prospective groom who is being hounded to marry a woman of his family’s choosing).  They always say, “We can get an annulment later.”

Of course, they don’t–they fall in love and decide to stay married.  But while they’re falling in love, the newly wed couple is usually trying to preserve a situation where an annulment could be granted.  And while annulments are certainly possible during the Regency, they were only obtainable under certain circumstances.

–>Fraud: a participant in the wedding used a fake name or anything short of his/her full legal name (including all titles) OR a promise was made in the marriage contract that cannot be kept.  Though, in the case of a misused name—say a nobleman forgot to include one of his multitude of titles on the register—the presiding authority can decline to issue the annulment and simply correct the register.

–> Incompetence: a participant in the wedding was under 21 (a legal minor) and did not have consent of his/her legal guardian (your father, if he was still alive) OR insanity (which tainted the entire family–if one of you is insane, what about the rest?)

–>Impotence: the physical incapability of a man to have intercourse, not the abstinence from it.  Doctors became involved, and, according to Allison Lane, the use of very skilled courtesans!  (Mary Jo Putney’s The Bargain—previously title The Would-Be Widow—does a pretty good job with this, and though her method does not match what Allison has described, it’s a logical process…minus the courtesans 😉

Divorce was even more difficult, a long process that involved civil courts, ecclesiastical courts, and the House of Lords.  It was very messy, very public, and very expensive.  A divorced man’s reputation was basically trashed, though he might be able to find some acceptance somewhere (the hero of Laura Lee Guhrke’s And Then He Kissed Her—the inspiration for the name of this blog [though I haven’t finished the book yet!]—is divorced at the start of the story).  A divorced woman was pretty much cast out of society, ruined beyond repair.

For more details and examples, check out Allison Lane’s Common Regency Errors page.  She has some great information on inheritance of properties and titles, and a wonderful section about forms of address for titled nobles and their families.


What is the Regency?

When I first started working on my novel, I was intelligent enough to ask a good friend of mine (who is an excellent writer in her own right and a British subject to boot) if she would please, please, please be my beta reader.  I let her know that the story was set during the Regency era, and asked how much she knew about that period of time.  She replied that she knew there was a Regency era in British history, but that was all.

That, of course, is not a slight on her intelligence (because I secretly think she’s smarter than me), but it occurred to me that a lot of people might not know much about the period beyond the shirtless man on the cover of the historical romance they saw at the bookstore.  It also occurred to me that an introduction to the period would make a good introduction to this blog, but there are a lot of great articles already out there.  So rather than rehash what’s already been said, I’ve included links to some of the best articles I’ve found so far to get you started.

The teacher in me is yelling “No, no! It’s not a credible source!” but Wikipedia has a good article on the British Regency, complete with a timeline, lists of important people, places, and publications.  There are also some nice images for the visual learners among us—the Frost Fair  picture reminds me of a pack of ice fishing shanties.

Greenwood’s 1827 map of London  has been a big asset to me, both as a read and a writer.  Click on any part of it to zoom in, then click again to zoom in further.

Here’s a beautiful website dedicated to the 95th Rifles, formed in 1803 as the first regiment to use rifles instead of the less accurate muskets.  They saw a lot of action during the Peninsular/Napoleonic Wars.

Regency Romance novelist Candice Hern  has compiled a wonderful timeline running from 1788 through 1820 that gives more detail than the one listed in the Wikipedia article.  Political events, literary milestones, musical accomplishments, theater history, and social developments of the extended Regency can be found here in chronological order, color coded by category.

This is a nice article by Michelle Jean Hoppe  that talks about the London Season.  I like it because it’s not too long, but it’s well written and gives you enough detail to be worth reading.

These are just a few of the websites I’ve frequented.  What other good websites are out there for the Regency period?  What are your favorites?