Friday, June 27, 2008

Dearly Beloved

“Oh they say when you marry in June
You’re a bride, all your life.
And the bridegroom who marries in June
Gets a sweetheart for a wife.”
Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

The song isn’t exactly nineteenth century, though the setting was 1850 Oregon, but the sentiment still rings true. June is the time for weddings!

A young lady in nineteenth century England could be married as early as twelve and a young man as young as fifteen, with parental permission. Thankfully, usually only royalty married that young and then only to cement friendships between countries or ensure royal bloodlines would be kept intact. The age of consent, when you could marry without parental permission, was twenty-one for women and twenty-five for men.

Most girls married somewhere between sixteen and twenty-five. How they married differed greatly from the beginning of the century to the end. Before Marissa’s beloved Queen Vic, weddings were in the morning (before noon), and more often in the home or garden of the bride, groom, or a relative than in a church. Wedding dresses weren’t necessarily white or very fancy; they were simply stylish day dresses. And the only attendants needed to be two people in good standing in the Church of England to witness the exchange of vows.

During Queen Victoria’s reign, weddings became more elaborate affairs, with bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers, and the like parading down the aisle. The gorgeous white dresses came into fashion and never left. They too grew more bejeweled, reribboned, and bedecked with the passing years, as you can see by our progression of pictures.

And speaking of weddings, today happens to be Marissa’s wedding anniversary! Join me in wishing her and her dear one a very happy day! Blessings on you, my dears! Here’s to many, many more!

P.S. Stop by the Class of 2K8 blog where we've been interviewing YA and MG book reviewers, with an opportunity to win a book on each post (We're giving away 11 book in all!). Leave comments before June 29th to be entered.

P.S.S. If you find yourself misty eyed at the thought of June brides, check out my June release from Regency Reads, Be My Bride, a collection of three stories in which three dashing gentlemen find that it takes a small black kitten, three incorrigible boys, and a master French spy to win their lady loves.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One Hundred and Seventy One Years Ago This Week...

"Tuesday, 20th June.-- I was awoke at 6 o’clock by Mamma, who told me that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here, and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing-gown), and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham (the Lord Chamberlain) then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes p. 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen. Lord Conyngham knelt down and kissed my hand, at the same time delivering to me the official announcement of the poor King's demise. The Archbishop then told me that the Queen was desirous that he should come and tell me the details of the last moments of my poor, good Uncle; he said that he had directed his mind to religion, and had died in a perfectly happy, quiet state of mind, and was quite prepared for his death. He added that the King's sufferings at the last were not very great but that there was a good deal of uneasiness. Lord Conyngham, whom I charged to express my feelings of condolence and sorrow to the poor Queen, returned directly to Windsor. I then went to my room and dressed.

"Since it has pleased Providence to place me in this station, I shall do my utmost to fulfil my duty towards my country; I am very young and perhaps in many, though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure, that very few have more real good will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I have.

"Breakfasted, during which time good faithful Stockmar came and talked to me. Wrote a letter to dear Uncle Leopold and a few words to dear good Feodore. Received a letter from Lord Melbourne in which he said he would wait upon me at a little before 9. At 9 came Lord Melbourne, whom I saw in my room, and of COURSE quite ALONE as I shall always do all my Ministers. He kissed my hand and I then acquainted him that it had long been my intention to retain him and the rest of the present Ministry at the head of affairs, and that it could not be in better hands than his. He then again kissed my hand. He then read to me the Declaration which I was to read to the Council, which he wrote himself and which is a very fine one. I then talked with him some little longer time after which he left me. He was in full dress. I like him very much and feel confidence in him. He is a very straightforward, honest, clever and good man. I then wrote a letter to the Queen. At about 11 Lord Melbourne came again to me and spoke to me upon various subjects. At about ½ p. 11 went downstairs and held a Council in the red saloon. I went in of course quite alone, and remained seated the whole time. My two Uncles, the Dukes of Cumberland and Sussex, and Lord Melbourne conducted me. The declaration, the various forms, the swearing in of the Privy Councillors of which there were a great number present, and the reception of some of the Lords of Council, previous to the Council in an adjacent room (likewise alone) I subjoin here. I was not at all nervous and had the satisfaction of hearing that people were satisfied with what I had done and how I had done it. Receiving after this, Audiences of Lord Melbourne, Lord John Russell, Lord Albemarle (Master of the Horse), and the Archbishop of Canterbury, all in my room and alone. Saw Stockmar. Saw Clark, whom I named my Physician. Saw Mary. Wrote to Uncle Ernest. Saw Ernest Hohenlohe who brought me a kind and very feeling letter from the poor Queen. I feel very much for her, and really feel that the poor good King was always so kind personally to me, that I should be ungrateful were I not to recollect it and feel grieved at his death. The poor Queen is wonderfully composed now, I hear. Wrote my journal. Took my dinner upstairs alone. Went downstairs. Saw Stockmar. At about 20 minutes to 9 came Lord Melbourne and remained till near 10. I had a very important and a very comfortable conversation with him. Each time I see him I feel more confidence in him ; I find him very kind in his manner too. Saw Stockmar. Went down and said good-night to Mamma &c. My dear Lehzen will ALWAYS remain with me as my friend but will take no situation about me, and I think she is right."

Queen Victoria went on to rule until 1901...the longest reign of any British monarch.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Get Thee to the Church on Time

Jennifer Rummelplease contact Regina Scott at We have a book for you! If we haven’t heard from you by July 1, we’ll sadly have to draw another winner.

London has some of the most amazing architecture on earth. 17th century buildings stand side-by-side with ultra modern wonders like the Great Gherkin. Some of the most beautiful designs can be seen in London’s churches. So, where would a nineteenth century young lady go to church on Sunday mornings with her family?

If you were one of the fashionable, you’d likely attend St. George’s Hanover Square (1725), one of the closet churches to Mayfair, the “in” location for London’s aristocracy. When it was founded, it counted among its parishioners seven dukes, fourteen earls, seven barons, and twenty-six “other persons of title.”

If you wanted to cozy up to King George IV, you could have attended All Souls Langham Place. While Prinny wouldn’t have been in attendance, it was designed by his favorite architect, John Nash. Nash built it as a fitting place to worship for those wealthy elite he planned to live near Regent’s Park.

If you were hopelessly romantic, you might attend St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields. Though a church has been recorded on the grounds as early as 1222, the current building dates from 1726. St. George’s Hanover Square was actually carved from the St. Martin’s parish. My critique partner Kristin swears that there’s no more romantic place on earth for a nineteenth century miss to wed than in St. Martin’s.

Of course, the poet Robert Browning might have argued with her. He married Elizabeth Barrett in St. Marylebone Parish Church in 1846. The interior of the church was also featured in Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress, a series of satirical paintings from the eighteenth century.

And speaking of marriages, come back next week for a post on brides and weddings. It is June, after all. :-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Queen Victoria Part VII: Troubled Times and the Last of Sir John

It occurs to me that I left poor Victoria hanging…the last we heard, she was on her throne and safe from Sir John Conroy…

Or was she?

Victoria spent the first year and a half of her life as queen in a haze of happiness. She pretty much made the rules, at least in her personal life. In her public life she relied on her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, to teach her the political ins and outs of being a constitutional monarch. He was a charming, intelligent man and genuinely cared about Victoria in a fatherly way, and did his best in his own sometimes indolent, cynical way to guide her. The Coronation took place in 1838 and was a huge success, and the country seemed delighted with its new little queen.

But Sir John wasn’t entirely gone. He remained as the Duchess of Kent’s comptroller much to Victoria’s discomfort even though she never actually saw him. And he was on the lookout for a way to revenge himself on Victoria and on Baroness Lehzen, her former governess, who remained at Victoria’s side and whom he blamed for coming between him and Vic (never underestimate human capacity for self-deception!).

A way soon became obvious. I’ll have to summarize a lot of the main points or we’ll still be here tomorrow morning, but it involved a phantom scandal, a lot of poor judgement, and bad feelings coming home to roost.

The Duchess of Kent had a lady in waiting named Lady Flora Hastings. She was an unmarried daughter of the Marquess of Hastings and had been with the Duchess for years. Victoria had never been very fond of her although--or perhaps because--the Duchess had always forced them together despite the wide gap in their ages (Lady Flora was a good 20 years older than Vic). Lady Flora was also a supporter of Sir John.

In January 1839, Lady Flora came back to court after visiting her family, and it was noticed that she had gained weight…but in such a suggestive way that Victoria wrote in her journal that she was quite sure Lady Flora was pregnant--and moreover, she was sure Sir John was the father of the child because they had been known to have traveled alone in a carriage together for several hours late that past autumn. Lady F. of course denied that she was pregnant and claimed to be suffering from bilious attacks. But the scandal would not die down until she agreed to be examined by physicians who certified that she was indeed not pregnant and in fact was a virgin. Victoria overcame her dislike of Lady Flora enough to admit she had behaved badly and apologized, and that should have been the end of it.

But it wasn't. Sir John would not leave the situation alone and harped on it to the Duchess and to Lady Flora herself, encouraging Lady Flora to continue to complain about Victoria and about Baroness Lehzen to her politically powerful family who just happened to belong to the opposition Tory party (the present government was Whig) even while she was accepting the Queen’s apologies. Lady Flora’s uncle took it upon himself to publish parts of Lady Flora’s letters in the The Times partly as way to discredit the Queen and especially to help destabilize the Whig government, already on shaky ground due to some issues related to the governance of Jamaica. Lord Melbourne and his government fell from power, though only briefly.

More importantly to the Queen’s personal life, it caused an almost open break between her and the Duchess. This was a serious issue--don’t forget, Victoria was not quite yet 20 and still would have been considered a minor if she hadn’t been queen. It cut deeply into her popularity, so deeply that the once-popular queen was actually hissed in public. Something had to be done, and it was. The Duke of Wellington, hero of the Napoleonic Wars and a figure revered by all, convinced Sir John that he had to not only leave the Duchess’ employ, but leave the country for at least a year or two. He finally left in June 1839, and poor Lady Flora died of cancer a few weeks later. The scandal and hubbub died down after that, and Victoria was at last rid of Sir John Conroy’s influence in her life.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Lady Is Entitled

Have you noticed that many times in books the young lady is angling to marry a title, but the gentlemen all want a wealthy heiress? That’s because, sad to say, very often the lady’s title, if she even had one, couldn’t be passed to the next generation. It couldn’t even be shared with her husband. If Miss Annabelle Pretty married the Duke of Studley, she became Lady Studley. But if Mr. Studley married Lady Annabelle, he stayed Mr. Studley and she became Mrs. Studley!

She could, if she were very high in the instep (read conceited), continue to be called Lady Annabelle, but she would never be Lady Studley. The lady’s rank rose or fell to that of her husband.

If you weren’t married yet and your father was a duke, marquess, or earl, you were entitled to call yourself Lady Firstname. That’s why Lady Emily, the heroine of La Petite Four, is Lady Emily Southwell, not Lady Emerson (her father is the Duke of Emerson and Southwell if the family’s last name). Daughters of other titled fellows might be the Honourable Miss Lastname, such as Persephone and Penelope Leland in Marissa’s Bewitching Season, but the term “honourable” was usually only used in formal correspondence.

Your father’s rank gave you a few other privileges. A young lady took the same precedence as her eldest brother. So, if, as Marissa mentioned Tuesday, your papa was a duke, and his first-born son held the courtesy title of a marquess, than your “Lady” was equivalent to a marchioness (the female version of marquess). That meant that in social situations, you sat below the marchionesses at the table but quite a bit above your younger brothers. (Look for more on this whole precedence thing in a future post.)

Once in a rare while, you might also have your own title. The title of duke and baron could go to a daughter, if she had no brothers. If she had sisters, they all took the title (duchesses or baronesses), but they couldn’t act on it until the reigning monarch settled which one was considered the title holder. That didn’t have to be the oldest sister. But in no case in the 1800s could a lady take her seat in the House of Lords, and in many cases the responsibilities that went with the title had be to undertaken by her husband. That didn't change until 1963.

So, I guess the lady wasn’t very entitled after all!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Barons and Viscounts and Earls, Oh My!

Before we get started, a quick note from Regina...

Thanks to all who commented last week! The winner of the autographed copy of La Petite Four is Jennifer Rummel. Jennifer, e-mail me at and provide mailing details as well as the name you'd like on the book. I'll be on travel this week, but will let you know as soon as I get your e-mail when you can expect the book. Thanks again!

Congratulations, Jennifer!

Now, it occurred to us that we discuss a lot of people with titles of nobility here--and while we're comfortable with those terms and what they mean, not all of our readers might be as familiar with them. So today's post is a brief lesson on what we're talking about when we refer to the Duke of Thisplace or Viscount Thatplace.

First, I want to note that we're talking about titles of nobility in England. Though titles with the same or similar names might have existed in other countries in Europe, they don't necessarily hold the same a Duke in England is not necessarily the same as a Duke in, say, France or Russia. Just so you know.

The Peerage in England consisted of the following titles (which were awarded my the ruling monarch and almost always handed down through the male line--that is, except for a very few specialized cases, females did not inherit or pass on titles). Being a peer meant that you were entitled to sit in Parliament in the House of Lords.

1. Duke: the highest rank below royalty...though there were several ducal titles that were pretty much reserved for the use of the king if he had an extraordinary number of sons (think George III and his 15 children). A Duke was addressed as "Your Grace" by non-nobles and as "Duke" by those closer to him in rank.

2. Marquis (or Marquess--two spellings were in use in the earlier part of the century until Marquess won out): next below dukes. A marquis/marquess was referred to as "Lord Title name" John Breeches, the fifth Marquess of Fancypants would be called Lord Fancypants, not Lord Breeches. Note that Fancypants wasn't his actual family name--the name of a peer's title and of his family were generally different (though again, exceptions do exist just to confuse things.) The same goes for the rest of the ranks of nobility.

3. Earl: Next in rank after marquesses. There were a LOT of earls, many more than dukes or marquesses. As with marquesses, earls were called "Lord Title name".

4. Viscount: A newer rank, relatively speaking, that first came into use mostly in Tudor times. Like marquesses and earls, viscounts were adressed as "Lord Title name", but there was a slight difference in that there generally wasn't an "of" in there...for example, while we had the Marquess of Fancypants, his neighbor the viscount would be Viscount Whitecravat, not the Viscount of Whitecravat.

5. Baron: the lowest rank of peerage, also addressed as "Lord Title name".

Below the peerage were two other classes of titles. Being one of these did not get you a seat in the House of Lords, but you could be elected to the House of Commons.

1. Baronet: An inherited title...a baronet was called Sir Firstname Lastname.

2. Knight: A non-inherited title--that is, it would not get passed down to a man's son. Knighthoods were given out for various reasons, usually for some service to the Crown (but which could be something pretty trivial. Remember Sir William Lucas in Pride and Prejudice? He got made a knight after delivering a speech to the king, but had started out "in trade"--that is, working for a living. None of his sons would become Sir Whomever after him.)

So that's it for the titles of nobility. There are just a few other concepts that go along with them that you ought to know:

  • Titles went to a peer's eldest son. If his eldest son died, then his next son would inherit. If the eldest son died but had married and left a son, then that child would inherit. A peer did not decide who would inherit his title and any land or estates tied to it--there were legal rules that declared the line of inheritance.
  • Titles went through the male line. If a peer had only daughters, none of them could inherit his title and the heir would probably his next youngest brother, if he had one. If he didn't, then genealogical research would indicate the next living male relative most closely related to his father. It could get very complicated, as you might guess.
  • Precedence among nobility depended on the age of their title. So if you were trying to decide which earl had the higher rank, you looked to see when the family received their title. An earl whose family got their title in 1415 was considered to be of higher rank than an earl who got his title in 1815.
  • Family members of peers often received what were called "courtesy titles". For example, all the sons of a duke or marquess were automatically called "Lord Firstname", but that title didn't carry any meaning. Only the peer himself was a peer--his family were, legally speaking, all commoners. That is why a young man called "Lord So-and-so" could still be elected to the House of Commons--he wasn't a "real" lord.
  • Peers often had more than one title. A Duke might also be a marquess and a baron, but he used only the highest ranking title. He might let his eldest son use his next highest title and his eldest grandson the title after that, but just like above, those were considered "courtesy titles".

There's a lot more I could discuss here--a whole lot more--but these are some of the basics. If you have any questions, let me know! And please come back on Friday when Regina discusses how the peerage system work among the ladies.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Heroine or Author?

You all know Regina Scott as one half of Nineteenteen and as author of the scrumptious YA novel La Petite Four…but did you know that Regina previously wrote seventeen other novels set in the Regency period of England? Yes, seventeen—you read that correctly.

So as a fun way to get to know Regina better, we’ve put together a quiz I’m calling HEROINE OR AUTHOR? Answers will be posted in the comment section, so get out your pencils and join in. And don’t forget, all of you who leave comments on the blog this week through Monday night, June 9, will be entered in a drawing to win an autographed copy of La Petite Four!

Here we go...

1. True or false: Like Hannah Alexander, heroine of A Dangerous Dalliance (a May 2000 release from Kensington and the prequel to La Petite Four ), Regina is a professional art teacher when she’s not writing.

2. Like Celia Rider in Perfection (Kensington, October 2003 ), Regina’s been known to go undercover…but not as a governess. What is Regina’s disguise?
a. Jane Austen
b. a Regency dandy
c. Queen Charlotte

3. True or false: Like Cynthia Jacobs in “Sweeter than Candy” from the Regency Reads anthology Be My Bride, Regina is the mother of sons.

4. Like Joanna Lindby in "The June Bride Conspiracy" of the Regency Reads anthology Be My Bride, Regina's had a long-time crush on a certain dashing spy. Who is it? Bonus question: what actor played him on screen?
a. James Bond.
b. George Smiley
c. The Scarlet Pimpernell

5. True or False: Like Sarah Compton of The Incomparable Miss Compton (Regency Reads, April 2008), Regina is a late bloomer.

6. Eugennia Welch of The Bluestocking on His Knee (Regency Reads, March 2008) and Regina both love to collect something, though Eugennia has far more of them. What is it?
a. parking tickets
b. Meissen figurines
c. antique books

7. True or False: Like Angelica Pruitt in The Pleasure Garden (Kensington 2005, writing as Regan Allen), Regina is the daughter of a minister.

8. Lady Emily Southwell of La Petite Four (Penguin Razorbill, out now!) and Regina share a certain physical characteristic. What is it?
a. a graceful figure
b. Size four feet
c. Dark, curly hair that's frizzier in the rain

Have fun! And if you need more Regina Scott after you've finished La Petite Four, head on over to Regency Reads where several of the books mentioned above are available in e-book form.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Introducing Lady Emily Southwell of La Petite Four!

Well, here we are…Marissa and Regina are off being serious and writerly as usual and have left me, Penelope Leland, in charge of their blog today. But that doesn't mean I can't have fun and get to know a new friend whom I know you’re all dying to meet as well…so may I introduce Lady Emily Southwell?

Lady Emily, how do you do? For some fortuitous reason we seem to be able to chat even though we live in different times. Can you tell me a little about when you are? England has just been through some interesting times, I believe.

A pleasure to meet you, Miss Leland! I graduated from the Barnsley School for Young Ladies this April 1815, and yes, it is an interesting time. My father, His Grace the Duke of Emerson, has just returned from the Congress of Vienna in rather a hurry. Here England thought they had the madman of the century safely locked away, and what does Napoleon do but escape and rally France into a furor once more! But you don’t have to worry about that in your time. You can focus on the Season. I believe you and your sister Persephone are on your first Season too.

Indeed we are. You and my sister Persy share an quality unusual in most young ladies--dedication to something other than tracking down the perfect (a) hat (b) dance partner or (c) flavor of bon-bon at Gunter’s. In Persy’s case it’s magic…what’s your obsession?

Painting. Truly, I don’t know whether it was the heady tang of turpentine or the feathery touch of a brush that first seduced me, but some of my happiest times have been behind an easel.

Well, all young ladies with any aspirations to culture dabble in water-colors, don’t they? What’s different about your view of art?

My dear Miss Leland, we’ve only just met so I shall forgive the grave insult you just gave me. I do not dabble, and I outgrew water-colors when I was eight. I use oils, bold strokes, dark colors; I bring to life important subjects like the tragic deaths of heroes and glorious, blood-drenched battles. My scenes are so real I fancy I can feel the beat of the drummer calling the march, hear the roar of canons in the distance. When I paint, I quite forget that any other world exists.

Oh, please forgive me--I had no idea! But as a serious artist you must surely aspire to join the Royal Society for the Beaux Arts. That group and its guardian dragon, Lady St. Gregory, sound a bit intimidating. Do you think you’ll be permitted to join?

Well, I quite agree with you that it is intimidating. Artists of the Royal Society are patronized by the Queen and the Royal Princesses, the works admired far and wide. I would be the most fortunate of mortals if I were allowed to join them. I shall have to create the perfect painting, a feast for the eyes, the epitome of beauty and grace, and all before Lady St. Gregory comes to view it at the Ball!

You and your best friends from the Barnsley School for Young Ladies have been given a rather amusing nick-name--won’t you tell us about it and how you earned it? What are your friends like--are they artists as well?

Miss Pritchard, our literature teacher, actually gave it to us. She said we were always together like the little iced cakes the Prince Regent’s French chef Careme created—petit fours. So, Priscilla, Daphne, Ariadne, and I are La Petite Four. And no, sadly, none of my dear friends progressed beyond those insipid water-colors. They have other traits to recommend them. There is nothing Priscilla does not know about Society, including how to deal with young gentlemen. She has only to bat her lashes, toss her golden curls, and they fall at her feet in abject devotion. Ariadne reads everything, from The Times to the handbill on the slave rings of the far east, handed out outside Hatchard’s lending library. She will always have an answer to any question. And Daphne, well, I will only say that I wish I had her seat on a horse and her skill with a fireplace poker.

And what’s this I hear about your social plans for the season? A ball to put all others in the shade--that sounds like quite the event! Tell us about it, please!

It is a wondrous creation, the stuff of dreams. Only Priscilla could have succeeded in such an event. The theme is an enchanted garden, and we’ve rented the Elysium Assembly Rooms and grounds near Kensington Palace. There will be dancing of course, tantalizing treats, and excellent conversation. Priscilla’s already ordered a thousand crimson roses. She was considering having live goldfish in streams meandering down the buffet tables, like the Prince had at the dinner for the Allies last season, but you see his died. I told her that rotting fish, belly up, would do little to set the sophisticated tone we all sought. But she merely said she doubted our fish would be so vulgar as to die before the second set.

Now if you’ll permit me, I should dearly like to ask you about your non-artistic pursuits…more specifically, pursuits of the two-legged variety with elegantly tied cravats and dashing manners. Or maybe “pursuit” is the wrong word…

In my case, pursuit is exactly the right word, as my friends and I have been forced into following Lord Robert Townsend all over London to try to learn his secrets. You see, I was determined to spend the Season securing my place among my fellow artists, and of course I would not forego the ball! But Lord Robert simply could not let matters alone. We’ve had an understanding since we were children, but we haven’t seen each other for ten years. So now he has the audacity to claim undying devotion and demand that we marry at once and rusticate in Devonshire? He must be up to something. He can be charming above all, but I can see through those stunning smiles. I will grant you he is kind on the eyes. He quite puts me in mind of James Cropper, with russet hair the color of the sky at sunset and eyes like the stormy clouds above. Odd how we keep bumping into him. It’s almost as if he were following Lord Robert too.

Or you? Is that a blush I see?

Did you have other questions for me, Miss Leland?

Only one: how can we learn more about your friends, your adventures, the mysterious Mr. Cropper, and the Ball to end all balls?

I do believe Regina Scott has captured our adventures rather well in her book La Petite Four, which is available now from fine booksellers and lending libraries everywhere.

Thank you for chatting with me, Lady Emily. And may I remind readers that all commenters on blog posts this week will be entered in a drawing to win an autographed copy of La Petite Four?