Did Your Ancestor Serve in a Royal Household?

Ever wonder if your ancestor worked at Buckingham Palace? Or maybe at Windsor Castle?

Windsor Castle

Perhaps one of your forebears held the title of Yeoman of the Mouth; or Laundress of the Body Linen, both of which were real titles of positions in royal households.

There’s a way you can find out. A few years ago the Royal Archives teamed up with genealogy website Find My Past to make the Royal Household Staff Lists available to the public.

Edwardian Era household servants.

The site lists over 50,000 staff records dating from 1660 to 1924.

And the best part is, you can search the records for free! Click on the Find My Past icon to be taken to their United Kingdom site:

There’s no charge for viewing the search results—I found names of my Cornell ancestors on the list—but if you want to see scanned images of the original records, you’ll have to subscribe to the site or use their Pay-as-You-Go feature.

Not all staff worked in the house itself. Some of my Cornell relations worked in the Royal mews.

Still, it’s a fun way to find out if you have a connection through your ancestors to a royal palace or country home.

Happy hunting!

Let’s Meet at the Meet

My current work-in-progress has a minor sub-plot involving a race meet in a county town.

Scenes on the Road, or A Trip to Epsom and Back, showing Kennington Turnpike-gate, by James Pollard

Since I’m a visual person, I went searching for images of race meets held during the Regency era. Specifically, I wanted to see if I could get a sense of the logistics of the meet. Did they use a starting line or an actual starting gate? How did they mark the course? Did spectators line the course or did they watch from a safe distance?

The Meet with Lord Derby’s Stag Hounds

I thought I’d share with you a few of the images I collected, so you can see for yourself what inspired me to write my own descriptions of a race meet.

The Betting Post at Epsom Races, by James Pollard

When you look at the style of clothing depicted in these images, you can tell they were painted in the 1830s, well after the end of the Regency era. Despite that, I think they’re relevant for my purpose.

Epsom Races: Preparing to Start, by James Pollard

Another question I hoped to answer through these art pieces: Did ladies attend race meets? In the first image above there is a woman in the foreground of the picture, but I think she’s merely watching the men, on horseback and in carriages, as they pass through the gate on their way to the meet.

However, I do see some feminine-looking figures seated in the viewing tower on the far left in the image below. That’s a good thing; if social conventions of the time didn’t prohibit women from attending race meets, I have more flexibility in writing my story and keeping my female characters where the action is.

Epsom Races: The Race Over, by James Pollard

Even if women were allowed to watch races, I know they would have been banned from setting foot on the premises of Tattersall’s. Tattersall’s was a famous bastion of masculinity where horses were bought and sold. I’ve searched the image below several times, and can confirm there isn’t even a hint of a bonnet or skirt. (Apparently, cats were allowed at Tattersall’s, but women weren’t.)

Epsom Races: Settling Day at Tattersalls, by James Pollard

These images did help me visualize what county race meets must have been like. Judging from these images, meets were popular events that caused large crowds of men to descend upon a town—and if that isn’t an inspiring premise for a fiction writer, I don’t know what is!

I hope you enjoyed viewing these images. You can click on each one to open a larger version.

 

Reader Reviews and Bits of Fluff

My novel Mary and the Captain was published last year. The story is a continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In the book publishing world, Mary and the Captain fits very neatly into the Regency Romance sub-genre of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF).

Like many people who read, enjoy, and admire Jane Austen’s greatest work, I always wanted to know what happened to her characters after the close of her original novel. So I knew, when I took up my figurative pen to write my continuation of the classic story, my book had to be as perfect as possible.

I don’t mean perfect in its physical form relating to layout and formatting and proofreading (although those elements are certainly important).

By “perfect” I mean that my book had to hit the right tone in its characters and plot so the overall story was true to Austen’s original.

Why was that so important? Because JAFF readers know their stuff. They can spot an Austen error from a mile away.

Dedicated Readers

JAFF readers are dedicated to the genre. They typically read at least one JAFF novel a month.

It’s a tribute to Jane Austen that 200 years after her death, her novels—particularly Pride and Prejudice—are more popular and more loved than ever before. Readers identify with her characters and want to continue to read about them long after Austen’s original story comes to an end.

That’s why the number of JAFF writers and readers grows daily.

Want proof? Austenesque Reviews recently published a list of Jane Austen inspired novels and stories released in May 2018. Click here to see their list of 48 new titles for the month of May alone.

And for every new JAFF book, there’s a new JAFF reader who can’t get enough of Darcy and Lizzy, Anne and Wentworth, or Emma and Knightley.

Dedicated Reviewers

JAFF readers know what they like when it comes to variations of Jane Austen works, and they show their appreciation for a good story (or criticism of a poorly written story) by leaving reviews of JAFF books on book retailer websites.

Their reviews are thoughtful and well-crafted. It’s rare to see a JAFF reader leave a review that simply says, “Loved it!” or “Hated it!”

Bits of Fluff

I’ve been fortunate to have received several reviews for Mary and the Captain, and I’ve read every one—the good reviews, the bad reviews, and those in between. When readers take the time to tell me the particular reasons they liked or disliked my story, I pay attention.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

On Amazon.UK a reader named Chriss wrote a very thoughtful and complimentary review of Mary and the Captain. She ended by saying:

Overall this rates as probably the most entertaining Pride and Prejudice continuation story I’ve read and I’d highly recommend it to others.

By this time, I’m beaming; and I’m grateful that Chriss in the UK enjoyed my book so much. Chriss goes on to say:

I believe the author is American; however the sense of England and use of English terms is almost flawless, with the notable exception of the word ‘lint’ – if English characters must pick bits off of each other, let it be ‘fluff’ or ‘dust’ – but otherwise very well done indeed!

Chriss found me out. I am, indeed, American; and as an American, I know I have to say lift instead of elevator, trousers instead of pants, jumper instead of sweater, and queue instead of line.

I also should be spelling certain words that contain the letter “o” with “ou” or substitute the letter “z” with “s” and “e” with “ae” if I want my British settings and characters to be believable.

But the truth is, the word “fluff” never crossed my mind; but now, thanks to Chriss, I will never forget the lesson.

And while I’m at it, this video reminds me there are a few more English words I should keep in mind if I want the books I write to correctly reflect the English Regency period:

When Delicious Isn’t

Cathy G on Amazon.com also had nice things to say about Mary and the Captain. She began with:

This is hands down my favorite P&P sequel focused on Mary.

Of course, Cathy G gained my complete and worshipful attention with an opening line like that. She goes on to compliment the story, and then writes:

The only things [sic] I was a teensy-weensy disappointed in is the fact that, on occasion, Ms. Lawrence uses language that is a little out of Austen’s writing style (specifically the use of “delicious” in contexts unrelated to food/eating)

As soon as I read her comment, I could feel the heat in my face. I was embarrassed. I didn’t specifically recall using the word “delicious” in the book, but in my personal life, I do have a habit of saying things like:

Lady Susan is so deliciously evil.

or

His manners were so deliciously charming, I couldn’t help but say yes to whatever he suggested.

(Disclaimer: Those are just examples; I don’t really agree with a guy on everything just because he’s charming . . . although I’m clearly tempted to. I’ll work on that.)

When I reviewed my manuscript, I realized I had used the word “delicious” only twice (as in “the delicious feeling of his hand in hers” and “a long, delicious kiss”).

Still, it was two times too many if it meant Cathy G or any other reader was jarred out of the context of my story by the use of a word that was out of place in the Regency era. And if Cathy G noticed my misuse of the word, how many other readers noticed it, too?

Based on Chriss’ and Cathy G’s comments, I clearly have some things to work on as I write my next Jane Austen inspired book.

Therefore, I resolve that I:

  • Will not use the word “delicious” unless I use it in the context of food. (Easy. I can do this.)
  • Will not use Americanisms when I’m writing a story about an English family in the early nineteenth century. (This one is harder, so I went searching for some help.)

For assistance, I now keep a copy of Understanding British English on my desk top beside my dictionary and thesaurus.

And I subscribed to Tom’s YouTube Channel, “Eat Sleep Dream English.” Tom’s videos don’t specifically address how to write or speak the language of Regency England, but they’re pretty entertaining and they keep me mindful of how very different American English can be from British English. Here’s an example:

I’m grateful to Chriss and Cathy G and all the other readers who took the time to leave a review of my book. Their thoughtful and generous comments are very encouraging to me, and they give me plenty of inspiration as I write my next book.

They also taught me a lesson that I’m keeping in the forefront of my mind as I work to make my next JAFF novel better than ever and devoid of all traces of delicious lint.

GDPR E-I-E-I-O

You may have heard the term GDPR floating around social media in the last few weeks. You may have received several emails from different authors, asking you to re-subscribe to their mailing lists or blog updates so they will be compliant with GDPR. Those authors may even have sent you their updated privacy policies, asking you to read them.

You can thank GDPR for all of that.

GDPR is short-hand for the General Data Protection Regulation that went into effect on May 25, 2018 in the European Union. The regulation requires businesses of all kinds to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens. Non-compliance could result in hefty penalties.

I live in the United States and my website, NancyLawrenceRegency.com is domesticated in the USA. As such, it might be tempting to ignore the new GDPR requirements by saying they don’t apply to me or my website.

But that assumption would be wrong.

Readers in the European Union buy my books.

Readers in the EU visit my blog and leave comments.

Readers in the EU deserve my assurance that I value their privacy and intend to fully comply with the laws and regulations that ensure their safe online experience.

After I read the GDPR language and stopped to think about it, I realized the GDPR offers EU consumers the very same protections I would like to have for my own personal information.

So I now have a new “Privacy Policy” page on my website that complies with GDPR requirements.

The policy explains in every-day terms my policies for collecting personal information from visitors to my site. It also explains how that information is stored and used.

I hope you will take a few minutes to read the entire policy so you understand it and will always feel comfortable visiting my website.

To begin reading, just click here or on the tab marked “Privacy Policy” in the menu at the top of this page.

It’s Official!

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m now an author on the Austen Authors blog!

I’ve been reading the Austen Authors blog for years, and I’ve always enjoyed the Jane Austen inspired stories its members create. So you can imagine how “over the moon” I was when they asked me to join their roster!

My debut post appears today and you can read it here. I hope you’ll join me on the blog as we chat about royal weddings past and present. See you there!

 

 

A Much Anticipated Wedding

The final count-down has begun! In less than a week American Meghan Markle will marry Britain’s Prince Harry, and I plan to spend the day watching every possible moment of TV coverage from the comfort of my home.

Royal marriages don’t come along every day; neither do royal marriages involving a bride and groom who love each other.

The last major royal wedding was in 2011 when Catherine Middleton wed Prince William.

That may seem like a strange thing to say in our modern times, but even modern British Royals didn’t always marry for love.

When it comes to choosing a spouse, the British Royal Family has to adhere to the pesky rules contained in the Royal Marriage Act of 1772. Instituted by George III after he was angered by his own brother’s ill-judged marriage, the Act decreed that no member of the Royal Family could marry without the reigning monarch’s approval. Those who defied the law risked losing his or her place in the line of succession. The Act even criminalized officiating at or attending an unsanctioned royal wedding.

George III

It didn’t take long for the King George’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, to defy his father (out of habit, probably, as he defied his father in many other ways, as well). Just thirteen years after The Act became law, the Prince of Wales secretly married the object of his affection, Maria Fitzherbert, a twice-widowed Catholic.

George IV, when he was Prince of Wales

Not only did the Prince of Wales violate the Royal Marriage Act by marrying Mrs. Fitzherbert without his father’s permission, he also violated the Act of Settlement of 1701, which forbade Royal marriages to “papists.” Eventually, their marriage was ruled to be invalid and the Prince of Wales later married Caroline of Brunswick. Theirs was a loveless marriage that proved to be a disaster.

Maria Fitzherbert

History records only one other instance of a British monarch refusing to grant a family member’s petition to marry. It happened in 1946 when King George VI refused to grant a cousin, Prince George William of Hanover, permission to marry Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark. The couple married anyway.

Unofficially, Queen Elizabeth II had to withhold her permission in 1955 when her younger sister, Princess Margaret, wanted to marry divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend. After pressure from Parliament that included a threat to strip her of her income and royal privileges, Margaret ended her relationship with Captain Townsend, relieving the Queen of having to decide whether or not to approve their marriage. Princess Margaret married, instead, Anthony Snowdon; they divorced in 1978.

Captain Peter Townsend and Princess Margaret

Interestingly, in 1936, when King Edward VIII wanted to marry Wallis Simpson, the Royal Marriage Act didn’t apply to him. He was the reigning monarch, and had the ability to give himself permission to marry the twice-divorced Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson. Their love-match lasted 35 years, but it cost him the throne.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, formerly Edward VII and Wallis Warfield Simpson

In the generations since then, the Royal Family has taken great steps forward to keep up with the times. Although the rule is still in effect that prohibits Royals in line for the succession from marrying Catholics, The Royal Marriage Act was repealed in 2015.

That paved the way for this Saturday’s royal wedding, since Meghan Markle is a divorced woman.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

Queen Elizabeth has already issued an official Instrument of Consent, which formally declares her approval in writing of their marriage.

The Instrument of Consent, signed by Queen Elizabeth

So the scene is set, the paperwork has been filed, the dress and the cake have been ordered, and the guests have been invited. All that’s left is for Meghan Markle to walk down the aisle and exchange wedding vows with her prince.

I plan to watch every moment of television coverage, from sun up to sun down. I’ll also be sharing more about royal weddings on the Austen Authors blog on Saturday so please join me!

Rules of London

I love it when I find some unexpected bit of history while researching a totally unrelated topic. That’s what happened when I was researching famous places in Regency London, and stumbled across a reference to one of London’s most famous and historic spots.

I’m talking about Rules restaurant on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden.

Rules as it appears today.

First established in 1798 as an oyster bar, Rules is still in business and holds the distinction of being the city’s oldest surviving restaurant.

Thomas Rule, who founded the place, bragged in the early 1800s that his “porter, pies, and oysters” attracted the best “rakes, dandies and superior intelligence.”

A plaque outside the restaurant tells the story of Rules’ history.

For more than two centuries since then, the very best of British society have dined, gossiped, embibed, and entertained each other within Rules’ walls—from members of the Royal Family to movie stars Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Sir Laurence Olivier.

Literary giants Charles Dickens and HG Wells dined there, too. Rules has even been used as a set for Downton Abbey and the James Bond film, “Spectre.”

A scene from Downton Abbey, shot at Rules.

Perhaps Rules is most famously known as the place where Queen Victoria’s son and heir, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) wooed the beautiful Lillie Langtry.

Lillie Langtry.

The Prince frequently smuggled Mrs Langtry up a back staircase to a private room where they could dine alone, far away from prying eyes.

A cozy corner at Rules. I love the diamond-paned windows and rich wood tones of the mouldings.

Rules’ walls are covered with mementos and souvenirs from 200 years of historical events and famous customers.

One corner of the restaurant; its walls are adorned with photos, drawings, and caricatures of famous people.

It’s a beautifully decorated restaurant; and despite its present décor that leans heavily toward the Edwardian era, I can very well imagine a Regency gentleman partaking of oysters and porter at one of Rules’ tables. Who knows? Maybe some day, Rules may make an appearance in one of my Regency romances.

You can see more photos of Rules by clicking here.

No. 10 Downing Street’s American Connection

Look what I discovered while researching Whitehall . . .

The land on which Downing Street stands was once owned by Sir George Downing. He was raised in New England (his uncle was New York’s Governor Winthrop), and he was one of the first graduates of Harvard University (Class of 1642).

Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet, by Thomas Smith

By the 1660s Downing was back in England. He was knighted in 1663; and in the 1680s he began developing land he owned in Whitehall. He created Downing Street and constructed residences “for persons of good quality to inhabit.”

In 1732 King George II gave Sir Robert Walpole the house which is now 10 Downing Street, as a perquisite for the office he held of First Lord of the Treasury. Walpole made extensive renovations, then moved into the house in 1735.

Sir Robert Walpole, who accepted the King’s gift, on behalf of the Office of the First Lord of the Treasury.

This view of Downing Street in 1827 was produced by architect John Chessell Buckler.

Not every First Lord, or Prime Minister, lived at Downing Street, but William Pitt the Younger lived there longer than any other Prime Minister. He called Downing Street home from 1783 to 1801 and again from 1804 to 1806.

William Pitt the Younger

In the early 19th Century, No. 10 Downing Street was established as the official residence of the Prime Minister. Heads of government have been passing through, and having their photographs taken, in front of the residence’s iconic entry door ever since.

I’ve not been lucky enough to have my photo taken there, since security measures keep general pedestrians (like me) a good distance from the house itself (although I do have several photographs of iron gates and accommodating security personnel who let me take as many snaps as I wanted through the iron bars). Still, I enjoyed learning about the histoiry of the Prime Minister’s residence, and it’s early connection to America through it’s original owner.

Click here to read more about the fascinating life of Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet.

Click here to read more about the history of No. 10 Downing Street.

U.S. Taxes and the Bank of England

I’m thinking about money today, because I’m getting ready to file my income tax return for 2018 (the deadline for filing is tomorrow here in the U.S.).

The Bank of England on Threadneedle Street, London. A 1788 engraving by Daniel Havell.

As I bid farewell to an admittedly small amount of money that I have to pay with my return, I was reminded (by my “On This Date” calendar) that today is the birthday of Charles Montague, first Earl of Halifax and founder of the Bank of England. He was born on this day in 1661.

The Bank of England rotunda, when it was used as a stock exchange; from a 1792 etching by Thomas Rowlandson.

My small neighborhood bank (which temporarily holds the money I’ll be paying to the IRS) is all steel and glass. It simply doesn’t have the imposing presence the Bank of England had in Regency London.

Lothbury Court, one of the Bank of England’s interior courtyards, 1801.

The images in this post show how the Bank appeared in Jane Austen’s time, although Jane was never a customer of the Bank of England. Instead, she deposited her hard-earned money at Hoare’s Bank in Fleet Street.

The rear facade of the Bank of England, known as Tivoli Corner. In 1807 the wall niches contained figurative statues.

Whenever I decide to visit my money in person, I go to my local branch, where the first thing I see on entering is wide open area, containing neat rows of desks and a line of teller windows. By contrast, here’s the Bank of England’s Doric Vestibule, as it appeared in 1803.

Interior of the Doric Vestibule, 1803.

My poor little neighborhood bank simply cannot compete with the Bank of England. The Bank’s magnificent exterior, the Great Hall, the vast Rotunda—they were all designed by architect John Sloan to portray wealth and elegance. It was an imposing building, meant to inspire trust and awe.

The Northwest corner of the Bank of England, as it appeared in 1808.

I think Mr. Sloan accomplished his purpose. Here’s a bird’s-eye-view drawing of the Bank of England after it underwent an expansion in 1810, under Mr. Sloan’s direction. After the expansion, the Bank of England covered over three acres of prime London real estate. In the drawing you can see the various courts and interior buildings contained within the Bank’s impressive outer walls.

A bird’s-eye-view drawing, showing the interior courtyards and buildings after the 1810 expansion.

It would be a treat to tour the Bank of England as John Sloan designed it. Unfortunately, the magnificent Bank of England was remodeled in 1933 by architect Sir Herbert Baker. In the remodel process, much of the original building was demolished, which, according to architectural writer Nikolaus Pevsner, was “the greatest architectural crime in the City of London, of the twentieth century.”

Despite that, I’d still like to see the Bank of England, and I hope to do so one day. Whatever it looks like now, I have a feeling its design is more inspiring than the dreary but efficient steel and glass  design of my little neighborhood bank.