Search this blog

Friday, 6 May 2022

Morning calls in the Regency - a Regency History guide

Morning dress on a visit  La Belle Assemblée (Sept 1810)
Morning dress on a visit
 La Belle Assemblée (Sept 1810)
What was a morning call?

Morning calls were short visits of ceremony paid to your acquaintances. There were rules of etiquette surrounding these visits—when they should be made, how long and how often, and suitable topics of conversation.

What was the purpose of a morning call?

In her book, Domestic Duties or Instructions to young married ladies on the management of their households (1825), Mrs Parkes explained that these calls were necessary to maintain a wide circle of acquaintance:

When it is desirable to keep together a large circle of acquaintance, morning visits cannot very well be dispensed with. You must be aware that as time and circumstances seldom permit the frequent interchange of other visits, our acquaintance would become estranged from us, if our intercourse with them were not occasionally renewed by receiving and paying morning visits. A good economist of time will, of course, keep morning visits strictly for this purpose; and, not considering them as intended merely for amusement, will not make them more frequently than is necessary. By the occasional appropriation of a few hours many debts of this kind may be paid off at once.1

When did you make morning calls?

Contrary to what you might think, given their name, morning calls were usually made in the afternoon. This is somewhat confusing but arises from the fact that during the Regency, the morning referred to the whole period of time before dinner.

In The Pocket Book of Etiquette (1837), Freeling stated:

The most proper time to pay a morning visit, in the fashionable world, is between one and four o'clock.2

He went on to say:

A certain discretion as to the time of visiting is necessary; you would not therefore call on a person at three o'clock if you were aware that he dined or was specially occupied at that hour.3

Jane Austen wrote in a letter to her sister Cassandra in June 1808 of receiving morning calls from noon:

Early as it was—only 12 o’clock—we had scarcely taken off our bonnets before company came, Lady Knatchbull and her mother; and after them succeeded Mrs White, Mrs Hughes and her two children, Mr Moore, Harriot and Louisa, and John Bridges, with such short intervals between any, as to make it a matter of wonder to me, that Mrs Knight and I should ever had been ten minutes alone, or have had any leisure for comfortable talk.4

John Dashwood calls on Mrs Jennings by Hugh Thomson in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 1896 edition
John Dashwood calls on Mrs Jennings
by Hugh Thomson in Sense and Sensibility
by Jane Austen 1896 edition
‘At home’ or ‘not at home’

It was not always convenient or desirable to receive visitors.

In A System of Etiquette (1804), Trusler wrote:

It is the fashion in exalted life now among equals, never to be at home to a morning visitor; nor indeed to any visitor we are not in the habits of intimacy with; therefore to refuse admittance to a visitor, you are not disposed to receive, will not be considered as rude. At such times, your servant should be directed to say that you are not at home. This is in fact no lie, for the expression not at home, merely implies that you are not disposed to see company, and is understood in this sense. Of course if you meet with the same reply when you go to pay a visit, you are not to be offended; unless you had been particularly invited, and you go at the appointed time.5

In Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland misses the Tilneys calling for her to go on a walk because of Mr Thorpe’s duplicity. She calls on Miss Tilney to apologise:

She [Catherine] reached the house without any impediment, looked at the number, knocked at the door, and inquired for Miss Tilney. The man believed Miss Tilney to be at home, but was not quite certain. Would she be pleased to send up her name? She gave her card. In a few minutes the servant returned, and with a look which did not quite confirm his words, said he had been mistaken, for that Miss Tilney was walked out. Catherine, with a blush of mortification, left the house. She felt almost persuaded that Miss Tilney was at home, and too much offended to admit her; and as she retired down the street, could not withhold one glance at the drawing-room windows, in expectation of seeing her there, but no one appeared at them. At the bottom of the street, however, she looked back again, and then, not at a window, but issuing from the door, she saw Miss Tilney herself. She was followed by a gentleman, whom Catherine believed to be her father, and they turned up towards Edgar’s Buildings. Catherine, in deep mortification, proceeded on her way. She could almost be angry herself at such angry incivility; but she checked the resentful sensation; she remembered her own ignorance. She knew not how such an offence as hers might be classed by the laws of worldly politeness, to what a degree of unforgivingness it might with propriety lead, nor to what rigours of rudeness in return it might justly make her amenable.6

Miss Tilney was denied, but a deliberate lie was told rather than the more socially acceptable ‘not at home’.

In Jane Austen’s Emma, Emma Woodhouse calls on Miss Bates. Emma’s previous visit had been awkward, and so she gives the ladies the chance to be ‘not at home’ to visitors:

The fear of being still unwelcome, determined her, though assured of their being at home, to wait in the passage, and send up her name.—She heard Patty announcing it; but no such bustle succeeded as poor Miss Bates had before made so happily intelligible.—No; she heard nothing but the instant reply of, “Beg her to walk up.”7

Mrs Parkes wrote in Domestic Duties (1825):

The economy of time, so essential to the head of a family, will also prompt certain limitations as to the times of receiving morning visits. To have every morning liable to such interruptions, must be a great impediment in the way of more important avocations, and must occasion the useless dissipation of many an hour. Experience has found this out, or the custom of denial would not have become so prevalent.8

Sometimes ladies would establish which morning or mornings they were at home to visitors.

Emma Woodhouse calls on Miss Bates by Hugh Thomson in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 1896 edition
Emma Woodhouse calls on Miss Bates
by Hugh Thomson in Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen 1896 edition
How long should a morning call be?

The books of etiquette I have looked at suggest that the ‘proper’ length of a morning call was between 15 and 20 minutes.

Freeling’s advice to gentlemen in The Pocket Book of Etiquette (1837) was:

In paying visits of ceremony, do not leave your hat in the hall, take it with you into the room; and, except under particular circumstances, do not remain more than a quarter of an hour, or twenty minutes.9

Trusler agreed with limiting calls to 15 or 20 minutes. In A System of Etiquette (1804) he wrote:

On paying visits of ceremony, care should be taken not to make them too long, nor too frequent; a quarter of an hour, or twenty minutes, is sufficient time to exchange compliments, or run over the topics of the day; but if the visitors become congenial to each other, and intimacy succeeds, times and lengths of visits, need not be pointed out, they will direct themselves.10

In Persuasion, Anne Elliot wished to avoid her cousin, Mr Elliot. She was glad that she had promised to visit her friend Mrs Smith and would likely miss his morning call.

She [Anne] found, on reaching home, that she had, as she intended, escaped seeing Mr Elliot; that he had called and paid them a long morning visit.11

The length of Mr Elliot’s morning call indicates the level of intimacy he had with Sir Walter’s family, allowing him to exceed the recommended 20-minute limit.

Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam come to call on the ladies at the parsonage by Hugh Thomson in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 1896 edition
Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam come to call
on the ladies at the parsonage
by Hugh Thomson in Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen 1896 edition
Where should you receive visitors making morning calls?

According to Mrs Parkes:

Morning visitors are generally received in the drawing-room.12

She went on to say:

In the arrangement of the drawing-room for receiving morning visitors, the chairs should be placed so as to facilitate the colloquial intercourse of the strangers, without the necessity of a servant entering the room to place them; and this arrangement, whilst it is devoid of formality, should be done with some attention to good order. Ease, not carelessness, should predominate.13

What did people talk about during a morning call?

The simple answer seems to be nothing of any importance!

Trusler advised that conversation should be limited and kept short. As quoted above:

a quarter of an hour, or twenty minutes, is sufficient time to exchange compliments, or run over the topics of the day.14

In Domestic Duties (1825), Mrs Parkes’s advice was presented as conversations between a young married lady and an older lady. The young married woman in her conversations voices what must have been a common opinion of morning calls:

I have often thought that morning visits are very annoying, both to receive and to pay. They fritter away so much time, without affording any adequate return; unless, indeed, anything be gained by hearing the little nothings of the day enlarged upon, and perhaps of acquiring one's self the art of discussing them as if they were matters of deep importance.15

Mrs Parkes continued:

Morning visits should not be long. In this species of intercourse, the manners should be easy and cheerful, and the subjects of conversation such as may be easily terminated. The time proper for such visits is too short to admit of serious discussions and arguments.16

In The Ladies' Pocket Book of Etiquette (1840) Freeling advised against supplying your visitors with gossip:

Do not amuse your friends by the relation of your private affairs; recollect these can only be interesting to yourself; and although you may occasionally find a good listener who has discretion, you may depend that such affairs, if listened to with interest, will be repeated. All, however, will think your mind to be but ill stored, if you are obliged to resort to egotism for their entertainment.17

Fanny Price talks over the ball by Hugh Thomson in Mansfield Park by Jane Austen 1897 edition
Fanny Price talks over the ball
by Hugh Thomson in Mansfield Park
by Jane Austen 1897 edition
What could a lady do during a morning call?

Mrs Parkes wrote that doing light needlework during a morning visit was acceptable:

It is almost unnecessary to add, that the occupations of drawing, music and reading, should be suspended on the entrance of morning visitors. But if a lady be engaged with light needlework, and none other is appropriate in the drawing-room, it promotes ease, and is not inconsistent with good breeding to continue it during conversation; particularly if the visit be protracted or the visitors be gentlemen.18

In his Ladies Pocket Book of Etiquette, Freeling wrote that all occupations should be put aside, unless you knew the visitor well:

In receiving morning visitors, it is necessary to lay aside any employment in which you may be engaged, unless indeed the visitors happen to be persons with whom you are on the most familiar terms of intimacy. You cannot do two things at once; if you attempt it, you will negligently pursue your employment, or leave undone some of those graceful lightnesses, those elegant attentions, which prevent such visits from degenerating into sombre ceremonies.19

Should you see your guests out?

Mrs Parkes was of the opinion that it was not necessary to see your guests out:

It was formerly the custom to see visitors to the door on taking leave; but this is now discontinued. The lady of the house merely rises from her seat, shakes hands or courtesies, according as her intimacy is with the parties, and then ringing the bell to summon a servant to attend them, leaves them to find their way out of the house.20

In The Pocket Book of Etiquette for gentlemen, Freeling suggested that seeing a guest out gave them a special distinction:

When any visitor leaves the room, ring the bell for a servant to be in attendance and open the street door; but if you wish to shew any person particular attention, and are not occupied with other company, it would be a great mark of deference for you to attend him half way down the stairs, after having secured the attendance of your servant at the door; this would of course only be done in extreme cases, and when you had a special desire to shew your high esteem for your visitor.21

Morning dress  Ackermann's Repository (May 1816)
Morning dress
 Ackermann's Repository (May 1816)
Returning visits

Etiquette demanded that morning calls were returned. It was polite to return the call as soon as possible.

In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Bennet calls on Caroline Bingley in London. Miss Bingley slighted Jane by leaving it a fortnight before returning her visit:

Caroline did not return my visit till yesterday; and not a note, not a line, did I receive in the meantime. When she did come, it was very evident that she had no pleasure in it; she made a slight, formal apology, for not calling before, said not a word of wishing to see me again, and was in every respect so altered a creature, that when she went away I was perfectly resolved to continue the acquaintance no longer.22

Visiting new neighbours in the country

When a gentleman took a house in the country, it was customary for the neighbouring gentry to visit them. It was polite for the new gentleman to return the visit as soon as possible if he wished to pursue the acquaintance. If he did not wish for the acquaintance, he should still send his card.

In Pride and Prejudice, Mrs Bennet urges her husband to visit Mr Bingley when he first takes Netherfield. Mr Bennet teases his wife, saying he does not intend to go:

“But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him, if you do not.”

“I am sick of Mr Bingley,” cried his wife.
“I am sorry to hear that; but why did not you tell me so before? If I had known as much this morning, I certainly would not have called on him. It is very unlucky; but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.”23

Taking leave

It was customary to visit or send a calling card to take leave of your friends before going out of an area.

In Jane Austen’s Emma, Frank Churchill is called away from Highbury:

Mrs Weston added, “that he [Frank Churchill] could only allow himself time to hurry to Highbury, after breakfast, and take leave of the few friends there whom he could suppose to feel any interest in him; and that he might be expected at Hartfield very soon.”24

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian Regency era romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage me and help me to keep making my research freely available, please buy me a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.

 

Notes

  1. Parkes, Mrs William, Domestic Duties or Instructions to young married ladies on the management of their households (London, 1825).
  2. Freeling, Arthur, The Pocket Book of Etiquette (Liverpool, 1837).
  3. Ibid.
  4. Austen, Jane, Jane Austen's Letters, Collected and Edited by Le Faye, Deirdre (1995).
  5. Trusler, Rev Dr John, A System of Etiquette (1804).
  6. Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey (1817).
  7. Austen, Jane, Emma (1815).
  8. Parkes op cit.
  9. Freeling, Arthur, The Pocket Book of Etiquette (Liverpool, 1837).
  10. Trusler op cit.
  11. Austen, Jane, Persuasion (1817).
  12. Parkes op cit.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Trusler op cit.
  15. Parkes op cit.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Freeling, Arthur, The Ladies' Pocket Book of Etiquette (7th edition) (London, 1840).
  18. Parkes op cit.
  19. Freeling, Arthur, The Pocket Book of Etiquette (Liverpool, 1837).
  20. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (1813).
  21. Ibid.
  22. Austen, Jane, Emma (1815).
Sources used include:
Austen, Jane, Emma (1815, London)
Austen, Jane, Jane Austen's Letters, Collected and Edited by Le Faye, Deirdre (Oxford University Press, 1995)
Austen, Jane, Mansfield Park (1814, London)
Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey (1817, London)
Austen, Jane, Persuasion (1817, London)
Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (1813, London)
Austen, Jane, Sense and Sensibility (1811, London)
Freeling, Arthur, The Ladies' Pocket Book of Etiquette (7th edition) (London, 1840)
Freeling, Arthur, The Pocket Book of Etiquette (Liverpool, 1837)
Parkes, Mrs William, Domestic Duties or Instructions to young married ladies on the management of their households (London, 1825)
Trusler, Rev Dr John, A System of Etiquette (1804)

Thursday, 31 March 2022

When could a marriage be annulled in the Regency?

https://www.regencyhistory.net/2013/04/augustus-duke-of-sussex-1773-1843.html
The Wedding from The Dance of Death by T Rowlandson (1816)
Wellcome Collection used under Creative Commons Licence (CC BY 4.0)
I was recently asked whether non-consummation was the only reason a marriage could be annulled in the Regency era. It is a misunderstanding I have come across before.

A valid marriage could not be annulled just because it had not been consummated.

Impotency was grounds for annulment, but this was rarely claimed. Scroll down to the end of the post to see why.

In this post, I look at:
  • What an annulment was and how it differed from divorce.

  • When a marriage could be annulled.

What was an annulment?

An annulment of a marriage was, quite literally, reducing it to nothing. The marriage was declared invalid, and it was as if the marriage had never been.

The impact on the children of an annulled marriage was enormous. If a marriage was annulled, any children of that marriage were declared illegitimate.

It is really important to understand how this differs from divorce. If a titled couple divorced, the eldest son of that marriage was still the heir. If the marriage was annulled, the eldest son of that marriage would now be illegitimate and not able to inherit his father’s title and the estates that went with it.

When could a marriage be annulled?

A marriage could be annulled if it was void or voidable.

Void marriages

A marriage was void if it was against the law and it could be set aside.

A marriage was illegal if:
  1. It was a royal marriage undertaken without the King’s consent.

    When Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex, one of George III’s sons, married Lady Augusta Murray in 1793, he did so without the King’s permission which contravened the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. The King had the marriage set aside or annulled in August 1794.

    Prince Augustus, later Duke of Sussex from The Lady's Magazine (1792)
    Prince Augustus, later Duke of Sussex
    from The Lady's Magazine (1792)

  2. Either party was already married. Bigamy was against the law.

  3. It wasn’t performed in the manner prescribed in Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753.

What were the requirements of this Act?

The 1753 Marriage Act stated that all marriages had to take place after the reading of the banns (a formal announcement of a couple’s intention to marry) or by common licence with the following rules:

After banns

  • Banns had to be read for three Sundays before the wedding, in the parish church(es) where the bride and groom resided.

  • The marriage could only take place in one of the churches where the banns were read.

Record of marriage banns for two of my ancestors at Newington St Mary in 1855.
Record of marriage banns for two of my ancestors at
Newington St Mary in 1855. Both were minors and though
the banns were read, there must have been some difficulty as
the couple did not marry until 1856, after the
banns had been read again in St Mary Lambeth.

Or by common licence

  • The marriage could only take place in the church of the parish where either bride or groom had resided for at least four weeks, as stated on the licence.1

  • If either party was under 21 years of age and previously unmarried, they had to have parental consent for the marriage.

The marriage had to be witnessed by two people in addition to the minister and entered in the register.

The rules did not apply to:

  • Those marrying by special licence (although parental consent was still required if either party was underage)

  • Scotland

  • Jews or Quakers

  • The royal family

You can read more about Hardwicke’s 1753 Marriage Act here.

All marriages except those by special licence had to take place in the parish church of bride or groom. This is St Nicholas, Steventon, Hampshire, where Jane Austen's father was once rector.
All marriages except those by special licence had to take
place in the parish church of bride or groom.
This is St Nicholas, Steventon, Hampshire, where
Jane Austen's father was once rector.
The residency requirement

One interesting thing to note is that the Act specifically prevented a marriage from being overturned if it was later found that the residency requirement had not been met.

Parental consent

A parent or guardian could not overturn a marriage by banns of underage parties that had taken place without their consent. They could prevent the banns being read, but they could not later have the marriage annulled.

Marriage by licence was a different matter. If the person applying for the licence had lied about receiving parental consent, the marriage was technically void. But—and it’s a big but—would the non-consenting parent want to set the marriage aside?

I think this is probably where the misunderstanding about annulment and the non-consummation of the marriage comes in.

Prior to the 1823 Marriage Act, someone had to take out a bond for a large sum of money which would be forfeit if it was later proved that the person applying for the licence had been lying.2 I have learned that very few bonds were forfeited, which suggests that in most cases, parents who had not given their consent were forced to accept the marriage in an effort to avoid scandal.

If the spouse was particularly undesirable or there was a lot of money involved, the non-consenting parent might demand an annulment. But if the marriage had already been consummated, it was less likely, particularly if it was the bride who was underage, as she would be ruined.  

You can read more about marriage of minors in the Regency here. 

An illegal marriage

Marriages did get declared illegal. Actress Harriot Mellon married wealthy banker Thomas Coutts at St Pancras Church on 18 January 1815. His family was furious, and investigated the validity of the marriage. In March 1815 an entry in the marriage register declared the ceremony illegal. No reason was given, but perhaps the second witness was added later. The couple were forced to remarry at St Pancras on 12 April.

Harriot, Duchess of St Albans (née Mellon; previous name Coutts) from Memoirs of Harriot, Duchess of St Albans by Mrs Cornwell Baron-Wilson (1840) and Thomas Coutts from Life of Thomas Coutts by EH Coleridge (1920)
Harriot, Duchess of St Albans (née Mellon; previous name Coutts)
from Memoirs of Harriot, Duchess of St Albans
by Mrs Cornwell Baron-Wilson (1840) and Thomas Coutts
from Life of Thomas Coutts by EH Coleridge (1920)

Voidable marriages

There was another category of marriage that could be annulled. These marriages were not automatically void, but voidable.

The Church of England had a table of kindred and affinity that prohibited marriages between people who were closely related. The list included the prohibition to marry a spouse’s sibling.

You can read more about this in an earlier post of mine here.

It should be noted that marriage between cousins was—and still is in the UK—allowed.

These marriages were voidable, but valid if unchallenged during the lifetime of the parties ie once one party had died, the marriage could no longer be overturned.

Consenting parties

A marriage had to be between consenting parties and could be annulled if either party did not know what they were doing, because of age or insanity.

The marriage between John Wallop, 3rd Earl of Portsmouth, and his solicitor’s daughter, Mary Anne Hanson, took place in 1814. After a lengthy enquiry, it was established that the earl had been insane since 1809, and the marriage was annulled in 1828.

Could a marriage be annulled on the grounds of impotency?

Theoretically, a marriage could be annulled on the grounds of impotency, but this was extremely rare. A woman had to prove her virginity, and if a man later fathered a child, the annulment could be overturned.

The inability to consummate the marriage was, however, a valid reason for annulment if a woman were deceived into marrying another woman, or she discovered she had married a eunuch.

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian Regency era romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage me and help me to keep making my research freely available, please buy me a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.

Notes

  1. Some of the stipulations changed in the Marriage Act of 1823, which affected marriages after 1 November 1823. The residency requirement was reduced to 15 days.

  2. After 1 November 1823, either bride or groom had to appear in person to apply for a licence, and bonds were no longer required.

Sources used include:

An Act for amending the Laws respecting the Solemnization of Marriages in England (18th July 1823)
An Act for the better preventing of clandestine Marriages (1753)
Familysearch.org website
Foreman, Amanda, The Heartbreaking History of Divorce (Smithsonian Magazine, 2014)
Lambeth Palace Research guide

Saturday, 26 February 2022

How do you address a baronet or knight?

Sir Walter Elliot, Bt, walking with Colonel Wallis by H Thomson (1897) From Persuasion by Jane Austen (1897 edition)
Sir Walter Elliot, Bt, walking with 
Colonel Wallis by H Thomson (1897)
From Persuasion by Jane Austen (1897 edition)
Jane Austen rarely wrote about peers of the realm, but her books do contain a fair smattering of baronets and knights—the subject of this post.

In this post I answer the following questions:

Are baronets and knights peers?

Are the titles hereditary?

How do you address a baronet or a knight?

How do you address a baronet’s wife or a knight’s wife?

How do you address a baronet’s widow or a knight’s widow?

What is a baronetess?

Are all orders of knighthood the same?

I also highlight a mistake sometimes made by Regency romance authors.

Are baronets and knights peers?

No. Baronets and knights are titled gentlemen but not peers.

There are only five ranks in the English aristocracy: duke, marquess, earl, viscount and baron.

You can read about how to address peers here. 

Baronets and knights rank below this. They are not lords and could stand as Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.

Is baronet a hereditary title?

Yes. The title of baronet is hereditary, passing down the male line in the same way that aristocratic titles do.

Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet, and his wife in the library of their house, Nostell Priory (2014)
Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet, and his wife
in the library of their house, Nostell Priory (2014)
How do you address a baronet?

A baronet adopts the title Sir Christian-name Surname with the abbreviation Bt or Bart after it.

For example, in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Anne Elliot’s father is a baronet, and his full title is Sir Walter Elliot, Bt. He is always referred to as Sir Walter—never as Sir Elliot.1

How do you address a baronet’s wife?

The wife of a baronet is always referred to as Lady Surname unless she has a title of her own.

In Persuasion, Anne Elliot’s deceased mother is referred to as Lady Elliot.2

Similarly, in Mansfield Park, Sir Thomas Bertram’s wife is referred to as Lady Bertram.3

The exception to this rule is when a baronet’s wife has a title of her own.

For example, Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Baronet (c1688–1740) married Lady Catherine Seymour, a daughter of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. As her husband was not a peer, Lady Catherine was entitled to keep the title she held as the daughter of a duke and be called Lady Catherine Wyndham. 

You can read more about married daughters of peers here.

Nostell Priory (2014)
Nostell Priory (2014)
How do you address a baronet’s widow?

If a baronet dies, his widow retains the title she held as his wife unless and until the next baronet is married, in which case she becomes the Dowager Lady Surname, or Christian-name, Lady Surname, to distinguish her from the current baronet’s wife. If she has a title in her own right, she continues to use that.

If she remarries to a peer, she takes her new husband’s title.

If she remarries to a commoner, she loses her right to the title of Lady. But if she has her own title, she continues to use this eg as the daughter of an earl, she becomes Lady Christian-name New-husband’s-surname.

What is a baronetess?

A baronetess is either a woman holding the rank of baronet in her own right, or the wife or widow of a baronet.

It is extremely rare for women to hold the rank of baronet in their own right, and there were none during the Regency era. I have only been able to find a couple of contemporary uses of the term, one of which refers to Dame Mary Bolles, 1st Baronetess (1579–1662).4

Sir John Middleton and Mrs Jennings by H Thomson (1896) From Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1896 edition)
Sir John Middleton and Mrs Jennings
by H Thomson (1896)
From Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1896 edition)
Is knight a hereditary title?

No. There are different orders of knighthood, but unlike baronetcies, none of them are hereditary.

Are all knighthoods the same?

No. In the Regency, there were various orders of knighthood.5

In order of precedence they were:

Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

Knights of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath

Knights of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George

Knights Bachelor

Sir William presents Elizabeth Bennet to Mr Darcy as a desirable partner by C E Brock (1895) From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1895 edition)
Sir William Lucas presents Elizabeth Bennet
to Mr Darcy as a desirable partner
by C E Brock (1895) from Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen (1895 edition)
How do you address a knight?

A knight bachelor is the lowest class of knight, and the most common. It is the one we come across in the novels of Jane Austen.

As with a baronet, a knight adopts the title Sir Christian-name Surname, though without the word or abbreviation for baronet after it. Sometimes the name might be written with Knight or Knt after it in formal documents.

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas’s father was a knight and was called Sir William Lucas:

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.6

Similarly, in Sense and Sensibility, Mrs Dashwood had a relative, Sir John Middleton, who was “a gentleman of consequence and property in Devonshire.7

For the variations for the other classes of knights, see the end of this post.

How do you address a knight’s wife?

The rules are the same as for a baronet’s wife. She is always referred to as Lady Surname unless she has a title of her own.

In the two examples above, Sir William Lucas’s wife is always referred to as Lady Lucas, and Sir John Middleton’s wife as Lady Middleton.

How do you address a knight’s widow?

The widow of a knight may continue to use the designation Lady Surname unless she remarries.

In Persuasion, Anne Elliot’s friend, Lady Russell, is the widow of Sir Henry Russell, a knight.8

If she has a title in her own right, she continues to use that.

In Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy’s aunt is referred to as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr Collins writes:

I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh.9

As Mr Collins made a lot of Lady Catherine’s patronage, and Sir Lewis de Bourgh is not described as a baronet, I assume he was a knight. On her marriage, Lady Catherine retained the use of her title as the daughter of an earl.

Although it doesn’t say this directly in the book, we can deduce this because we know that one of Lady Catherine’s nephews, Colonel Fitzwilliam, is the younger son of an earl—Lady Catherine’s brother. He must have inherited this title from his father, making Lady Catherine the daughter of an earl.

On her husband’s death, Lady Catherine continued to use her title, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh by C E Brock (1895) From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1895 edition)
Lady Catherine de Bourgh by C E Brock (1895)
From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1895 edition)
Who ranks more highly, a baronet or a knight?

With the exception of Knights of the Order of the Garter, baronets rank higher than knights.

In Persuasion, Lady Russell is fully aware of this:

Lady Russell…had a cultivated mind, and was, generally speaking, rational and consistent; but she had prejudices on the side of ancestry; she had a value for rank and consequence, which blinded her a little to the faults of those who possessed them. Herself the widow of only a knight, she gave the dignity of a baronet all its due; and Sir Walter, independent of his claims as an old acquaintance, an attentive neighbour, an obliging landlord, the husband of her very dear friend, the father of Anne and her sisters, was, as being Sir Walter, in her apprehension, entitled to a great deal of compassion and consideration under his present difficulties.10

A word of warning to Regency romance authors

Titles are tricky, and it is easy to make mistakes, particularly when introducing your characters for the first time. It is tempting to give the wife of a baronet or knight as full a name as possible, with both title and Christian name.

The basic rule is don’t mix and match! If she’s got no title, she’s always Lady Surname. If she has the courtesy title of Lady from her father, she’s always Lady Christian-name Surname.

Let us take the example of Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park. She has no title of her own and so would always be referred to as Lady Bertram, never as Lady Maria Bertram. If you wanted to introduce her with her Christian name, you could say Maria, Lady Bertram.

Jane Austen’s introduction of Lady Bertram reads:

About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of a handsome house and large income.11

If Sir Thomas Bertram’s wife were titled eg as the daughter of an earl, it would be correct to call her Lady Maria Bertram, but then she would be referred to as Lady Maria all through the book and never Lady Bertram.

Lady Bertram by H Thomson (1897) From Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1897 edition)
Lady Bertram by H Thomson (1897)
From Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1897 edition)
The higher orders of knighthood

In addition to being called Sir Christian-name Surname if otherwise untitled, knights of the higher orders had letters after their names.

The Most Noble Order of the Garter

Knights of the Garter were members of royalty or peers, and were distinguished by the initials KG after their name eg Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, KG, made a Knight of the Garter in 1812.

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath

This originally had a single class of membership—the Knights Companion—signified by the letters KB after the name. It was reorganised by the Prince Regent on 2 January 1815 to increase the opportunity for honouring those who had served in the Peninsular War.

The Order of the Bath was divided into three classes, the first two of which were knights. All existing members of the Order were automatically transferred to the highest level of the new system, Knights Grand Cross:

Knights Grand Cross distinguished by the initials GCB after the name eg Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, GCB

Knights Commanders distinguished by the initials KCB after the name.

Companions – these are not knights but are distinguished by the letters CB after the name.

The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George

The Order of St Michael and St George was introduced by the Prince Regent in 1818.

As above, there are three classes, the first two of which are knights:

Knights Grand Cross distinguished by the initials GCMG after the name.

Knights Commanders distinguished by the initials KCMG after the name.

Companions – these are not knights, but are distinguished by the letters CMG after the name.

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian Regency era romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage me and help me to keep making my research freely available, please buy me a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.

Notes

  1. Austen, Jane, Persuasion (1817).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Austen, Jane, Mansfield Park (1814).
  4. Brydson, Thomas, A Summary View of Heraldry (1795).
  5. Scottish nobles could be made Knights of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, which ranked after the Order of the Garter. They were distinguished by the initials KT after their name. A further order of knights was the knights banneret, a military honour conferred by the sovereign. It ranked below the Order of the Garter but above baronets, but there seems to be some debate as to whether this order still existed in the Regency or not.
  6. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (1813).
  7. Austen, Jane, Sense and Sensibility (1811).
  8. Austen, Jane, Persuasion (1817).
  9. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (1813).
  10. Austen, Jane, Persuasion (1817).
  11. Austen, Jane, Mansfield Park (1814).

Sources used include:

Austen, Jane, Mansfield Park (1814)
Austen, Jane, Persuasion (1817)
Austen,Jane, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Austen,Jane, Sense and Sensibility (1811)
Black,Adam and Charles (publishers), Titles and forms of address - a guide to their correct use (9th edition)(1955)
Blackstone,Sir W, Commentaries on the Laws of England Vol 1 (1826)
Brydson,Thomas, A Summary View of Heraldry (1795)
Debrett,John, Debrett's Baronetage of England (1835)
Lamb,Charles, A book explaining the ranks and dignities of British Society (1809)

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Book review: Rescuing Lord Inglewood by Sally Britton

Cover of Rescuing Lord Inglewood by Sally Britton with background of greenery overlooking sea

Esther Fox has never felt she belonged. She always feels on the outside and other people are always making decisions for her. With her brother Isaac at war, she is forced to live in London with her step-brother. When her quick actions save the life of her brother’s best friend, Silas Riley, Lord Inglewood, in a somewhat compromising manner, the cold earl decides he must marry her to save her reputation. Esther has no say in the matter.

With such an unpromising start to their marriage, can a shared loss draw them together to find love? 

A moving story of loss, loyalty and love

Rescuing Lord Inglewood is the first book in the Inglewood series but not the first one I read. I picked up Engaging Sir Isaac (book 4) in a deal last year and ever since reading it, I’ve been looking forward to the rest of the series. I was not disappointed. It was a captivating and easy-to-read Regency romance with a reputation-saving-marriage theme.  

I loved reading Esther’s story. It is so true to the period – for women to be free to make so few decisions for themselves, and how trapped that must have made them feel. I really enjoyed the intensity of Esther’s emotions, how Silas gradually opens up, and the moving descriptions of experiencing loss.

The book opens in March 1814. I like to know when a story is set, so for me, this is always the best way to start. There were some nice historical details, such as references to events in the Napoleonic war and to Mrs Radcliffe’s novels, and only a couple of things I stopped to question.

Probably the best recommendation I can give this book is that as soon as I finished it, I started reading the next book in the series.

Quote from Rescuing Lord Inglewood by Sally Britton with book cover and background of greenery overlooking sea

Night-rails

I’m always interested in new words, and when I came across the word night-rail, I went scurrying to my etymological dictionary. That didn’t help, as there was no mention of the word, but I found an entry in Dr Johnson’s dictionary—spelt without the hyphen—meaning a light kind of nightdress.

Baronets and baronetesses

At one point, Esther refers to her mother as a baronetess—not a term I was particularly familiar with.  A little research showed me that it was a perfectly valid use as it can refer to the wife or widow of a baronet, as well as to a woman holding the rank of baronet in her own right.

A little quibble. At one point, Sir Isaac is referred to as a titled lord. Baronet is a hereditary title, but baronets are not peers.

Periods of mourning

Six months is quoted as the usual period of mourning for a sibling. There is plenty of information available about mourning in the Victorian period, but much less about mourning in the Regency. I have started to research this area, but so far have struggled to find any definitive list of periods of mourning in the Regency with satisfactory sources. I will keep searching!

Clean and sweet?

Clean language and low heat level. Some trauma from dealing with grief.  

 

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian Regency era romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage me and help me to keep making my research freely available, please buy me a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.

 

Find more of my reviews of clean/Christian Regency era romance here.