Peers v. Landed Gentry

Some authors aren’t familiar with the difference between “the Gentry” and actual Peers of the Realm.  Avoid confusing them; finicky readers will notice.

Here’s how Wikipedia explains it:

Darcy turns up his nose at Eliza BennetLanded gentry is a largely historical British social class consisting of land owners who could live entirely from rental income. It was distinct from, and socially “below”, the aristocracy or peerage, although in fact some of the landed gentry were as wealthy as some peers.

They often worked as administrators of their own lands, while others became public, political and armed forces figures. The decline of this privileged class largely stemmed from the 1870s agricultural depression.

The designation “landed gentry” originally referred exclusively to members of the upper class who were landlords and also commoners in the British sense, that is, they did not hold peerages, but usage became more fluid over time.

Similar or analogous social systems of landed gentry also sprang up in countries that maintained a colonial system; the term is employed in many British colonies such as the Colony of Virginia and some parts of India.

By the late 19th century, the term was also applied to peers such as the Duke of Westminster who lived on landed estates.

The book series Burke’s Landed Gentry recorded the members of this class. Successful burghers often used their accumulated wealth to buy country estates, with the aim of establishing themselves as landed gentry.

(The bold type is my emphasis.)

In Regency and Victorian England – and even today, in some social circles – peers may be held in far higher esteem. “Landed gentry” might be considered nouveau riche.  It varies with the context of your story.

Also, remember that snobbish attitudes are more likely observed among the “top of the trees” upper class and among servants and lower classes. (However, that’s a stereotype and not an absolute rule when creating your characters.)

Between those extremes, attitudes varied by background and personal priorities, even within a household. For example, in Pride & Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet was very vocal about income and holdings; Mr. Bennet seemed cheerful about accepting people based on their finer qualities.

Jane Austen’s Sardonic Wit

The following article muses about the wit and subtleties of Jane Austen’s writing, as shown in Austen’s own writings.

LR BurkardThere are times when I think Jane Austen and her character Lizzie Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) are more similar than one might at first think.

In letters to her sister Cassandra, Jane reveals instances of caustic observations and remarks (aimed at provoking a few gleeful snickers) which are reminiscent of Miss Bennet, and almost downright nasty.

Jane was not only a family wit, however, but subscribed to THE ” family wit”–the justification behind the tongue-in-cheek observations that we all so love in JA. This justification, I believe, found its expression in Mr. Bennet and Lizzie–but I get ahead of myself.

It is not surprising that Jane disliked some of her acquaintance– don’t we all? But the degree to which she is unsympathetic makes us wonder if it was just to garner a laugh, or if her antipathies ran even deeper-a surprising conjecture for one who showed such great depth of understanding of human frailty in her novels. Let me share a few of the little pokes she took at others, which, mean in nature or not, do make one laugh. Jane, ever the wit, is fabulously expressive.

“Lizzie Bond is just apprenticed to Miss Small, so we may hope to see her able to spoil gowns in a few years.”
JA 1 Dec, 1798 to Cassandra”Mrs. Hall, of Sherborne, was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, owing to a fright. I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.”

“I believe I never told you that Mrs. Coulthard and Anne, late of Manydown, are both dead, and both died in childbed. We have not regaled Mary with this news.” [Mary was Jane’s sister-in-law, who was expecting at the time. Not to tell her was a kindness, but the way she words it here is definitely a “poke.”]

Note that she doesn’t say, “sad news”, or “poor Mrs. Coulthard and Anne.” This is the real Jane, speaking unguardedly to her sister and making no effort to “sound nice” for anyone else. She would probably have told the news quite differently to other ears.

But this is the point: that within Jane’s family, one was quite expected to be a bit, well, cynical. Would the word, ‘jaded’ be going too far?


Jane wanted to amuse her sister in her letters, and no doubt Cassandra is shaking her head with us, a knowing smile on her lips as she reads, but there is a very real streak of unrepentant glee in JA’s treatment of some people.

Here’s another snippet:

“Charles Powlett gave a dance on Thursday, to the great disturbance of all his neighbours, of course, who, you know, take a most lively interest in the state of his finances, and live in hopes of his being soon ruined.”

In this case it is Mr. Powlett’s neighbors that Jane takes a stab at, but it must be noted that she does so with such sarcasm as to underscore her exaggeration.

She is having fun while she writes, and one can only imagine all the little such gems and observations the two sisters shared when together in society, that are not written down.

Many of Jane’s letters were destroyed after her death by well-meaning relatives, leaving us bereft of perhaps hundreds of juicy quotes that should have both appalled and delighted us. This is an unmitigated shame.

But here are more:

“I expect a very stupid Ball, there will be nobody worth dancing with, & nobody worth talking to but Catherine; for I believe Mrs. Lefroy will not be there; Lucy is to go…”

” I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

On another occasion Jane is writing some very welcome news regarding the future promotions of her and Cassandra’s two brothers who are serving in the Navy: She starts with: “I have got some pleasant news for you which I am eager to communicate,….” and then shares the news.

Her next sentence is just so, well–Jane. She says, ” There! I may now finish my letter and go and hang myself, for I am sure I can neither write nor do anything which will not appear insipid to you after this.”

It was important to her to be amusing, informative or entertaining, besides merely keeping in touch with her much-loved sibling.

The Austens were intelligent people, and goodness of character, though expected, was not emphasized to the point where it would discourage such delectably sassy thoughts. To some degree, this was a reflection of the times, as letter writing was considered an art, and wit a virtue.

But Jane is not trying to form the perfect letter; she is writing to her sister with whom she was intimate and honest.

Intimations of Eternal Wit
Intimations of the Austen’s familial influence of attitudes are seen in the Bennet family when Lizzie is in her father’s study, and Mr. Bennet is vastly amused by a letter which purports that Mr. Darcy is planning to offer for Elizabeth.

“Are you not amused?” he asks, expecting his daughter to join in his appreciation of what he believes to be ignorant misinformation.

Listen carefully to his next words: “Is that not what we live for?” he asks, completely in earnest. “To laugh at others and in our turn, be laughed at as well?”

Lizzie nods weakly in agreement–she has always agreed with this in the past–but she is not at all in the state of mind to either laugh or be laughed at, anymore.

This penchant for garnering a laugh at other’s expense is so ingrained that when Mr. Darcy visits Lizzie (after the scandal involving Lydia and Wickham is famous), she guesses that he has come “to triumph over her.” No other motivation seems possible to her, when in fact, Mr. Darcy is there to do anything but.

Back to our author. At the end of a letter to her sister which she has written on Christmas Day, 1798, Jane says, “You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve…. God bless you!”

And yet, Jane, we love you anyway.

Regency romance divider


Linore Rose Burkard is the author of what she describes as “Spirited Romance for the Jane Austen Soul,” as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, and Self-Improvement. She publishes a monthly eZine “Upon My Word!” which you can receive for FREE by signing up at her website [] quickly and easily. Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.

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Women’s Fashions of the 19th Century – Regency and Victorian Clothing Styles

Guest blogger Inez Calender

Women’s fashions of the 19th century can be divided into two basic categories – Regency and Victorian. The Regency era ushered in the century and is named after George Prince Regent of Britain who took over his father’s duties after George III fell into mental illness. The Victorian era refers to the time during the reign of Queen Victoria, crowned in 1837. The Victorian period of style lasted for the rest of the 19th century.

Women’s fashion of the Regency era is typified by the Empire style dress; a high waisted dress made of lightweight fabrics based on classical Greek design. By 1825, waistlines lowered toward the natural waist and bodices became stiff, losing the softness of the early part of the century. Women began to wear corsets, a tight fitting undergarment that lasted throughout the 1800’s. Toward the end of the Regency era of fashion, skirts took on an A-line or bell shape with ruffles, puffs, and padding at the hem in a look that is known as Romantic style, or Regency Romantic.

The advent of the tight fitting bodice and the accentuation of a tiny waist ushered in a new shift in skirts. Skirts took on a dome shape created by cartridge pleats so that the skirt stood out from the body. In the mid 1800’s, skirts widened, and were supported by petti-coats. Women took to wearing several layers of petticoats to attain greater volume. Crinoline were a form of petti-coat made of a stiff, heavy fabric. The crinoline cage created even more volume and characterized mid century Victorian fashion with the huge skirts pictured in films like “Gone With the Wind.”

Later in the century, skirts began to slim down. An over-skirt was added and drawn back create a puffed effect and draped down the back. This accentuation of the posterior was highlighted by a bustle. A bustle is a pad at the rear, supported by a waistband The exaggerated fashion trend increased in proportion until skirts took on a large, shelf-like appearance in 1880.

Toward the end of the 19th century, skirts slimmed down. Sleeves increased in size, ballooning at the top and tapering toward the wrists in what is called a leg-of-mutton sleeve. The corset fell out of favor, criticized as being unhealthy and unnatural to be replaced by the S bend corset, or health corset which created a new silhouette and new look for the Edwardian Age.

For more information on Regency fashions, read this article that includes lovely pictures –

For more information on Victorian fashion including pictures and fashion details read –

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Sense and Sensibility (In Regency Underclothes)

LR BurkardSome authors (not to mention book covers) would have you believe that to dress in Regency style was to be overly immodest or even exposed.

I beg to differ.

The favorite fabric for a Regency gown was undeniably light-weight, being muslin-a very thin, soft cotton. Yet the Regency lady was no more exposed than she wanted to be. An amusing scene from the 1996 BBC “Pride and Prejudice” (Starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) is when Lydia has rushed into the hallway wearing only a chemise. The strait-laced Mr. Collins is forced to pass her on his way to the staircase, I believe, and is clearly scandalized. The scene is quite funny, and Lydia herself cannot stop laughing. But what did he find so shocking?

Was it the amount of cleavage in plain sight? Hardly, for a perfectly respectable evening dress could reveal as much. It was more likely the idea of having seen a young lady in her “underclothing” which unsettled poor Mr. Collins.

Half a century earlier, such a sight would likely not have brought the slightest blush to even the most prudish, for during the 18th century, women were required to wear layers and layers of clothing consisting largely of underclothes.

Chemises, stockings, stays (corsets), hoops, panniers, and often many layers of petticoats. By the time of the Regency, costume had undergone a downright shocking reversal, ( beginning in France, which in turn was taking its ideas from classical Greek and Roman styles of antiquity), causing the heavy layers of underclothing to be discarded.

In France, women’s underclothing was in danger of becoming downright extinct–among the upper class, in particular. When this “Empire Style” crossed the channel into England, however, it became less risque, thanks to the more modest English, but the ideal of a long, straight dress, revealing the human figure beneath had still to be maintained. All those petticoats from the previous century, in short, had to go. Same for the long corsets, the hoops, the panniers.

What remained was a simple chemise, often accompanied by a short corset which served to raise and support the bust (precursor to the modern bra), which in turn might be accompanied by a petticoat. This is where personal taste came into play. The long, straight line of the figure was the fashionable ideal and no bulky under-garments could be allowed to get in the way, but ladies could, and did, wear underclothing and the petticoat never disappeared completely from the female wardrobe. The Regency is famous in caricature for the lack of female undergarments, but this propensity of exhibitionism was far less common than the cartoonists’ of the day would have you think.

Most women, like Jane Austen herself– wore sufficient undergarments, and, indeed, dressed quite modestly. The Empire day-dress used sundry manner of textile trickery to conceal the bust (such as, frills, lace, ruches and ruffs, and even light spencers) so that day garments were in particular extremely modest. The few who made do without the short corset and petticoat were probably given the most attention by newspapermen simply because they were, well, newspaperMEN!

Evening dress was more revealing, requiring a square, low bodice, but women were free to use shawls, scarves, feathers, veils and what-not (all of which came in an amazing array of sizes and styles, especially as the Regency wore on), so that they could easily appear more modestly if they so desired. Even to modern eyes, however, bodices from the day are revealing; but again this was mostly the case for evening wear, and more formal occasions. The scantily clad lady sitting in the library reading just wasn’t the way it went, no matter how romance novel designers choose to portray it!

Conclusion: There have always been people of poor taste, then no less than now. It was they who used the fashion “to an extreme”, who did not wear adequate underclothing, and who, unfortunately, represent the era to some minds. Even drawers were worn by women as early as 1804, (though admittedly not yet popular. They were taken from men’s clothing and considered coarse and crude). Princess Charlotte was discovered

to use them, however, which (despite shocking the older set), did much to popularize them with the masses, who adored her.

Given a choice between a diaphanous Regency gown complete with a chemise and corset, and today’s style of clothing for junior’s, I would wager (if I wagered, though I do not!) that the Regency style would be the more modest.

So there.

Regency divider


Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Regency Romance as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, and Self-Improvement.

She publishes a monthly eZine “Upon My Word!” which you can receive for FREE by signing up at her website [] quickly and easily. For her latest short story check Here

Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.

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English Names of the 1500s

The following article is about choosing RenFaire names, often meaning names from the 16th century and earlier.

However, many regency romances feature family names that are ancient (to England), or at least hereditary for many generations (suggesting respect for tradition, if not actual wealth).

So, the following article may be helpful.



There are not many easy sources for people wishing to choose a character name specifically for Elizabethan England. Here is an attempt to provide one. This article contains a list of solidly documented names from 16th century England, along with some insights into how names were chosen and used.


If you were born in Elizabethan England, you would be named by your parents when you were baptized. Usually this was just a few days after your birth. It was *not*, however, your parents who actually presented you at the church; it was your *godparents*: ideally, two women and a man if you were a girl, two men and a woman if you were a boy. It was very common for parents to try to get godparents who were higher in social status than themselves, such as local nobles or prominent people in town. Many parents also asked the baby’s grandparents, aunts or uncles to serve as godparents.

One reason the choice of godparents was important is that you would most likely be named after one of them. According to Scott Smith-Bannister’s recent study (see Sources section for references) about 75% to 85% of children were given the name of a godparent, in the cases where we know both the children’s and the godparents’ names.

His data also show that if you were not named for a godparent, you would probably be named after a parent or another close relative. You were especially likely to get the name of a particular godparent or relative if they had a lot of money or status. You and the person you were named after were referred to as “namesakes.” Thus, parents clearly did choose a child’s name with care, but usually only a few names were possible, or considered, for any one child.


Your first name, the one given to you at baptism, was your “Christian name” or “given name.” It remained the same all your life, though you might, of course, go by a nickname (Molly for Mary, Tom for Thomas).

An Elizabethan character would NOT use what we now call a “middle name,” which is essentially an extra given name (as in Katherine Anne Cox or John Francis Ferrer). Double given names were slowly spreading on the Continent, but the custom had not yet reached England, and in fact did not become really common in English-speaking countries until much later, as late as the 19th century in places. We know of literally only a couple of dozen cases in all of Elizabethan England (before 1600), and most of them are among the nobles or people who were born abroad, such as Jane Sybilla Grey, who was born in France during Queen Mary’s reign.


As for last names, the most common type was the kind we use now, a surname or family name inherited from your father; if he was Edward Langley, you would be Mary Langley.

Interestingly, your last name was not quite as fixed as your first name. For instance, occasionally a family name might change. (As with many naming customs, money or status was often involved.) The family of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was originally named Sutton; when they acquired the Dudley lands and title, most family members began using Dudley as their surname. The change was not quite complete in Robert’s generation, and he was sometimes referred to as “Robert Duddeley alias Sutton”.

You might also be better known, especially in your local village, by a “byname” than by an inherited surname. A baker named Jeremy Staple might be known as Jeremy Baker or Master Baker rather than Master Staple. In some cases this might be passed on to his children and become the new family surname. Or if there were several Jeremys in the area and one was especially tall, short, red-haired, disabled, etc., or came originally from elsewhere, he might be called Jeremy Little, Lame Jeremy, or Jeremy Bristol.


In the twentieth century we draw given names from an unusually large “name pool.” A name pool is a list or concept of what members of the culture feel are appropriate things to name people. For instance, we would probably accept that Alisha or Devin or Jothan or LaShalla are “names.” But while “moon” and “unit” are perfectly okay English words, Moon Unit Zappa doesn’t seem like a person’s name to us; these words are not in our name pool.

The Elizabethan pool of given names was MUCH smaller than ours. There were only about 30 to 40 common names in circulation for each gender, with perhaps another 100 or so that you would run across from time to time. According to Janell Lovelace’s statistics, eventy percent of all women were named Elizabeth, Joan, Margaret, Anne, Alice, Agnes, Mary, Jane or Katherine. More than one out of every four men was named John, and 70% of all men were named John, Thomas, William, Richard, or Robert.

The name pool for surnames was much larger. This booklet lists over 1,000 surnames and is by no means comprehensive. One reason is that while given names traditionally came mainly from a limited number of popular European saints, surnames come from a much greater variety of sources: place names (Nottingham, Boston), occupations (Chandler, Osteller), a father’s or ancestor’s given name (Philips, Johnson), or other bynames (Cristemas, Prowd, White).


People sometimes get the impression that Biblical and “virtue” names were common in England at this time, especially among Puritans. This is only partly true. Smith-Bannister’s study shows that a few names from the Bible, like Mary, John, Elizabeth and Thomas, were indeed common, and had been so for generations. And Charity and Grace do make it into his top 50 women’s names. But the more exotic names, like Bathsheba or Ezra, and most of the “virtue” names like Prudence or Reformation, were not much thought of until the 1630s and 1640s — two generations after Queen Elizabeth. And Smith-Bannister’s studies of individual counties show that even in the most heavily Puritan districts, only about one out of six children was given either of these types of names.


The list of the most common men’s given names in England stayed pretty nearly constant from the 1530s through 1700, especially the top four or five names, though the exact order changed a bit. It’s notable how dominant the top few names are; the top five names account for 70% of all men studied. The figures from Janell Lovelace are:

  • John 29%
  • Thomas 14%
  • William 14%
  • Richard 7%
  • Robert 6%
  • Henry 3%
  • Nicholas 3%
  • Edward 2%
  • Walter 2%

The top 50 men’s names listed by Scott Smith-Bannister for the 1560s and 1570s (a larger sample, with a more specific date ocus) follow this trend fairly well. Reading down from the first column, in order from most common to least, they are:

John Nicholas Leonard Samuel Arthur
Thomas Ralph Martin Allen David
William Christopher Simon Charles Fulke
Robert Anthony Peter Alexander Luke
Richard Matthew Philip Gregory Mathias
Henry Edmund Stephen Nathaniel Tobias
George Walter Lawrence Abraham Isaac
Edward Hugh Roger Barnaby Jerome
James Andrew Daniel Geoffrey Joseph
Francis Humphrey Michael Reynold Rowland

Some additional, slightly less popular names are:

Adam Bartholomew Gerard Lancelot Oswyn
Adrian Benedict Gilbert Mark Piers
Ambrose Bernard Giles Miles Solomon
Avery Cuthbert Julian Oliver Valentine


The top five to ten women’s given names are somewhat more variable from decade to decade, and not quite so dominant. It takes nine names rather than five to account for 70% of all women studied, and Elizabeth, the most common women’s name, is only about half as common as John is for men. The figures from Janell Lovelace are:

  • Elizabeth 15%
  • Joan 12%
  • Margaret 11%
  • Anne 9%
  • Alice 8%
  • Agnes 6%
  • Isabel 4%
  • Katherine 3%
  • Mary 3%
  • Jane 3%
  • Margery 2%

The top 50 women’s names listed by Scott Smith-Bannister for the 1560s and 1570s follow this trend fairly well. In approximate order from most common to least, they are:

Elizabeth Isabel Christian Barbara Julian
Joan Dorothy Edith Rachel Philippa
Margaret Margery Emma Charity Audrey
Agnes Susanna Lucy Mabel Helen
Alice Ellen Martha Millicent Janet
Anne Sarah Marion Rose Sybil
Mary Clemence Cecily Thomasin Ursula
Jane Frances Frideswide Fortune Avis
Catherine Joyce Grace Gillian Beatrice
Elinor Bridget Amy Judith Blanche

Some additional, slightly less common names are:

Ruth Constance Florence Maria Parnell
Wilmot Denise Josian Maud Rebecca
Christina Ellen Lettice Mildred Winifred


I have edited Janell Lovelace’s list of surnames with an eye towards Faire. Some of the spellings have been modernized so the names are recognizable, and so that it’s clear how to pronounce them, since names at Faire are more often spoken than written. I’ve removed duplicates, and a few names have been dropped because they have very strong associations with one or more famous people from Elizabeth’s reign — a theatrical decision, not a historical one. There are still over 1,000 to choose from:    (or you can skip this long table.)

Abell Charlis Fitton Lond Saynsbery
Abery Chase Gage London Scarclyf
Acworth Chatwyn Galey Long Scollfyld
Adams Chauncey Garard Longton Scot
Alard Chaundeler Gardyner Lovell Scrogs
Albyn Cheberell Gare Loveney Scrope
Aldebourne Chechester Garneys Loveryk Sedley
Alfraye Cheddar Garret Lowe Sedlow
Alikok Chelde Gascoigne Lowthe Seger
Alington Chelseye Gasper Lucy Selwyn
Alleine Chernocke Gavell Ludsthorp Sencler
Amcottes Chester Gaynesford Luke Sentjohn
Amondesham Chetwoode Geddyng Lumbarde Serche
Andrews Cheyne Geffray Lupton Sever
Annesley Child George Lyfelde Seymour
Ansty Chowne Gerard Lymsey Seyntaubyn
Archer Chudderle Gerville Lynde Seys
Ardalle Churmound Geste Lyon Sharman
Arderne Chylton Gibbs Lyrypine Shawe
Argentein Chyrche Gifford Lysle Sheffeld
Arnold Claimond Gilbert Lytcott Sheraton
Arthur Clarell Ginter Lyttleburye Sherbourne
Asger Clark Glenham Lytton Sherman
Ashenhurst Clavell Glennon Lyveryche Shevington
Ashtor Claybrook Glover Makepiece Shingleton
Askew Cleffort Goberd Malemayns Shipwash
Asplyn Clement Goddam Malster Shiveley
Assheby Clerk Godfrey Maltoun Shorditch
Assheton Clifton Golde Malyns Shosmyth
Astley Clitherow Golding Manfield Shotbolt
Atherton Clopton Goldwell Manston Shylton
Atkinson Clyfford Gomersall Mapilton Sibill
Atlee Cobbe Gomfrey Marcheford Silvester
Addicock Cobham Gonson Mareys Skipwith
Attilburgh Coblegh Good Markeley Sleford
Aubrey Cockayne Goodenouth Marsham Slyfield
Audeley Cod Goodere Marten Smith
Auldyngton Codington Goodluck Mason Snayth
Aumberden Coffyn Goodnestone Massyngberde Snell
Ayde Coggeshall Goodryke Maudit Snelling
Ayleward Colard Goodryngton Mauntell Sotton
Aylmer Colby Goodwyn Maycot Sparrow
Aynesworth Cole Goring Maydestone Spebynton
Ayshecombe Colkins Gorney Mayne Speir
Babham Colmer Gorste Maynwaring Spelman
Babyngton Colt Gosebourne Mede Spencer
Bacon Complyn Grafton Medeley Spetyll
Badby Compton Greenway Merden Spicer
Bailey Conquest Grene Mereworth Sprottle
Baker Cooke Grenefeld Merstun Sprunt
Balam Coorthopp Greville Merton Stace
Baldwin Copinger Grey Metcalf Stanbury
Ballard Corbett Grobbam Michelgrove Standon
Ballett Corby Grofhurst Millys Stanley
Bamard Cosworth Groston Milsent Stanwix
Barantyn Cossale Grove Moland Staple
Barber Cosyngton Grymbalde Molyngton Staunton
Bardolf Cotton Guildeforde Molyns Staverton
Baret Coulthurst Gyll Monde Stepney
Barfoot Courtenay Gysborne Montacute Stevyn
Barker Covert Gyttyns Montagu Stodeley
Barnes Cowill Hache Moore Stoke
Barre Cox Hackeman More Stokerton
Barrentyne Crane Haddock Morecote Stokes
Barstaple Cranford Haddon Morley Stokey
Bartelot Crawley Hadresham Mortymer Stokton
Barton Crekett Hakebourne Moryet Stocks
Basset Cressy Hale Morys Stone
Batherst Crispe Hall Motesfont Stoner
Battersby Cristemas Halley Mowfurth Stoughton
Battyl Crocker Halshan Mugge Strachleigh
Baynton Crugge Hambard Mullens Strader
Beauchamp Cryppys Hammer Muston Strangewayes
Beaumont Cuddon Hamond Myddilton Strelley
Beaurepaire Culpeper Hampden Myllet Strete
Bedell Cunnyngham Hancock Mylner Stubbe
Bedgbery Curson Hansart Narbrige Styles
Bedingfeld Curteys Harbird Nash Stylle
Beel Daelyngridge Harbotle Neceham Styward
Beer Dagworth Harcourt Nele Sulyard
Bekyngham Dale Hardy Nevinson Sumner
Bell Dalison Harewell Newdegate Swan
Bende Damsell Hargreve Newman Swetecok
Bennet Danet Harlakinden Noke Swetenham
Benthey Danvers Harleston Norbury Switte
Berdwell Darcy Harley Norden Symeon
Berecraft Darley Harpeden Norrys Symons
Beresford Daubernoun Harper North Tabard
Berkhead Daunce Harris Northwoode Tame
Bernard Daundelyon Harryses Norton Taylor
Bernewelt Dauntesay Harte Norwich Tedcastle
Berney Davers Harwood Norwood Theobauld
Berry Davy Hasard Notfelde Thomas
Berwyk Dawne Hatteclyff Notyngham Thornburgh
Best Day Haukesworth Nysell Thorne
Beton Deacons Hawkins Obson Thornton
Bettesthorne Delabere Hawtrey Oke Thorp
Bewforest Delamere Haye Oken Throkmorton
Bewley Dely Hayes Oliver Thursby
Bexley Demoke Hayton Olyngworthe Tibborde
Bigley Dencourt Helme Osborne Tilghman
Bilingford Dene Henshawe Osteler Tiploft
Bischoptree Denton Herleston Osyllbury Topsfield
Bishop Denys Heron Outlawe Torryngton
Bladwell Dericote Hertcombe Oxenbrigg Tothyll
Blakeley Dering Herwy Page Town
Blakewell Deryngton Hewes Pagge Tregonwell
Blaknall Desford Heydon Palmer Treningham
Blakwall Digby Heywood Panshawe Trenowyth
Blakwell Dixton Heyworth Papley Trevet
Blenerhayset Doddle Hicchecok Parker Trumpington
Blexham Dogmersfield Higate Parret Tubney
Blodwell Donnet Higden Parris Turner
Blome Doreward Hille Parsons Twarby
Blondell Dormer Hoare Paston Tweedye
Blount Dove Hobart Pattesley Tyndall
Blundell Dow Hobert Payne Tyrell
Boddinham Downer Hodgeson Peacok Ufford
Bohan Draper Holbrook Pecke Underhill
Boote Draw Holcot Peckham Unton
Boothe Drayton Holes Peele Upton
Borell Driland Holland Pekham Urswic
Borrow Dryden Holsey Peletoot Vass
Bosby Dunch Holt Peltie Vaughan
Bost Duncombe Holton Pemberton Vawdrey
Bostock Dunham Hopton Pen Veldon
Boston Duredent Horman Penhallick Verney
Boteler Dusteby Hornebolt Pennebrygg Vernon
Bothy Dye Hornley Perchehay Vinter
Bouldre Dygenys Horsey Perot Wade
Bourne Dyneley Horthall Perryvalle Wadham
Boville Dynham Horton Petham Wake
Bowcer Echyngham Hosteler Petley Waldegrave
Bowett Edgar Hotham Pettit Waldeley
Bownell Edgcomb Howard Pettwoode Walden
Bowthe Edgerley Huchenson Peyton Walford
Bowyar Edwards Huddleston Phelip Walkden
Bradbridge Egerton Hugeford Philips Walker
Bradshawe Eggerley Hunden Playters Wallace
Bradstane Eglisfelde Hungate Plessi Walley
Bradston Eldysley Hunston Plymmyswoode Walrond
Bramfield Elmebrigge Hurst Poffe Walsch
Brampton Elyot Hussey Pole Waltham
Branche Elys Hyde Polsted Walton
Branwhait Emerson Hyenson Polton Wanteley
Brassie Engeham Hylderley Porter Wappelode
Braunstone Engleford Hyll Portyngton Warbulton
Bray Englysche Inwood Potter Warde
Brayles Epworth Isley Poulet Wardeby
Brecknock Erewaker Jackmann Pownder Wardrieu
Bredham Ermyn Jackson Pratt Wardyworth
Brent Ertham James Pray Warner
Bret Esmund Janner Prelatte Warren
Brewse Estbury Jarman Prophete Wayte
Brewster Estney Jay Prowd Webb
Brewys Estone Jendring Purlles Weekes
Bridgeman Etton Jenney Pursglove Welbek
Briggs Everard Johnson Purvoche Welby
Brinckhurst Everdon Jordan Pygott Wellins
Brodeway Evrenden Joslyne Pylet Wenman
Brodnax Evyngar Joulon Pynnoke Wensley
Brokhill Eyer Jowchet Pynty West
Brocksby Eyston Kekilpenny Quintin Westbrook
Brome Fabyan Kellett Radley Westlake
Brook Faldo Kelly Rampston Weston
Brougham Fane Kemp Ramsey Wetherden
Broughton Faryndon Kent Ratcliff Wexcombe
Brouncker Faylare Keriell Rawlyn Whalley
Brownflet Fayneman Kesteven Rawson White
Brownyng Felbrigg Key Raynsford Whitewood
Browet Feld Kidwelly Rede Whowood
Brown Fenton Killigrew Redman Whytton
Brudenell Ferrer Kinge Reeve Whytyng
Bryan Feversham Knevynton Reynes Wightman
Bryn Ffrewyll Knighton Reynesford Wilkins
Brystowe Fienley Knody Richeman Willardsey
Bulkeley Finch Knoyll Rikhill Williams
Bulstrode Fitzgeffrey Knyvet Risley Willmer
Burgess Fitzherbert Kottow Roberts Willys
Burgh Fitzlewis Kydwelly Robertson Wilson
Burghehyll Fitzralph Kyllyngworth Robins Windham
Burgoyn Fitzwarym Kyrkeby Robynson Wingfield
Burlton Fitzwilliyam Kytson Rochester Wiseman
Burnell Fleet la Barre Rochforth Woodbrygge
Burton Fleming la Hale Roland Woode
Buryngton Fletewoode la Penne Rolleston Woodeward
Bushe Flexney Lacy Rondel Wolrond
Buslingthorpe Flower Laken Ront Wolstonton
Bushbury Fodde Lamber Roper Worsley
Butler Fogg Lambton Rotheley Wotton
Byfield Foliot Langeton Rous Wreke
Byllyng Foljambe Langham Rowdon Wrenne
Byngham Follywolle Langstone Rowe Wright
Byrde Folon Lappage Rowlatt Wulvedon
Byschoppeson Folsham Latham Rowley Wyard
Caley Forde Latton Rudhall Wyatt
Callthorp Fortescue Launceleyn Rufford Wyddowsoun
Campeden Fortey Lave Ruggenale Wyghtham
Canon Fowler Lawnder Ruggeweyn Wylcotes
Canteys Fox le Bone Rusche Wylde
Cantilupe Francey Leeche Russell Wylmot
Carbonall Frankeleyn Leeds Ryall Wymer
Cardiff Fraunces Lehenard Rykeworth Wyncall
Carew Freer Leigh Rynger Wynston
Carlyll Freville Leighlin Ryppringham Wynstryngham
Carter Frilende Leman Sacheverell Wynter
Cary Frilleck Lenton Sackville Wythinghall
Caseberde Frogenhall Lestrange Sadler Wyvil
Cassy Fromond Letterford Salford Yate
Castell Froste Leventhorpe Salle Yaxley
Castletown Frowseloure Leverer Salter Yden
Catesby Frye Leveson Saltonstall Yelverton
Cavell Fryth Lewys Sampson Yerde
Caxaton Fulburne Leynham Samuell York
Cely Fulmer Leynthall Sanburne Yornold
Chamburleyn Funteyn Lichefield Sandes Young
Champneys Furnace Livesey Saunders
Chanceler Fynderne Lloyd Saunterton
Chancey Fyneux Lockton Savill
Chapman Fysher Lodyngton Sayer


Note that if you are from Wales, Scotland, or Ireland, the name pools you draw from may be quite different, along with the common methods of forming names. A few notes may help.

Wales had its own distinctive naming practices and a largely separate name pool. The usual form of surname was a patronymic (derived from your father’s given name). For a man, this is: [given name] ap [your father’s given name] (such as Owein ap Griffith). For women, [given name] verch [your father’s given name] (Myfanwy verch Eynon). There were also some areas of Wales that had been under English law for 100 years or more, where English names and name patterns were more common (such as Owen Tudor, King Henry VIII’s grandfather — an English-pattern name using Welsh components).

Scotland is actually divided into two rather different cultural areas. In the lowland and urban parts of Scotland, your naming practices and name pool would be very similar to the English (though with some regional differences). The common language spoken in these parts of Scotland was Scots, a version of English (or a language close to English) and not Gaelic. In fact, the Scots-speaking culture has in some ways more affinities (dress, customs, etc.) with English culture of the time than with the Gaelic culture in the Highlands.

In the Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlands, the type of “clans” we usually think of, with fixed, inherited surnames, didn’t appear until long after our period, in fact not till about the 18th century. During the reign of Elizabeth in England, by far the commonest form of surname in Gaelic-speaking areas is a patronymic. For a man, this produces a name like: [given name] mac [possessive form of your father’s given name], such as Eoin mac Donnchaidh. For a woman, [given name] inghean [possessive form of your father’s given name] (Dearbhorgaill inghean Dhomhnaill). Patronymics account for the overwhelming majority of the period Gaelic surnames we know or can guess at (though unfortunately, very few Gaelic names are recorded in Gaelic in Scotland).

In Ireland, also a Gaelic-speaking country, these same patronymics were used as well, and were formed in basically the same way.

However in Ireland there was also another common alternative: the clan byname. The pattern for clan bynames for men is [given name] ó [clan ancestor’s given name] (Conmhaol ó Conchobhair). For women, [given name] inghean uí [clan ancestor’s given name] (Siobhán inghean uí Mháille). The clan ancestor referred to would be the man, usually several generations back, after whom the clan was named.

NOTE that both Irish and Scottish Gaelic have a complex grammar that has major effects on how names are pronounced and spelled. Dictionaries and name books are generally not very helpful with this. It’s a very good idea to consult someone knowledgeable about the languages (and about historic naming practices in these languages), in order to get a Welsh, Scottish or Irish name right.


Consider the pattern of names you would expect to find in your Elizabethan village. You would probably meet many Margarets, a few Dorothys, perhaps one Maud, and probably no one named Tamara or Chastity. As twentieth-century humans, we have a natural tendency to pick a name that is “different” in order to emphasize our individuality. But Elizabethans seem instead to have chosen names that were common in their families and communities, apparently as a way of expressing their family and community ties.

This is a very different mind-set and it is worth trying to understand it. It can also be a source of some good theatrical “bits” — Who were your godparents? Who are you named after? How many Catherines are in your guild, and how do you tell them apart? (Here’s where bynames come in handy.)

Also, before you get too attached to one particular name, try your chosen first and last names on several of your friends to see how you like them, whether they’re easy to say, and whether there are any obvious bad jokes on your name that you won’t want to live with. (For instance, William Bates might not like being addressed as Master Bates!)


The names and information in this article come from several very good statistical studies of Elizabethan names.

A good (though rather dry) recent study of given names is Names and Naming Patterns in England 1538-1700, by Scott Smith-Bannister (Oxford Historical Monographs, Clarendon Press, 1997, ISBN 0-19-820663-1).

Name lists that are not from Smith-Bannister are originally from the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology’s index to its brass rubbings collection at Oxford University. The compilation I’ve used is by Janell K. Lovelace and is available on the World Wide Web at <>.

A similar study by Brian M. Scott, titled “Late Sixteenth Century English Given Names,” is available at <>.

The Academy of S. Gabriel at <> is an excellent name resource, although Elizabethan England falls at the end of their time period. Their focus is on the best possible historical accuracy. The Academy also offers a consulting service if you have in-depth questions about a historically accurate name (they will help you with Welsh or Gaelic names, for instance), although due to their small and completely volunteer staff, a response may take several weeks.

For Scottish and Irish names, before you do anything else please read “Scottish Names 101” and “Quick and Easy Gaelic Bynames”, both by Sharon Krossa, and available at <> or through links from the S. Gabriel Website.

For Welsh names, Heather Rose Jones has written “A Simple guide to Constructing 16th Century Welsh Names in English Contexts,” also available through the S. Gabriel Website.

All these authors can be contacted through S. Gabriel if you have questions about names in their specific languages and cultures. I am also greatly indebted to them for helping me with this project, although any mistakes are, of course, my own.

I’m also available to field questions about Faire names in general. My focus, like St. Gabriel’s, is on historical accuracy. I can be contacted at <[email protected]>.


It doesn’t have much to say about naming as such, but for a detailed and fascinating discussion of Elizabethan birth, baptism, and godparents, I recommend David Cressy’s Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England. (Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-19-820168-0)

If you are interested in a possible name that is not in this article, probably the best and most easily accessible standard name references that cover this period are the following. Most large libraries are likely to have them.

Withycombe, E.G., The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press.

Reaney & Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames, Oxford University Press, 1995. Or the earlier edition: Reaney, P.H., A Dictionary of British Surnames, 2nd ed., Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976. This will also tell you correct 16th-century spellings for names in this article’s surname list, some of which are given in their 14th- or 15th-century forms.

Ekwall, Eilert. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1989. A good source for anyone who wants an English surname taken from a place-name.


Copyright 1999 by Chris Laning. Unlimited reproduction of this article in print or electronic media for nonprofit educational purposes is permitted, provided it is reproduced in full including this copyright notice, and no money is charged beyond the cost of copying. All other rights reserved.


O Chris Laning
| <[email protected]>
+ “Mistress Christian Ashley,” Guild of St. George,

Regency Romances – Why Now?

Why are Regency romances gaining in popularity? There may be many answers.

Regency romances seem to trend every 30 or so years. In the past, they peaked in the mid-1950s and mid-1980s. We’re due for another surge.

Regency Romances - Why Now?In general, historical romances have gained recent interest thanks to the popularity of shows such as Downton Abbey.

And, as Chip MacGregor reminded us, “In a lousy economy, people want a book that’s an escape to a simpler time, so historicals were doing well.”

Currently, whether we look at some areas of the economy, or the political scene, or even recent weather patterns, we see reasons people may want to escape to a happier time.

Most Regency romances are set in a world where economic woes may be resolved by an advantageous marriage… always for love, of course.

Social rules in Regency romances tend to emphasize politeness to an extreme.

Will the current trend last? As a surge of interest, probably not. One need only skim the 2008 Popular Fiction Report to see how quickly popularity can shift.

However, a casual survey of popular romance subgenres will show a steady, loyal readership for Regency romances.

I doubt that it will ever dip as low as 1000 True Fans, but the audience is there.


Regency Titles and Inheritance

If you’re writing regency romance, you absolutely must get titles right. Not just what his or her title is, but how the person is addressed. Regency historians and purists will dismiss your book – sometimes viciously – if you get this wrong.

Among my favorite articles on this topic are:

Common Regency Errors, by Allison Lane (That’s a Wayback Machine link. I recommend copying the information for your personal use, in case that page ever disappears.)

Ms. Lane’s information has been summarized very nicely at A Primer on Regency Peerage and Precedence, by Kristen Koster.

This is a good “cheat sheet” when you need the right title in a hurry: Regency Manor – Terms of Address.

I also like Addressing the Duke and Getting His Loot, a guide to English titles, forms of address and inheritance laws during the Regency period, Presented by Emily Hendrickson and Al Lansdowne at the Beau Monde Conference “A Regency Mill” July 28, 1999.

However, one of my favorite articles on the topic is by the late Jo Beverley. And, since I’m not sure what will happen with her website – and she did give permission to copy this article – here it is:


by Jo Beverley
Member of the RWA Hall of Fame for Regency Romance.
“Arguably today’s most skilful writer of intelligent historical romance.” Publishers Weekly

This brief run-down of English titles is for use by fiction writers. It is by no means comprehensive, but covers the more common situations arising in novels set in the above periods.

At the end I address the question of choosing fictional titles.

The English peerage basically runs according to primogeniture, ie the eldest son gets nearly everything. If a peer has no eldest son, the title and possessions that belong to it go to the next male heir, probably a brother or nephew.

There are a very few titles that can pass to a female if there is no direct heir, but they will revert to the male line when the lady bears a son. (Such as the monarchy.) Some titles can automatically pass through a female heir (when there is no male heir) and most can be revived by subsequent generations by petitioning to the Crown. But that’s getting into more complicated areas. If your plot depends on something unusual, please do research it thoroughly before going ahead.

The eldest son is called the heir apparent, since he is clearly the heir. If there is no such son, the next in line is called the heir presumptive since, no matter how unlikely (the duke is actually an ancient Benedictine Monk on his death bed) the possibility of a closer heir being created is still there. Thus an heir presumptive does not hold an heir’s title, if any. (See below about heir’s titles.)

If a peer dies leaving a wife but no son, the heir inherits unless the widow says she might be with child. It is for her to do that. If she stays silent, it is assumed that she is not. If she’s pregnant, everything waits until the child is born.

An heir must be legitimate at birth to inherit a title, though that could mean a marriage ceremony performed while the mother is in labor. A peer may raise bastards with devotion and/or marry the mother later, but a bastard child can never be his legal heir.

Peers automatically had seats in the House of Lords. Note, however, that courtesy titles (those held by heirs) do not give seats, or any of the other privileges of the peerage.

Most peers do not use their surnames as their title. Thus, the usual pattern would be something like Sebastian Burgoyne, Earl of Malzard. He is Lord Malzard never Lord Burgoyne. (Or, for that matter, Lord Sebastian.) As an author, you might like variety, but take as a general rule is that no one ever had two forms of address.


 A) Leaving aside royalty, the highest rank is DUKE.

His wife is the DUCHESS. They will be duke and duchess of something, eg. Duke and Duchess of Ithorne. Address is “your grace”, though familiars may address them as Duke and Duchess eg “Fine weather for shooting, eh, Duke?” or may address the duke by title. “Care for more port, Ithorne?”

NOTE that the duke will also have a family name, ie. surname (such as Cavendish) but will not use it in the normal course of events. The duchess does not use the surname at all. If Anne Pitt marries the Duke of Stone (whose family name is Cherry), she will be Duchess of Stone and will informally sign herself Anne Stone, not Anne Cherry.

The duke’s eldest son is his heir and will have his father’s second-best title as his courtesy title. Nearly all peers have a number of titles marking their climb up the ranks. The heir to a duke is often the next lowest ranking peer, a marquess (or marquis — spelling is optional, but both are pronounced markwess.) The title could, however, be an earldom, or even a viscountcy.

Remember, a courtesy title does not give the holder a seat in the House of Lords or other privileges of the peerage.

If the heir has a son before the heir becomes duke, that son will take the next lowest title as a courtesy title. If the heir dies before his father, his eldest son becomes the heir apparent and takes his father’s title.

Apart from the heir, a duke’s sons are given the courtesy title Lord with their Christian name, eg. Lord Richard Somerset. Lord Peter Wimsey. They are never Lord Somerset or Lord Wimsey.

All duke’s daughters are given the courtesy title Lady, first name, surname eg. Lady Mary Clarendon. (Never Lady Clarendon.) If they marry a commoner, they retain the title. If Lady Mary marries Mr. Sticklethwait, she becomes Lady Mary Sticklethwait. If she marries a peer, she adopts his title. If Lady Mary marries the Earl of Herrick, she becomes Countess of Herrick, ie. Lady Herrick. If she marries the holder of a courtesy title, then she may use his title or her birth title as she wishes.

I’m hammering this home, but it’s the most common error in novels. In all cases, the titles Lord or Lady “first name” “surname” (eg Lady Anne Middleton) and Lord or Lady “last name” or “title” (Lady Middleton) are exclusive. No one can be both at the same time. Moreover, Lord or Lady “first name” is a title conferred at birth. It cannot be gained later in life except when the father accedes to a title and thus raises his family.

So, Lady Mary Smith is not Lady Smith and vice versa.
Lord John Brown in not Lord Brown and vice versa.
If Mary Smith marries Lord Brown she becomes Lady Brown, not Lady Mary.
(If she marries Lord John Brown, she becomes Lady John Brown. Yes, it may sound odd to modern ears, but the past is, as they say, a different country. That’s the charm of historical fiction.)

B) Next in rank is a MARQUESS (As above, it can be spelled marquis or marquess, but in either case is pronounced markwess.)

He will be Marquess of something, eg Marquess of Rothgar. His wife is the MARCHIONESS. (Pronounced “marshuness”.) He is the Marquess of Rothgar, or Lord Rothgar, or Rothgar to his familiars, and his wife is the Marchioness of Rothgar or Lady Rothgar. She will sign herself “firstname” “title” eg. Diana Rothgar.

His heir apparent takes his next highest title as a courtesy title. All other sons have the title Lord “firstname” “surname”. All daughters have the title Lady “firstname” “surname”. Details are as for duke.

C) Below marquess is EARL.

He will nearly always be earl of something. His wife is the COUNTESS. He is referred to as “the Earl of Saxonhurst” or “Lord Saxonhurst”, or “Saxonhurst” to his familiars. Some earls do not use “of” as with Earl Spencer, b and in that case the family surname will be the same as the title — in this case, Spencer — but this is sufficiently unusual that I think it should be avoided in fiction unless it’s a crucial plot point.

His wife is the Countess of Saxonhurst, or Lady Saxonhurst, and she will sign herself Minerva (or Meg — viz Forbidden Magic — Saxonhurst.

As with a duke, the earl’s heir will take the next lowest title as a courtesy title, and the heir’s son, the next again.

All daughters of an earl are given the courtesy title Lady “firstname”; — see dukes. All details are the same. Younger sons of an earl, however, are merely “the honorable” which is not used in casual speech.

D) Next is a VISCOUNT (pronounced vycount.)

His wife is a VISCOUNTESS. He is not “of”. He will be, for example, Viscount Middlethorpe, usually known as Lord Middlethorpe, or just Middlethorpe. His wife will be known as Lady Middlethorpe and will sign herself Serena Middlethorpe.

His heir has no special title. All children are known as the honorable.

E) The lowest rank in the peerage is BARON.

His wife is a BARONESS. NOTE that the terms baron and baroness are only used in England in the most formal documents, or when the distinction has to be made elsewhere. General usage is simply to call them Lord and Lady. She will sign herself “firstname” “title”. Children as for viscount.

F) Next in rank — and not of the peerage — is BARONET.

A baronet is called Sir, first name, surname. eg. Sir Richard Wellesley. His wife is called Lady “surname”; eg. Lady Wellesley. NOT Lady Mary Wellesley unless she is the daughter of a duke, marquess, or earl. She will sign herself “firstname” “surname” such as Mary Wellesley.

His children have no special distinction. The title, however, is inheritable which distinguishes it from….

G) A KNIGHT who is the same as a baronet in usage, but is a title for life only. His wife will be Lady “surname.”



When a titled lady is widowed she becomes a dowager, but the practice has generally been not to use that title until the heir takes a wife, when there could be confusion as to who is the real Lady Middlethorpe. (As happens in my novel, Forbidden.)

Even if she has a daughter-in-law, in general usage she would still be referred to by the simple title unless there was likely to be confusion. So, if the Dowager Duchess of Teale was at a house party while her daughter-in-law was in London, people would not be constantly referring to her as the dowager duchess.


There are a few, very few, titles that can pass to a daughter if there is no son — the Royal Family, for example. In this case, the usage is the same as if they were the wife of a peer of that rank, but their husband gains no title from the marriage, just as the Duke of Edinburgh is not king.

A Peeress in her Own Right retains her title after marriage, and if her husband’s rank is the superior one, she is designated by the two titles jointly, the inferior one last. Or she can say what form she wants to use. (eg The marchioness of Rothgar is also the Countess of Arradale by right. She chooses to be Lady Rothgar and Arradale in the most formal situations, Lady Rothgar in general, but Lady Arradale in private, especially when attending to her duties as Countess of Arradale. Unusual situations do tend to get complicated.) Her hereditary claim to her title holds good in spite of any marriage, and will be passed on.

Since the husband gains no title from such a marriage, it’s possible to have the Countess of Arbuthnot married to Mr. Smith.

Her eldest son will be her heir and take her next lowest title. If she has no son, her eldest daughter will be her heir, but until she becomes the peer she will hold only the title that comes from her birth — eg. Lady Anne — if any, because an eldest daughter is always an heir presumptive. There might still be a boy.


  1. Interchanging courtesy titles like Lady Mary Smith and Lady Smith.
  2. Interchanging peerage titles, as when Michael Downs, Earl of Rosebury is variously known as Lord Rosebury, Lord Downs, and Lord Michael Downs.
  3. Applying titles that don’t belong, as when Jane Potts marries Viscount Twistleton and erroneously becomes Lady Jane, a title form that can only come by birth.
  4. Having the widow of just about anyone, but especially a peer, remarry before time has elapsed to be sure she is not bearing a child. Or rather, whose child it is that she bears!
  5. Having the heir presumptive assume the title and powers before the widow has made it clear that she’s not going to produce an heir.
  6. Having an adopted son inherit a title. Legal adoption was not possible in England until the twentieth century, and even now an adopted son cannot inherit a title. Even if the son is clearly the father’s offspring, if he wasn’t born after a legal marriage, he cannot inherit the father’s title. However, since they didn’t have DNA testing, a child was assumed to be legitimate unless the father denied it from the first. Even if the son turns out to look suspiciously like the vicar, the father cannot deny him later. This, I assume was to avoid the chaos of peers coming up with all sorts of excuses to switch heirs on a whim.
  7. Having a title left in a will, which follows from the above. A title cannot be willed to whomever the peer in question chooses. It goes according to the original letters patent, which almost always say that it will go to the oldest legitimate male in direct descent. The property can be left elsewhere, unless it is entailed, but the title goes by legitimate blood.
  8. Having an heiress (ie a daughter without brothers) inherit a title and convey it to her husband. It could be done — anything could — by special decree of the Crown, but it was not at all normal.

The question was asked: When writing historical fiction, does one create a title for a character, or do you have to research a title and just use a disclaimer?

Answer: always make it up. When you’ve come up with a title you like, do an internet search to see if it exists. Also check The Peerage and do a search in Googlebooks advanced search. You can choose date of publication, so you could do a broad search there for the Earl of Glaringdangerously published between 1800 and 1830 and see if any reference turns up.

You don’t want to give your fictional character a title that was in use at the time. The main reason is that it’s uncouth to appropriate someone’s identity. In addition, some, perhaps many, readers will be aware of the real peer which will destroy the fictional reality you’re trying to create. Bear in mind that most peers were simple Lord xxxxxx, so you can’t have an Earl of Smilingcharmingly when there was a Viscount Smilingcharmingly. If the title was in use in any way, don’t use it.

Your internet search should pull up any other uses of the title, and life peerages mean there are lots today. They weren’t around a hundred years ago, but it’s still not couth to use their title in a fictional work set in the past. Most take their surnames as title, but that can cover a lot of ground. There’s a Lord Sugar and a Lord Adonis, both men who’ve made their way in life from a simple start.

If you really like your title but it exists or existed, it may be possible to alter it and retain the quality that appeals to you. You may fancy Lord Amesbury, but he existed. You could have Lord Aymesbury or Lord Embury.

A good place to hunt for titles is on large scale maps that show the names of villages. Often remainder houses sell last year’s large scale UK road atlases for under $10, or you can simply use googlemaps and zoom in. Same thing for surnames. Place names are often specific for certain areas of Britain, so if your character’s family has been in Suffolk for generations, look at Suffolk villages for ideas for names.

Or you can get into genealogical records if you want something really local. That’s how I came up with a smuggler called Melchisadeck Clyst!

I hope this helps, and though I’m pretty sure it’s right it is open to debate and amendment. Please e-mail me at jo at jobevdotcom if you have comments.

Copyright Jo Beverley. You may link to this article or share it, but of you share it I ask that you observe the following rules. Please don’t alter it in any way, and please keep the copyright notice in place. Don’t use it to make money for yourself or your organization. If possible, include the URL of my web site so people can find out more about my books.


Regency divider

That’s Jo Beverley’s article, in its entirety. I’m a huge fan of her Regency novels, and heard her speak at a couple of RWA conferences. She will be missed. (That’s an understatement.) See her bio at Wikipedia: Jo Beverley.

Also, Jo’s Facebook page is worth browsing. Great trivia for Regency enthusiasts. (Similar to information from her website, it’s smart to save any links and references, in case her Facebook page vanishes.)

Inspiration – Award-Winning Regencies

Old booksTo understand what makes Regency romances popular, or simply for a great read, read any of these award-winning books.

(Links will take you to

Romance Writers of America – Regency Award Winners

1984 Golden Medallion, Best Category Historical The Clergyman’s Daughter by Julia Jeffries
1985 Golden Medallion for Best Regency The Lurid Lady Lockport by Kasey Michaels
1986 Golden Medallion for Best Regency The Beauty’s Daughter by Monette Cummings
1987 Golden Medallion for Best Regency Lord Abberley’s Nemesis by Amanda Scott
1988 Golden Medallion for Best Regency The Sugar Rose by Susan Carroll
1989 Golden Medallion for Best Regency Brighton Road by Susan Carroll
1990 RITA for Best Regency The Rake and the Reformer by Mary Jo Putney
1991 RITA for Best Regency The Sandalwood Princess by Loretta Chase
1992 RITA for Best Regency Emily and the Dark Angel by Jo Beverley
1993 RITA for Best Regency An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley
1994 RITA for Best Regency Deirdre and Don Juan by Jo Beverley
1995 RITA for Best Regency Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly
1996 RITA for Best Regency Gwen’s Christmas Ghost by Lynn Kerstan & Alicia Rasley
1997 RITA for Best Regency The Lady’s Companion by Carla Kelly
1998 RITA for Best Regency Love’s Reward by Jean R. Ewing
1999 RITA for Best Regency His Grace Endures by Emma Jensen
2000 RITA for Best Regency The Rake’s Retreat by Nancy Butler
2001 RITA for Best Regency A Grand Design by Emma Jensen
2002 RITA for Best Regency Much Obliged by Jessica Benson
2003 RITA for Best Regency A Debt to Delia by Barbara Metzger
2004 RITA for Best Regency Prospero’s Daughter by Nancy Butler
2005 RITA for Best Regency A Passionate Endeavor by Sophia Nash
2006 RITA for Best Regency A Reputable Rake by Diane Gaston
2007  No award in this category
2008 RITA for Best Regency Historical Romance The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn
2009 RITA for Best Regency Historical Romance My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne
2010 RITA for Best Regency Historical Romance What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
2011 RITA for Best Regency Historical Romance The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig
2012 RITA for Best Regency Historical Romance A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare

Since 2102, there have been no RWA awards specifically for Regency romances, though some Regency-ish books have won awards in RWA’s Historical Romance categories.

They include:

Are any of these among your favorites? Did any disappoint you? Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve liked — and didn’t like — among these authors. (If you’d like to suggest a better book, please do!)

Regency Romances – One Category, Two Subgenres often combines two main sub-genres intohearts one category: “Regency Romance.”

However, many readers are looking for a particular kind of romance set in the Regency (1811 – 1820).

Writing styles can separate regency romances into two broad camps. In fact, I’d consider them sub-genres.*

  • Many Regency romances are carefully patterned after Jane Austen’s stories. That’s especially true of Austen “sequels.”
  • Others are more like Georgette Heyer’s novels. In recent years, many of them have spun-off further in the direction of “comedies of manners” or erotica, or both.

Austen-ish Books

Jane Austen’s books are iconic. They’re set in her own time and place: Regency England. Her stories regularly include elements of romance and wit. They also cast a harsh light on the challenges and inequities of her time, especially for women.

Many “sequels” to Jane Austen’s books — the ones written in a style similar to hers — are in this category, as well.

However, some sequels are far more comedic. Others, such as “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” are closer to parodies.

Regency Revisited – Georgette Heyer

A second sub-genre from the Regency period include romantic “comedies of manners.” They may have subplots that involve mystery, intrigue, and suspense, but – first and foremost – wit and banter (especially between hero and heroine) are essential.

While sexual intimacy might be part of Heyer’s stories, it rarely occurred on center stage. Her books sometimes featured adult premises, but — in general — her Regency period romances were “clean” by today’s standards.

Georgette Heyer is the iconic author for this subgenre, and some fans insist that she invented it.

Other novelists were inspired by Georgette Heyer, including prolific author Barbara Cartland (723 novels).

It’s after those books, perhaps more than Austen’s, that many of today’s Regency romances are styled.

Heyer Revisited – Retro Regency Romances

Like most fiction, Regency romances are popular in waves, and each of those waves brings changes. Starting in the 1970s, some (not all) Regency romances included explicit sex. At the time, they were described as “spicy” regencies.

Chaste romances set in the Regency era were called “sweet.”

Those labels are still in use, but many publishers also use terms like “clean” or “sexy” to make differences clear.

What’s Your Style?

For some authors, the line blurs between Austen-ish books and Heyer-like romances.

Many authors struggle to define their works. For example, D. G. Rampton coined the phrase “Retro Regency Romance” to describe her historical romances, which lean more towards “the retro-esque Georgette Heyer part of the spectrum.”

While developing your own writing “voice,” decide your influences before putting virtual pen to paper.

Study them carefully, deciding what you like best about each. Read reviews of their books, especially at Amazon and Goodreads. Take notes, and use them when plotting and writing your own books.

Most successful Regency romances draw from both Austen’s inspiration and the more modern “comedy of manners” style, but lean heavily in one direction or the other.

If you have a clear, consistent, and reliable voice in your regency romances, you’ll attract readers who’ll buy everything you write.

Related Links


*Sub-genre, or Subgenre, per Wikipedia:

“A subgenre is a subordinate within a genre. Two stories being the same genre can still sometimes differ in subgenre.

“For example, if a fantasy story has darker and more frightening elements of fantasy, it would belong in the subgenre of dark fantasy; whereas another fantasy story that features magic swords and wizards would belong to the subgenre of sword and sorcery.”

Heart graphic courtesy

Regency Romances – Fan Fiction and Expectations

Are Regency romances fan fiction? It’s a challenging question, but I believe regencies fit the definition.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes fan fiction:

Fan fiction or fanfiction (also abbreviated to fan fic, fanfic, or fic) is fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator.

After Jane Austen, many Regency romances – perhaps most – could be called “fan fiction.” Well… maybe.

  • Most of us are fans of Austen’s stories and characters, if not her actual books.
  • Most Regency romances authors — including me — are using characters or settings based on the world created by Jane Austen’s novels.
  • Some of us are writing fan fiction that’s one part Jane Austen, two parts Georgette Heyer, and seasoned with inspiration from more recent Regency romance authors.

Successful fan fiction usually meets the expectations of existing fans.

That’s why – as an author – you should be aware of those expectations, and meet as many as possible.

  • If you’re already a fan of Regency romances — especially the kinds of romances you plan to write — you can list your own expectations in that subgenre.
  • If you’re new to this subgenre, or you need a quick review, you can see my own list of Regency romance conventions and obligatory scenes.
  • Or, you can read popular, award-winning, and well-reviewed Regency romances, and take notes.

What are your thoughts about Regency romances? Are they fan fiction or not? Leave a comment, below.