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Category: Research

Posts in which we talk about research

Someone on Twitter was saying she has trouble keeping track of all the locations that get tossed around in Regency Romances. This is entirely understandable as we fanatics tend to treat Mayfair and the City of London (c. 1800-1830) as though they were our hometown. There are some GREAT map resources out there. Even if you don’t want to invest in a hardback copy of the Regency London A-Z, you can go to Motco and look at John Fairburn’s wonderfully detailed 1802 map (snippet provided) or the even more detailed Horword map (1799) which shows individual houses. I once printed out all of Mayfair and had it pinned up like wallpaper so I could plot my books.


Edward Mogg’s 1806 case map of London. (This file was provided to Wikimedia Commons by Geographicus Rare Antique Maps).

I started out making a small map with a few places on it based on the Fairburn map, but then it occurred to me I could use Google Maps to make a “perioid” map that was zoomable and scalable and that I could even put links into! And once I got started, it became a bit of a monster project. I now has well over 200 locations and I will continue to add new locations and details as I have time and find new resources.


Currently I’ve input info from a few Georgian blogs, The Georgian Index, The Survey of London, and several books about historic homes. I plan to add info from The Epicure’s Almanack (an 1815 book about hotels, restaurants, chophouses, and pubs) and a couple of period guide books that I have either print or Google Book copies of.

If anyone has further suggestions for specific locations or sources, please let me know!

There’s also this amazing overlay of John Rocque’s 1746 map of London you can check out. Unfortunately, they don’t have a KML export I can find so I can overly it onto my Google Map, but I’ve emailed to see if they will provide one or alternatively add my map as an option to theirs. *fingers crossed*

Let’s admit I had a plan for this weeks post that had NOTHING to do with soup, portable or otherwise … I’ve been tinkering with the Georgian Map of London and was reviewing my copy of T20150915_203341-1he Epicure’s Almanack (the 1815 Zagat’s of London) looking for locations when I noticed that soup was a very popular item among the listings. It’s noted again and again at chophouses, taverns, inns, even coffee houses that “good soup is always available”. Ok, I thought. Well, it was the tail-end of a mini ice age, and as such soup was probably pretty welcome most of the time (and it’s one of the cheaper items to offer at a restaurant so it makes perfect sense that lots of places always had a spot over the fire).

Then I started to see “portable soup” on offer occasionally. Intrigued, I fell down the research hole. I was trying to picture some kind of “pastie” filled with soup. A Cup O’Noodles, Regency-style. Maybe even a bread bowl (we know day old bread has long been used as a “trencher” by the poor). So I start searching for “portable soup” and lo and behold it’s basically period boullion!

There’s a great write up on the Lobscouse and Spoted Dog page (another food book 20150915_203625-1I adore, in which two intrepid cooks attempt to recreate all the food from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels).  It seems like a lot of work, but as we all know, labor was cheap during our period of fascination, it was everything else that was expensive.  And a method of capturing every last drop of goodness in the kitchen offal was going to be widely popular (I totally make stock from the striped carcases of rotisserie chickens and all the odd bits of veg that I toss in the freezer for this exact purpose).

So back to portable soup …


So basically, it’s the ultimate take away. You likely don’t have a real kitchen in your London lodging, which even if it’s in The Albany is a suite of rooms. But you likely have a fireplace and a pot. And now, with a store of portable soup, you have a base for making a stew or hearty soup, or a restorative broth at the very least (see the currant hipster fad for “bone broth).

This is totally something I can see the valets of my younger sons having on hand for when their master has a cold (or when they have a cold), or when someone needs sobering up.

Gaming at Brooks's Club: 19th century Thomas Rowlandson c. 1810-1815

Gaming at Brooks’s Club: 19th century
Thomas Rowlandson
c. 1810-1815

I stumbled across a very entertaining book from 1828 while doing a bit of research about Gentleman’s Clubs in London: The Clubs of London; with anecdotes of their members, sketches of character and conversations. It’s exactly the kind of fodder I love for my books. There’s just something delicious about working a bit of real gossip or happenstance into a book, especially if it’s funny our outrageous!


The first anecdote is that of Sheridan (the actor) being inducted into Brookes’s [sic]. His friends has proposed him several times, but he had continually drawn one black ball during the voting. Determined, his friends marked all the black balls to discover who it was that was excluding him, and then they all arranged to distract that member during the next vote to prevent his being present. It absolutely worked and even the man himself came to find the trick they pulled amusing once it was over and done with.

The second story deals with the induction of a man that was actually blackballed by EVERY member and yet managed to bully his way into membership. He was a notorious duelist and when told that after several rounds of voting he had still received a blackball, he charged into the room and demanded of each individual if THEY had been the one to blackball him. No one was willing to say yes, lest they be challenged to a duel and killed by the manic, so they let him stay. He was never admitted again, but he freely boasted everywhere that he was a member.

I can easily see either of these anecdotes shanghaied and used in a book, especially in one of the popular series that stars the owner of a club or a group of men who belong to one. I haven’t written a balloting scene in my Legion of Second Sons series, but now I very much want to. I just have to find a way to make it germane to the story. I can easily see either story being a good way of setting up an enmity between a hero and an antagonist. And it could be a fun way of exploring “politics-lite” since I have been assured that many readers find the actual politics a bit dry, LOL!

What do you all think? I love the idea of the hero standing up to the duelist and saying that of course he blackballed him and I can think of all kinds of ways this could come back to haunt him …

I asked in a reader group what topics people were interested in having covered on blogs these days and got a whole list of things that I’ll be tackling in the coming months, but the one that seemed the most fun right off that bat was ridicules/reticules.

When hoops were worn and skirts were full, it was easy for a woman to carry about her sovereign purse, pines, etc. in her pockets. These were large, easy to access through the “slits” formed in the top of the petticoats by their being fashioned as a double-apron. But when the round gown became a thing at the end of the 18th century, pockets were no longer feasible. So what was a lady to do? She still needed to carry a few things with her as she went about. The earliest ridicule I’ve seen looks very much like a single pocket. Which makes perfect sense. You’d just tie the waist ties together to form a loop/handle and carry it with you (fashion historians often surmise that this is where the original name “ridicule” came from, as it women were ridiculed for carrying about their pocket).

The Victorian and Albert Museum has quite a collection of these, and all the images I’m sharing today are from their archive (I’m noting this as per their user agreement). As always, click for a larger copy of the image.

Classic set of pockets. These were tied around the waist, over the stays and underskirts, but beneath the top petticoat (aka the lady’s skirt).

18thC embroidered Pockets (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

18thC embroidered Pockets (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

This first bag is transitional, it retains the rough shape of a pocket, but has a drawstring at the top. It’s beautifully embroidered with flowers and a bird, most likely done by the woman herself as the embroidery does not appear professional in quality.

Silk, embroidered with silk thread, with string tassel and straps. c.1790-1800 (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

Silk, embroidered with silk thread, with string tassel and straps. c.1790-1800 (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

The museum didn’t give much information about this little bag, but I love the hedgehog styling of the knit dags.

Knit bag, c. 1800 (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

Knit bag, c. 1800 (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

Netting was a popular pastime, and it’s possible these bags were made by the woman who used them. The smaller red bag is a “finger-ring purse”, the perfect thing for a lady who just needed enough money on her for vails or small purchases.

Netted silk and thread, with hinged gilt frame, 19thC (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

Netted silk and thread, with hinged gilt frame, 19thC (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

This is a very basic square purse with absolutely amazing ribbon embroidery.

Embroidered silk satin with chenille thread, appliquéd with silk muslin, lined with silk taffeta. c. 1820-1830 (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum). muslin, lined with silk taffeta. c. 1820-1830 (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

Embroidered silk satin with chenille thread, appliquéd with silk muslin, lined with silk taffeta. c. 1820-1830 (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

Wool embroidery on canvas (basically needlepoint) bags. This was another common pastime. You see everything from slippers to purses to pocketbooks (wallets) to fire screens worked this way.

Canvas, embroidered with wool. 19th. (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

Canvas, embroidered with wool. 19th. (photo credit: Victorian and Albert Museum).

Candice Hern also has a lovely collection that’s worth perusing if you haven’t already. She has everything from small beaded sovereign purses, to larger netting reticules and even miser purses of the kind a man might carry in his coattail pocket.

Thanks to Eileen for the question!





This is a topic that always gets people talking and scheming. HOW can we pull this off!!!?!!! Is there a way to make my heroine a duchess in her own right? The answer is yes, but you’d have to model your fictional title after that of the Duke of Marlborough, and seeing as this is the ONLY dukedom that can be inherited by a daughter, you’d have to create a very detailed background for your family and there would likely be a lot of howling. It’s rather easy (comparatively speaking) for your heroine to be a countess or a baroness in her own right though. It all comes down to how the title was created …

Henrietta Godolphin, 2nd Duchess of Marlborough

Henrietta Godolphin, 2nd Duchess of Marlborough


Ancient Earldoms were mainly created by investiture and oral grant by the king (aka girding; literally belting the man). They were sometimes created by an Act of Parliament and would have a Royal Charter (before Henry VI [1422-1461] per Peerage Law in England; after this point letter patent are the norm). Dukedoms, and marquisates are later creations and were mainly created by charter. Viscounties (a very late comer to England) have always been created by letters patent. Baronies are where it gets fun … initially they were connected to the land. In the time of Edward I [1272-1307] they became distinct inheritances and were created by writ (being summoned to parliament). In 1387 came the first creation by letters patent. From the time of James I [ruled England 1603-1625], creation of baronies was exclusively by letters patent. So to have your barony or earldom in fee simple, it has to be very old, and the family has to have never been granted a higher title.

These peerages can have different rules of inheritance, depending on how they were created. They can be in fee simple (usual for ancient earldoms and baronies by writ), in fee tail general (all heirs of the body, meaning both sons and daughters), and in fee tail male. At their creation they might also have been in fee tail special (usually where there was no son and the inheritance was directed to a specific person such as a daughter’s son or husband or the title-holder’s brother. The second creation of the Duke of Marlborough is a good example of this (he had no sons so his title was allowed to be inherited by his daughters).

When a title is in fee simple, it usually means there are no letters patent spelling anything out. The peerage was created by writ of summons or girding, and is so ancient that there are no records specifying a limitation of the tail. It is generally treated the same as in fee tail general for inheritance purposes, but this could be tricky, as in fee simple legalistically means “to his heirs” not limited to “heirs of his body” (so collateral relations can inherit if all branches of direct descent fail, and this happened on occasion way, way back [usually within a generation or two of the creation of the title]; the law book says that such failure has been “of such rare occurrence in the history of the peerage that this rule need not detain us”). The reason that quite a few baronies can be inherited by women is that when they are created by writ, they are inherited in fee simple. This is also true for some of the older earldoms (if you look at the law book I linked to earlier, there is a list of them p. 118-119).

When a title is in fee tail general, the letters patent say “the heirs of his body”. Sons always have legal precedence over daughters and elder sons over younger sons (basic English law of primogeniture). But this is how you can get a female heir to a title, co-heiresses (when there are more than one daughter and no sons), and titles falling in abeyance (basically being put in limbo until only one claim remains, or until the Crown picks an heir, and yes, this is the one interference allowed the king; how’s that for a plot bunny?).

Most common, of course, is for the title to be in fee tail male (the heirs of the body male) so that only direct male descendants are eligible to inherit. This is the real limitation on having a dukedom inherited by a woman. They’re all just too new to have been created under the old system. The oldest extant (non-royal) dukedom is that of the Duke of Norfolk, and was created by letters patent in fee tail male. And this is the case with all the others as well (with the already noted exception).

One more interesting legal bit to remember, while a man might hold many titles (George Fruit, Duke of Apple, Marquess of Orange, Earl of Pear and Rose, Baron Fruit and Flower), they might not all have the SAME rules of inheritance. So, George, the Duke of Apple dies, leaving behind a younger brother and a daughter as his heirs. Under most circumstances, all the titles will go to the duke’s brother, BUT, depending on how the duplicate titles were inherited, and IF the duplicate title is in fee simple or in fee tail general, then the daughter COULD inherit it, and after she makes her claim, the titles she was legally heir to, and any holdings entailed to them, would be broken off from the inheritance of the new duke and she would become a peeress in her own right. This was even more likely if some of the titles were Scottish and some were English (see the division of the titles of the 5th Duke of Sutherland).

Basically it would work like this:

These are direct titles which have built up upon one another in the same male line. The younger brother will get all of these, even though the earldom and barony are in fee tail general or simple and could go to a daughter. I can find no cases of a direct line of titles being broken in favor of multiple heirs.

Duke of Apple, in fee tail male
Marquess of Orange, in fee tail male
Earl of Pear, in fee tail general
Baron Fruit, in fee simple

But the Earl of Rose and Baron Flower are not related to the dukedom in the same way as they others. They might have come into the family through the marriage (having already been inherited by a woman in a past generation) or they might have belonged to a distant male relative and devolved that way to the Fruits. Because Rose and Flower are not in the direct line of Apple, and because they are (for our example) in fee simple or in fee tail general, they can be broken off and can go to the most direct heir of the body. And that is the recently deceased duke’s daughter, not his brother. This is not to say that the daughter HAD to make this claim, or that she would even know it was possible to make it. There have surely been many claims daughters could have make over the years that they didn’t, and thus the titles and lands went to the more distant male heir without a fuss.

So there you have it, ways to get yourself tied into legalistic knots for fun (and maybe profit).

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