Finally! The contemporary proposals are sitting on various desks in New York City. Our wenchly brainstorming session has been processed, resulting in reams of ideas. Outlines for the next two historicals are slowly developing. And I can research again!!
Currently, I’m buried under books on Bermuda for a new idea that’s been niggling at the back of my mind. I can see right now that I’m going to wish I’d actually been to Bermuda to pull this off. Maybe, if miracles happen, we’ll find time in the fall.
But in the meantime, after a long time away from the proper world of Regency England, I’m dipping my toe in again, if only for the opening chapters. And to my dismay, I’ve forgotten many of the tangled complications of titled aristocracy. Did you know that in 1812, there were only seventeen dukes in England? And most of them were probably crusty old fellows moldering away in their clubs and country homes and nowhere near as dashing as we make them out to be. (photo of 12th duke of Norfolk)
There were only a dozen marquesses (and just spelling that is one of the reasons I prefer not to use that title, unless I’m feeling masochistic), although during the Regency, the title was still marquis. Which looks even worse in today’s dialogues, sort of sounding like a Regency theater with flashing candlebra, maybe.
Fortunately, there were 94 earls, and earl is a good Anglo-saxon title that sounds as nice on the modern ear as duke. If I’m pulling titles out of a hat, I tend to choose earl because it’s easy. And the heroine gets to be a countess, which I like even better. But in the case of my current project, the new earl is dead. And his brother before him. And the earl before that. Messy situation. Anyway, I want a distant cousin to inherit the title. But any old cousin won’t
do. According to my research, he has to be the eldest surviving male of a direct descendant of the title, or some such rot. So I have to draw a blamed family tree to figure out where I can find this guy. And then I started wondering if this gormless heir might have been called viscount before the last earl sank to the bottom of the sea… And I gave up for the day.
What I want to know is…who made up these rules? And for pity’s sake, why? It must have been
headache-inducing memorizing everyone’s titles and ancestors just so guests knew in what order they should go into a society dinner! No wonder they frowned on divorce and ostracized the scandalous. Who would know where to place them at the dinner table? (link to etiquette book)
It’s bad enough that people try to figure out their position on the human family tree by condemning other races to the bottom and walking over their neighbors to clamber to the top, but why on earth go out of the way to create an artificial hierarchy?
Apparently, I’m not done with revolution. I see an American historical coming on.
What is it in human nature that makes us want to know we’re better than the next guy, if only because our father was born three minutes earlier? Or our ancestors arrived on a Norman war ship instead of an Irish potato boat? Can I join the committee that makes these rules?