I really ought to dig into my research files more often to see what I’ve looked up while I’m plotting a book, but by the time the book is ready for release, that material is a couple of years old, and I’ve forgotten about it. So out of curiosity, I dug into my files for ENTRANCING THE EARL, my May release, to see what I toyed with before I began writing. I can’t see any related blogs, other than my coloring between the lines complaint for the last book in my School of Magic series. But if I’m repeating myself, sorry!
ENTRANCING THE EARL required research into 19th century beekeeping, architecture and construction of Scots brochs and the history behind them, and Scots peerages—which aren’t the same as English.
Just because authors get the most complaints about aristocratic titles, and I don’t want to hear anyone complaining about my female, unmarried countess, I’ll give you a fast lesson in Scots peerages—it’s complicated.
Before the Treaty of Union in 1707 brought Scotland into the British government, Scotland had its own peerage, dating back centuries. Many of these original writs granted the right for the title to pass to the eldest female offspring when no male was present. (One assumes this was a result of centuries of war eliminating the males and giving us medieval romances where the heroine bears a title and estate the conquering hero may confiscate through marriage, so the title lives on.)
Just for fun—Scots law also permits peerages to pass to bastards if they’re legitimatized by their parents marrying later. That’s probably a consequence of arcane marriage laws like hand-fasting that might not be recognized by church or parliament. I can see a few entertaining conflicts developing out of this one!
Even the ranks of Scots peers are different. They have barons, yes, but they are not considered noble, one assumes because there were so danged many of them and the titles were often bought and sold and weren’t necessarily hereditary. Instead, they have Lords of Parliament, and then the usual viscount, earl, marquis, and duke.
So, yes, my Scots twins whose grandfather was an earl, could have a countess for a mother, and the title could pass down to her daughters. I only dug as deep as Wikipedia for this one since the point isn’t a major one, but these ancient writs passed to “heirs-general.” Generally, the system preferred the eldest sons, but when it came to the women, there was no preference. Then it gets a little sticky because the women inherit equally, but the title can’t be divided. So I allowed the title to go into abeyance and just one of the sisters file a petition to claim it. Since this was not a common practice, I see no reason I can’t pull that rabbit out of the hat quite reasonably. (which is what I'm doing with my photos because I'm running late. This is York tower, not Scotland <G>)
So never say an author doesn’t research their subjects. We may forget what we researched. We may tickle it a little to make it work for us. We may fill in the blanks with our imagination. But somewhere under that creative license, the facts are weirder than what we write.
Do you generally accept the aristocratic titles we slap on our characters (other than the fact that we’ve populated the Regency with more dukes than all the members of Parliament put together)? If you don’t think the title is handled correctly, do you bother to look it up or just get annoyed? (I’m afraid I’m lazy and think I know it all and fall into the latter category) And because I avoid dukes due to hating Your Gracing him all over the place, do you know the rules for addressing dukes and royalty? If you do, how often do you think authors get it right?