Duchesses!

Duchess the podcastNicola here. I was very interested in Wench Andrea’s blog a week or so ago about Dukes, and the reality of dukes and dukedoms as opposed to what we see on film and read about in books. This prompted me to think about duchesses, particularly as a new podcast called “Duchess” started recently. It’s a show that explores the inspiring women who are running the stately home of Britain. In it, Emma Manners, the Duchess of Rutland, travels the country and talks to a variety of women about their lives caring for historic houses. It’s quite an eye-opening listen (if that isn’t an odd metaphor!) Despite the very modern approach of some of the chatelaines, there were times when I felt I could have been listening to someone talking in the 19th century, particularly when the made reference to “taking care of the staff.” It’s all part and parcel of running a modern estate.

One of the messages that came over clearly from all the participants of the show was that life changes forever when you marry and take on the care of one of Britain’s most historic buildings. Of course you get to live in the most amazing setting and enjoy all the treasures of a grand pile, but you are sharing your home with visitors and need some privacy some of the time.

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The Truth About Dukes

200px-Coronet_of_a_British_Duke.svgNicola here, talking about dukes, as you do if you are an author of historical romance. I’ve live in Britain all my life and I’ve never met a duke. In fact they are the only rank of the peerage I haven’t met. There are currently only 24 of them in existence which in a population of 65 million must make them amongst the rarest creatures in the country on a par with the Scottish wild cat. At times during the UK's history there have been no more than two or three; at others – the mid 1700s – there were as many as forty so even at their height they were an endangered species.

That’s the reality, of course. In stories, particularly in historical romances, they pop up in London, Bath and various country towns and villages with a regularity that is rather fun. If only!

A little while ago, Mary Jo wrote a wonderful blog piece on billionaires, dukes, and hero inflation, looking at the reasons why a billionaire, or duke, or billionaire duke, is so appealing in our fiction. You can read it here. Today though, I’m talking about the fact behind the fiction, which is actually no less entertaining and contains some characters who, if they were fictional, would seem far too bizarre, eccentric and unlikely.

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