The Nitty-Gritty on Dukes

18th_Duke_of_Norfolk_Allan_WarrenAndrea here, musing today about . . . dukes. It’s hard not to think about them, as these days, every Regency romance novel seems to have “duke” in the title. Which would logically lead one to imagine that in Britain, dukes are a farthing a dozen.

But not so! A cursory glance at Debrett’s, the bible of the British peerage, quickly corrects that fantasy. So I thought it would very fun—and very educational—to take quick look at the reality of dukes and dukedoms in order to have a more accurate idea picture of the past and the present. (Above: the 18th Duke of Norfolk at his estate.)

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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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Regency Either/Or!

CoronetNicola here! I have one arm in a sling this week after
unexpectedly needing some treatment to my shoulder and as a result I can’t type
much. So for my blog today I thought I would post up a little game for everyone
called Regency Either/Or. I shamelessly borrowed this idea from Honorary Word
Wench Mia Marlowe who has a very fun version of this on her blog. I hope you enjoy
it and share your choices and your own suggestions!

Duke of Mr?

Actually these days I think that should be Prince or Mr. I
have noticed title inflation in some historical romances rather like the
millionaire to billionaire inflation in some contemporary romance books. Whilst
a Duke (or Prince) is frightfully authoritative and powerful I have a soft spot
for a Mr. On the other hand teh duke gets to wear the cute coronet above.

Debutante or courtesan?

I don’t mind a debutante heroine if she has a bit of
gumption and isn’t too “straight out of the schoolroom.” As for courtesans,
well everyone deserves to find true love.

Swords or pistols?

Which is your weapon of choice? By 1770 the sword was
considered very old-fashioned and pistols were
Duelling pistols
all the rage. But gentlemen,
remember: would it not be more mature – and less dangerous – simply to apologise? There is no dishonour in that.

Brandy or claret?

“Claret
is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must
drink brandy.” Dr Johnson. Need I say more?

Signet ring or diamond cravat pin?

A signet ring, especially one bearing the arms of the hero’s
family, suggests a reassuringly ancient pedigree. Is a diamond cravat pin just
too bling?


StagecoachCurricle or stagecoach?

Who could resist the sports car of its day? But if you
do take a ride in a curricle make sure that the driver is a noted whip and not
someone who cannot handle his cattle. Let’s not dismiss the stage out of hand,
though. You can meet very interesting people on public transport.

Highwayman, smuggler of pirate?

Ok, I know it's cheating to have three but when it comes to heroes who like to walk on the wrong side of the law, how do you choose?

Now it's your turn. Answer as many as you like or make up your own!