Too many dukes?

Only a Duke will Do

Image used in Czechoslovakia for Sabrina Jeffries’ book Only a Duke will Do. And he would, wouldn’t he?

Because I’m trying to write historicals that are historically plausible, I do a lot of research. And one thing I found early on is that the trios (and more) of sexy young or youngish dukes that pop up in some books are just not historically plausible.  In 1814, Great Britain had 28 ducal titles, held by 25 people. (Not counting the royal dukedoms given to the sons of the reigning monarch.)

These dukes all tended to marry within the upper peerage. The chances of a herd pack of them descending on an unsuspecting village and carrying off the local dressmaker, the cook, and the retired courtesan were pretty slender.

This doesn’t prevent me from enjoying a good series with more than one gorgeous eligible duke in it. Let’s face it. Dukes are sexy. As this article in the Huffington Post points out:

…duke is shorthand for the type of hero they can expect to read about and the kind of hero readers love: the powerful, alpha male who bows down to no one (except the heroine).

What’s not to love?

But I’m trying to keep my own duke heroes down to an acceptable level. I have none in the current book, but three, all of different ages, over the 50 or so books I have planned.

GB populationThe picture shows a map of society in 1814, and here’s a summary of my research on the nobility at the time.

Nobility = 2,880 people with 576 heads of family (includes royalty and bishops as well as nobility)

The numbers below do not include secondary titles. The dates mark states of union. Until 1707, England, Ireland and Scotland were separate countries. In 1707, Great Britain was formed through the union of England and Scotland. Between 1707 and 1801, Great Britain and Ireland were separate countries under one ruler. From 1801, the state became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland – one country. In 1922, the Irish Free State seceded, but that’s outside of our period.

Dukes: 28 titles held by 25 people: Title comes from shire

  • 11 titles in peerage of England to 1707
  • 9 in peerage of Scotland to 1707 (including two doubles with England and one double within Scotland)
  • 7 in peerage of Great Britain and Ireland 1707 to 1801 (6 GB and 1 Irish)
  • 1 in peerage of UK and Ireland 1801 onwards (the Duke of Wellington)

So  17 English, 7 Scots only, 1 Irish duke.

All Dukes are also Marquesses as secondary titles.

Marquesses/Marquises:  32 titles: Titles come from place names, originally border marshes (chiefly with Wales)

  • 1 in peerage of England to 1707
  • 3 in peerage of Scotland to 1707
  • 19 in peerage of Great Britain and Ireland 1707 to 1801 (10 GB and 9 Irish)
  • 9 in peerage of UK and Ireland 1801 onwards (6 UK and 3 Irish)

So 16 English, 3 Scots, and 12 Irish marquesses.

Earls: 210 titles, including 11 doubles – 6 held by women: 70% of titles come from place names and use ‘of’; remaining 30% come from surnames

  • 25 in peerage of England to 1707
  • 41 in peerage of Scotland to 1707 (4 held by women)
  • 12 in peerage of Ireland
  • 97 in peerage of Great Britain and Ireland 1707 to 1801 (38 GB and 59 Irish – 1 of the Irish titles held by a woman)
  • 35 in peerage of UK and Ireland 1801 onwards (24 UK – 1 of which was held by a woman – and 11 Irish)

So 87 English, 41 Scots, and 82 Irish earls.

Viscounts: 66 titles, includes 2 held by women, includes 1 double; ancient title for sherrif – usually the title name is the same as the surname

  • 1 in peerage of England to 1707
  • 2 in peerage of Scotland to 1707 (uses ‘of’)
  • 11 in peerage of Ireland (1 held by a woman)
  • 36 in peerage of Great Britain and Ireland 1707 to 1801 (9 GB and 27 Irish – 1 of the Irish titles held by a woman)
  • 16 in peerage of UK and Ireland 1801 onwards (8 UK and 8 Irish)

So 18 English, 2 Scots, and 46 Irish viscounts.

Barons: 172 titles; title name is usually the same as surname

  • 17 in peerage of England to 1707 (4 held by women) plus 16 vacant
  • 16 in peerage of Scotland to 1707 (1 held by women)
  • 5 in peerage of Ireland
  • 81 in peerage of Great Britain and Ireland 1707 to 1801 (50 GB and 31 Irish)
  • 28 in peerage of UK and Ireland 1801 onwards (23 UK and 5 Irish)
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5 thoughts on “Too many dukes?

  1. Hey! So I’m from the person who posted on the historical fiction group on FB, looking for blogs to visit.

    Your blog literally made my heart skip a beat. I use to write historical romance, and though I’ve switched markets to write historical fiction, I’m still a huge fan of HR. And this blog entry of yours was so informative. And entertaining too.

    This paragraph got a good chuckle out of me:
    “These dukes all tended to marry within the upper peerage. The chances of a herd pack of them descending on an unsuspecting village and carrying off the local dressmaker, the cook, and the retired courtesan were pretty slender”

    I appreciate your dedication to try to make your novel as historically accurate as possible. Because sometimes when I pick up an HR you kinda get the sense that the story could have taken place in the contemporary world, only, the characters decided to wear an empire-waist gown / cravat and muscle-hugging breeches haha

Love hearing from you