The history of mistletoe at Christmas

It’s the season for mistletoe, or at least so it would have been back in England during the 18th and 19th century. The little plant with its golden boughs, yellow-green oval leaves and sticky white berries had an important role to play in Christmas celebrations, forming the crucial part of the Kissing Bough or being hung in bunches in strategic places around the household.

Any woman standing under the tree could be asked for a kiss, and courted bad luck if she refused. In one version of the tradition, every kiss was paid for by plucking a berry from the hanging stems, and when the berries were gone, so were the kisses.

So how did a little parasite come to be a magical harbinger of romance?

There are a few stories; some from Norse tradition, some Greek, some from the druids of ancient Britain, and some with strong Christian traditions.

The plant that killed the favourite

In Norse mythology, one god was the favourite of all the others. Everyone loved Baldur. Everyone, that is, but Loki, the god of mischief. Frigga, Baldur’s mother, protected her beloved boy by travelling all the world, and asking everything that grew on land and under it to promise never to hurt Baldur.

As a result, Baldur became invulnerable to anything thrown or thrust at him, provided it was plant-based. Of course, poking Baldur with plant-based weapons became a favourite game, because boys are like that. But Frigga had forgotten one important fact.

Mistletoe doesn’t grow on land or under it. It grows on the branches of another plant — including, willow, oak, and apple trees. Loki made a dart from mistletoe wood and gave it to the blind god, Hoder, so he could join in the game. And Baldur died.

Everything in heaven and earth wept, and Frigga tried for three days to restore her son. In the end, her tears became the mistletoe berries, and Baldur woke from death. In her joy, Frigga made the mistletoe her sacred plant, and decreed that anyone standing under it would never come to harm, but would only be kissed.

Power over hell

In Greek myth, mistletoe had power even over hell. Two doves bought a golden bough of mistletoe to Aenas to light his way through the forest that blocked the way into Hades. When he showed the bough to the ferryman at the River Styx, he and the bough were instantly transported alive across the river.

The sign of peace

To the druids, mistletoe was very special. They believed it could heal just about anything. They cut it from oak trees with sickles of gold, and gathered it without letting it touch the ground. And they hung it in bunches in houses to keep away sickness and war, protect the household from sickness and ghosts, and bring happiness and fertility.

Anyone passing under mistletoe had to lay down their arms and desist from fighting until the next day, even in a forest. Even more so in a house, where guests would stand under the mistletoe to greet their hosts with a kiss of friendship.

Love conquers death

No wonder, with this history, the mistletoe was adopted by the new Christians of Northern Europe, who easily made the transition to seeing this plant of healing and peace as a symbol of Christ, who lay down his life to bring peace to the world, and who came alive out of death. Mistletoe became particularly associated with the birth of Christ, which was now being celebrated in midwinter, when mistletoe had been a traditional part of pre-Christian ceremonies.

Friendship kisses under the mistletoe translated nicely into the new Christian celebrations.

Kissing for luck

Exactly how kisses of peace became the romantic kisses we think of today, we can only guess. But the idea that mistletoe will bring prosperity and fertility might have something to do with it. Prosperity for a woman meant marriage, and by the sixteenth century, kissing under the mistletoe was wildly popular among the working classes.

By the nineteenth century, the custom had often been adopted above stairs as well as below, though not by all. Some regarded it as licentious and improper. But only the most rigid of moralists would refuse a kissing bough to the servants’ hall, even if his or her own daughters could safely pass through the family’s parlours safe in the knowledge that no errant white berry posed a risk to the sanctity of their fair lips. Poor girls.

A week today, I’m publishing the ebook version of If Mistletoe Could Tell Tales, a collection of my Christmas novellas and novelettes. The print version is already available. At 92,000 words, or 320 print pages, of stories about the magic of romance during the magic of Christmas. At $2.99 for the ebook, it represents a 40% discount over the cost of the individual books. And the print cost of $12.50 makes it a great stocking stuffer. Follow the link in the name above for blurb and buy links.

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And let there be light

Waking up to a town-wide power cut this morning set me thinking about how recently in history we lit up the night. As a person writing mostly stories set at the very beginning of the revolution in lighting, it’s something I need to keep very much in mind.

Fire, fire burning bright

Fire came first, of course. Humans had brought fire into their campsites (for protection, warmth, and light) long before recorded history. The first portable light would have been a piece of firewood, with experimentation leading to better and better torches for lighting the winter evenings or winter marches. In essence, a torch is a pole (of wood or metal) with something at the end that burns easily: perhaps moss or fibre soaked in fuel plants (oil pressed from nuts or seeds) or from animal fats.

A lamp to drive away darkness

The first lamps comprised moss or something similar soaked in animal fat, and held in a hollow rock or shell. Oil lamps start popping up in dig sites of around 6,500 years. Made from metal, stone or clay, they have a fuel chamber that contains the oil, one or more pouring holes through which to fill the fuel chamber, and a wick hole or nozzle for the wick, which was a twist of some flammable material.

Because only the wick and the oil it it soaks up is aflame, oil lamps give light for longer for the same amount of oil.

Light a penny candle

Candles came along around 3,000 BC. They didn’t spill, like oil lamps, and there was no need to advance the wick by hand. On the other hand, they were tedious to make. Beeswax candles were the best, but very expensive. Smelly tallow candles were the most common until the sperm whale industry of the 18th century introduced candles made of spermaceti. Even after advances in lamp making in the 19th century, candles continued to be improved, with paraffin wax arriving in the 1850s, along with plaited wicks that self-consumed and didn’t need trimming.

Recently in history…

The explosion of technological innovation that began in the late 18th century had, by the end of the 19th century, brought us the central draught fixed oil lamp, the kerosene lamp,  gas lighting, and electric lighting with incandescent bulbs.

The first house was lit by electricity in Northumberland in 1878 (or, at least, the picture gallery was), with the first street (in Newcastle) following a year later.

And 142 years later, the electricity has returned in time for me to write this post.

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Secret codes during the Napoleonic wars

Armies used codes to keep messages secret if the messenger was captured

One of the plot devices in The Realm of Silence turns out to involve a secret code. It’s a bit of a McGuffin, but I had fun with it, and particularly enjoyed finding out about cryptography, and the part it played during the Napoleonic wars.

Short form. Napoleon and his armies weren’t very good at codes and the British were.

Secret codes for military information have been used for a long time; at least since Julius Caesar encoded messages to his generals. Over the centuries, they’ve become more and more elaborate, until today, when they’ve spread into everyday use on computer systems, with elaborate encryption methods to prevent eavesdropping and theft of private information.

Types of code

Today, with computers, codes have become much more complex. But there are some common types, most of which have been around a long time. They fit into two main categories: versus codes and ciphers.

The Babbington plot against Queen Elizabeth I unravelled when their code was broken

Versus codes are substitutions of a symbol for a meaning: a word or a phrase.

Ciphers work at a lower level. The symbol replaces an individual letter or small group of letters.

  • Substitution ciphers replace a unit (one or more letters or numbers) with another. So March North might become 2oeqv 3aefv.
  • With transposition ciphers, the order of the units are changed, but not the units themselves. So March North might become Tharn Morch.
  • Polyalphabetic ciphers use a mixed alphabet to encrypt a message, switching alphabets during the message. The World War II enigma machine produced a polyalphabetic cipher.

The man who broke Napoleon’s code

After coming unstuck with sending messages in plain text, Napoleon tasked his army with creating a code. It used 150 numbers, each of which represented a letter or word, and a man called Major General Scovell broke the code within two days.

The Great Paris Cipher

The Great Paris Cipher was the French answer. It was both a code and a cipher, with different numbers standing for either letters or words.  It comprised 1400 numbers in a table, some of which stood for nothing to further confuse those attempting to decipher the messages. And it had no noticeable underlying patterns.

But a year later, Scovell had done it again, helped along by the carelessness of the French army. So complex a cipher took ages to use, both for those sending message and those using them. The French took the easy route, and only encoded part of their messages, which allowed Scovell to make educated guesses about what the encrypted words might mean.

The book cipher

My characters discover a book cipher, where words or letters of the message are replaced by words or letters of the chosen book. Both the sender of the message and its receiver need the same edition of the same book, and the code can be hard to break without the book.

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The forts of the English coast

I love George Clarke’s Restoration Man television show, and was fascinated by a recent episode that showed here in New Zealand following two separate projects to restore a Martello tower. I’d heard of them, but had no idea of their history, and once I looked it up, I knew I’d found the exact object to fill a plot hole in The Realm of Silence.

Martello towers are small round forts built along the southern and eastern of England, with a few in Ireland and Scotland. They were based on towers built in Corsica to repel the Barbary Pirates. The British navy was very impressed when they were unable to overcome one at a place called Mortello Point, though it fell to a land assault.

The war with France

So in the late 18th and early 19th century, when invasion from France was a real threat, the government embarked on a plan to build the towers, each around 40 feet tall. They were garrisoned by 15 to 24 soldiers and an officer, with food and water, sleeping quarters, and a gun on a swivel to repel sea or land invaders.

They could be accessed only through a door some 16 feet above the ground, accessed by a ladder, and were designed to withstand heavy attack.

140 were built, but the invasion plans receded with the destruction of the French fleet at Trafalgar and had faded by 1812 [edited after JSMF2’s comment, below], and they never had to be put to their intended use.

 

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Edinburgh underground

This week’s Footnotes on Friday is a cry for help.

I’ve dropped one of my characters into trouble, and I need atmospheric detail and historic fact on the way to getting her out. Are any of you experts in Edinburgh’s underground?

Amy Cunningham, daughter of Susan Cunningham and granddaughter of Lord Henry Redepenning, has been kidnapped and is being held in the cellar of a house somewhere in Edinburgh. She finds that a pile of rubbish hides either a hole or a trapdoor that lets her into Edinburgh’s underground ways, where she has various adventures and experiences before being taken up by an amiable crowd of university students/apprentices/seamstresses or whatever I decide, and escorted to her family townhouse.

But which underground ways?

I’ve narrowed it down to the South Bridge Vaults or Mary King’s Close, both of which were available to me in 1812.

The Vaults are chambers formed in the arches of South Bridge, which was built in 1788. South Bridge was a shopping arcade that bridged a gully, and the 19 arches beneath it contained 120 rooms that quickly filled up with taverns, tradesmen’s workshops, and slum housing. All in the dark, and increasingly illicit and nasty.

Robert Louis Stevenson described the places in his 1878 book Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes:

“…under dark arches and down dark stairs and alleys…the way is so narrow that you can lay a hand on either wall. (There are) skulking jail-birds; unkempt, barefoot children; (an) old man, when I saw him last, wore the coat in which he had played the gentleman three years before; and that was just what gave him so preeminent an air of wretchedness.”

Mary King’s Close is a relict of a much earlier time. In a city enclosed by walls, it’s common for new buildings to be erected on top of old ones, the weight of centuries sinking the past with cellars containing what was once the street or even upper floors of a building. Legend has it that Mary King’s Close, which is under the City Chambers, was sealed up in the 1640’s to prevent still living plague victims from infecting the rest of the city. Another source I found says, more pragmatically, that the City Fathers of the time were worried about losing trade to the New Town so they:

decided to build a grand new Royal Exchange. And they found the perfect spot opposite St Giles Cathedral, with just one small problem – the streets of houses already there. But rather than knocking them down, they took the top floors off and used the lower floors as foundations. Mary King’s Close was covered over and swallowed up into the building’s basement. The sloping ground meant the houses fronting the Royal Mile were destroyed but further down the close whole houses were buried intact. [https://www.ontheluce.com/underground-edinburgh-mary-kings-close/]

People being people, many of the denizens refused to leave, and you could drop into the underground right up until the start of the twentieth century to have a wig made or to buy tobacco.

So which one? And what would it have seemed like to a gently-born if feisty 15-year-old Regency maiden? Can anyone help? Drop me a message on my contact page. I’d love to hear from you.

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Thank you to the historians

Look what arrived in my mail box yesterday! 905 pages of detailed research pertinent to my current work in progress, The Realm of Silence.

Pertinent in the tiniest of ways. I am, after all, writing an historical romance. I might use my blog to prose on about the interesting facts I discover in my reading, especially on Fridays, but I don’t stuff them all into the stories.

Still, I’m about to take some of my characters in to Penicuik, and they need to talk to a French sergeant who is imprisoned there. So how could that happen? Were the prisoners isolated from the local citizens? Did they get a chance to mix? What happened when they were sick? Or if they died?

Ian MacDougall can tell me, and from the first 50 pages, which is all I’ve read so far, he can do so in a clear and interesting manner. Not always the case, I can tell you!

So far, for this book, I’ve read two guides to the Great North Road in Regency England, several books about rebels, radicals, and agitators, and a number of journal articles about prisoners-of-war.

Undoubtedly, as the characters continue telling me their stories, I’ll be off to find out more.

So this post is to thank all the serious historians who have spent years reading everything they can find on a topic (including contemporary sources), talking to other experts, studying artefacts, and writing up their results. MacDougall has six pages of bibliography and three pages of thank-yous to people he has interviewed or who have sent him stuff.

He and all the other wonderful historians I’ve relied on over the years save me from making wrong turns in the story or artefacts or actions or language that is wrong for the period. It matters to me, and it matters to many of the readers, and I just wanted to stop for a moment to say I’m grateful.

Thank you.

And watch this Friday spot for more about Prisoners of War in Scotland from 1803 to 1814.

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Serving God, the Parish, or possibly Mammon in late Georgian England

The church and the parish were important in rural England in late Georgian times. Faith in God was a simple part of life for most ordinary people, if not for the idle rich. Besides, village life depended on farming, which revolved around the seasons, and the liturgical year and important feast that reflected the seasons. And Sunday services were still mandatory, (until the late 19th century) with non-attendance punishable by a fine.

So who presided over these services?

To someone raised in the last half of the 21st century, the concept of church livings—where a local landowner has the power to appoint the rector or vicar to his local Church of England parish—seems odd. Yet it made a lot of sense in the beginning, encouraging those with wealth to build churches.

Those with the power to appoint had what was called an advowson, which was a type of property that could be bought, sold and inherited.

Oxford and Cambridge colleges controlled nearly 5% of benefices, presenting them as gifts to fellows and masters who wished to marry and leave academic pursuits. Another 10% or so belonged to the Crown, to be presented to government supporters. Bishops and cathedral chapters possessed about 20%. The gentry and aristocracy held the largest share, on the order of 60%. Most great families had at least one or two livings at their disposal.  [Maria Grace at English Historical Fiction Authors]

The advowson conferred the right to a living, also called or a benefice; a post that guarantees a fixed amount of property or income. This income came from tithes: great or small, depending on the parish. Parishes that paid a great tithe had a rector. A great tithe was 10% of all cereal crops grown in the parish and sometimes wool. Parishes that paid a small tithe had a vicar. A small tithe was 10% of remaining agricultural produce. By late Georgian times, tithes had commonly become a fixed cash payment, whose value had very likely dropped from the time it was first set.

The practice of sending younger sons into the Church meant that many parishes were served by clergy who were landed gentry first and foremost, and whose parishes rarely saw them.

Without patronage, being an ordained cleric was not a passport to a life of clover. Over a fifth of ordained clerics in late Georgian England never had a living, and a third took more than six years. A quarter died young, emigrated, or went into teaching.

If you weren’t one of the lucky 20 percent, with the well-connected friends or relatives who could see to your future by giving you a parish, or the 25 percent who died or left, you took a job as one of the working bees of the late Georgian church, as a curate.

Curates might work alongside their vicars, or they might act instead of them, while the lucky fellow was off socialising or hunting. The curate’s wages were paid from the vicar’s own pocket. Just to confuse things, if a curate was permanently appointed to a parish that had no or an absent rector or vicar, the curate would often be called ‘vicar’.

Whatever he was called, the resident pastor, at the very least, was responsible for church services: Sunday services, weddings, baptisms, and funerals, plus visiting the sick. And, of course, the very least was what some did.

But, according to at least some commentators, the bulk of them were decent men, doing their best. Maybe they were not exciting. Indeed, the exodus to more enthusiastic forms of Christianity offered by the Wesleyans and others grew in strength through the Georgian period. But:

The bulk of the English clergy then as ever were educated, refined, generous, God-fearing men, who lived lives of simple piety and plain duty, respected by their people for the friendly help and wise counsel and open purse which were ever at the disposal of the poor.  [Henry Wakeman in An Introduction to the History of the Church of England]

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Fool’s gold

In this, the last of my series on fraud in history, we’re looking at the gold-brick scam. Of course, it needn’t be an actual brick or even gold. The essence of the trick is that the victim is shown a sample of whatever the fraudster is selling. The sample is genuine, but after the fraudster is long gone, the rest of the purchase proves to be fake.

The trick is supposedly named after a famous case in the United States in 1879.

What happened was that Mr N D Clark, the president of the First National Bank of Ravenna, Ohio, was visiting a mine he owned at Leadville in Colorado. He was approached by five miners, who asked him to advance money on a 52-pound gold brick, which for some reason they weren’t able to ship at the time. The owner told a hard-luck story about having lost all his property and urgently needing money.

Mr Clark had the brick taken to a blacksmith, who cut off one corner. An assayer pronounced the gold to be genuine and Mr Clark advanced the miner $10,000 on condition the brick, and the miner, accompanied him to Chicago to get the balance. The miner, of course, vanished off the train on the way… The corners were gold right enough but the body of the brick was worthless… (Michael Quinion from World Wide Words)

The item might be precious coins or jewelry or even artwork. The trick is often a long game, relying on building trust over time. Let’s say you are in England in the early 19th century during the craze for antiquities and you want to offload a cargo of forged works. (Art and antiquities forgery goes back at least two millenia.)

First, you need some credibility with collectors. Perhaps you invite a few of them for a private showing of the works you claim to have brought home in your personal luggage (all genuine, of course).

They are all excited. You’ll quickly figure out who will insist on waiting to see the rest of the shipment, and who can be convinced to purchase it sight unseen.

It is simple, really. “My dear sir, I am embarrassed to admit it, but I have found myself in unfortunate circumstances and must sell immediately. The rest is in my warehouse in Bristol, but I have no time. I am willing to sell it for half its real price, but I must have the money now.”

If you’re lucky, you’ll have two marks who can be convinced to bid one another up, but half of a fortune is still nothing to be sneezed at.

A simpler and shorter version of the same con requires two fraudsters. As with most scams, the fraudsters rely on the greed of the victim to suck them into the fraudsters’ trap.

The first fraudster offers something for sale, but for some reason then goes out of earshot, leaving behind the object or animal. The second, pretending to be a passerby, rushes up and recognises the object or animal as something rare and expensive. “Why, that’s a rare Tibetan Mountain Horse. Did you know that any cold bred from that horse is guaranteed to win races.” Or whatever will work.

The second fraudster makes himself scarce, and when the first returns, the victim buys the object or animal for what he thinks is an excellent price, hugging the secret of its rarity to himself.

And the two fraudsters laugh their way home.

As the old saying goes, the more things change the more they remain the same. In fact, when I was looking for stories for this post, I even found a Fraud Museum. If you’re in Austin, Texas, call by and see some of the great scamsters of history.

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More Fool Me

Blackmail is a form of extortion, and becomes fraud when either the incriminating circumstances have been set up for the express purpose of getting money out of the victim, or the victim has done nothing, but can’t prove it.

Both are variants of the badger game, possibly so called because of the nasty sport of badger baiting, where the poor innocent badger is attacked by a ruthless pack of dogs for the entertainment of the crowd and the enrichment of the animal’s owners and canny gamblers on the outcome.

The classic badger game

The essence of the trick is to lure the victim into behaviour of which they are ashamed, or that will get them into hot water with family or employers.

The classic ploy involves two fraudsters. One sets the trap, and the other springs it.

A Good Samaritan meets a badger

I was reading a case in point in the Old Bailey records. In the mid-nineteenth century, an immigrant from Germany sought financial help from a well known member of the German expatriate community in London. Poor woman. Her husband needed money in order to travel to join her.

Once she received the first handout, she needed another. She couldn’t live on air until her husband arrived, after all. Then she discovered that she was with child. Then she was ill. Then the child was ill. And all the time, her husband was delayed and the philanthropist continued to provide funds. Until the day that she threw herself into his arms to express her undying gratitude. Just as her husband burst into the room and declared himself wronged.

The philanthropist then faced a demand for even more money. Far more money. A thousand pounds would soothe the wounded feelings of the devastated husband.

Unfortunately for the fraudsters, the philanthropist was made of stouter stuff than they expected. He laid an information with the police, and the couple were arrested, tried, and convicted.

Of course, he must have been confident about his reputation, and the record does not show whether he had a loyal and trusting wife, was a single gentleman, or slept on the couch for the next year.

A single trick with countless variations

You can imagine the many variations on the ploy, especially in the straight-laced moral environment that was the public face of the Victorian era. Embarrassment, marital disharmony, and social ostracism were all weapons in the hands of the fraudster.

Nothing was off-the table apparently as a potential con:  inappropriate sexual advances, child pornography, bizarre fetishes, sexual or otherwise, sexual harassment in the workplace, or professional misconduct (those are but a few).  One that gained national attention via the August 25, 1930 edition of Time magazine involved a “sick” woman visiting a doctor, who after describing symptoms that would require her to disrobe, would claim misconduct.  Sometimes an “outraged husband” would burst into the room and threaten the doctor with criminal charges or a lawsuit. (Sharon Hall on Felonious Females)

And there was worse. When acting on same-sex attraction was punishable by death, playing the badger game could be a very lucrative activity for the fraudulent lover and that lover’s partner. Acquire a set of incriminating letters, and the victim had no choices beyond paying up, killing the fraudsters, or fleeing the country.

And the badger game still worked if the victim was poor but had wealthy relatives who cared about their family reputation. “Your grandson has compromised my daughter and the problem will go away for ten thousand pounds.”

Or perhaps the victim was innocent but couldn’t prove it. To save his reputation, he might well pay up anyway. “This is your baby and I am going to tell your wife.”

Today, badger games have moved to social media. Which you might want to keep in mind next time you’re tempted to share a revealing photograph with an intimate friend.

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Inheritance for illegitimate sons

The Rightful Heir, by George Smith

Today’s Footnotes on Friday post is by Regina Jeffers. Welcome, Regina, and congratulations on the new book.

Could an illegitimate son inherit during the Regency? Or should we say could the illegitimate son inherit his father’s property, and not necessarily his peerage/title? First one must realize that there is actually a rule against perpetuity (which is a restriction saying the estate cannot be taken away from or given away by the possessor for a period beyond certain limits fixed by law) which addresses an entail lasting more than the three lives (generally the grandfather who is the holder of the entailed property, his first born son, and his first born grandson) plus twenty-one years. Keep in mind that an entail can be renewed when the original owner’s son (meaning the first-born son), as described above, becomes the grandfather, the original grandson becomes the father, and there is a new grandson.

The rule against perpetuities

The common rule against perpetuities forbids instruments (contracts, wills, and so forth) from tying up property for too long a time beyond the lives of people living at the time the instrument was written. For instance, willing property to one’s great-great-great-great grandchildren (to be held in trust for them, but not fully owned, by the intervening generations) would normally violate the rule against perpetuities. The law is applied differently or not at all, and even contravened, in various jurisdictions and circumstances. Black’s Law Dictionary defines the rule against perpetuities as “[t]he common-law rule prohibiting a grant of an estate unless the interest must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years (plus a period of gestation to cover a posthumous birth) after the death of some person alive when the interest was created.” At common law, the length of time was fixed at 21 years after the death of an identifiable person alive at the time the interest was created. This is often expressed as “lives in being plus twenty-one years.” (Wells Law Blog http://wellslawoffice.com/2011/05/remember-the-rule-against-perpetuities/)

Property and peerages followed different rules

Another point to keep in mind is that property and peerages followed different rules of inheritance, so customarily matters were set up so that the family seat went along with the title.

Property was disposed of through deeds, marriage settlements, and wills. Trusts were established to hold property for the benefit of the real owners. The rules of descent and distribution of these trusts could be set up any way one wanted-—within reason, of course. If property was disposed of by a settlement that was in force for the three lives in being + 21 years (as described above), at the end of that time it would need to be resettled by creating a new entail. That is what many did. If the property was not resettled, or dealt with in a will, it descended through PROPERTY LAWS, not by LAWS GOVERNING PEERAGES. As long as the  property went from father to son or from grandfather to grandson along with the title, all was well. However, if there suddenly was no male heir in the direct line, other provisions were established for disposing of the property. The title might go to a cousin twice removed, but the property could even go to a daughter or the offspring of a daughter. [If there was no male heir, i.e., Mr. Collins, in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet’s property could have been left to his daughters or the eldest son of one of the Bennet sisters. Interesting idea…]

Male heirs were preferred only because males, especially of the gentleman class, did not want the property to go to another family. Though daughters have as much family blood as a son, when a daughter married (at least, by law up until the 1870’s) her property came under the control of her husband. Her son would belong to a different family then.

The laws of descent and distribution and inheritance of real estate are complex. It should be remembered that property and peerage have different rules of descent. The family seat can be separated from the title. Property cannot be extinct, though titles could be. Property was rarely forfeited to the Crown due to lack of heirs. Usually it was due to a criminal action.

Illegitimate sons who inherited

For example, Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, died without legitimate issue. In 1871, his illegitimate son, Richard Wallace, inherited all his father’s unentailed estates and an extensive collection of European art, while the title and a country estate passed to a distant cousin. Later, Wallace was made a baronet [not part of Hertford’s titles] for his services during the siege of Paris, when he equipped several ambulances (using his own funds), founded the Hertford British Hospital, and spent lavish sums to bring relief to those afflicted by the clash.

Another example of the illegitimate son inheriting comes to us from Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont, who was the eldest son and heir of Sir William Wyndham and Catherine Seymour, daughter of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. He succeeded to the Orchard Wyndham estates as 4th baronet on his father’s death in 1740, and in 1750, he succeeded by special remainder as 7th Duke of Somerset, 1st Earl of Egremont and received his share of the Seymour inheritance, the former Percy estates, including Egremont Castle in Cumbria, Leconfield Castle in Yorkshire, and the palatial Petworth House in Sussex. Charles’ son George, the 3rd Earl of Egremont, inherited in 1763, but after the 3rd earl’s death in 1837, his son inherited all but the title due to illegitimacy. How so, you may ask?

George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont was the son of William Frederick Wyndham (youngest son of Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont and Frances Mary Hartford, the illegitimate daughter of Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore. George’s father’s eldest brother, George O’Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont of Petworth House, Sussex, died without legitimate male issue and so George Francis Wyndham as the male heir succeeded him as Earl of Egremont, as well as Baron Wyndham and Baron Cockermouth. Unfortunately, George Francis Wyndham did not inherit the Petworth estate or mansion, which was inherited by the 2nd Earl Egremont from the Percy family). Instead, the 3rd Earl of Egremont bequeathed that property to his natural son, Colonel George Wyndham, who was created Baron Leconfield in 1859.

Royalty often bestowed titles upon their illegitimate children. King William IV, for example, presented his illegitimate son, George Augustus Frederick FitzClarence with the title(s) 1st Earl of Munster, 1st Viscount FitzClarence, and 1st Baron Tewkesbury on 4 June 1831.

For a more modern take on the law of perpetuities, check out this piece from CBS News, dated 9 May 2011. “Millionaire’s Heirs Get Inheritance After 92 Years.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/millionaires-heirs-get-inheritance-after-92-years/

The Earl Claims His Comfort

Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 of the Twins’ Trilogy (releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books)

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how Frederick Troutman’s life parallels his while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

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Excerpt:

Howard’s expression became more serious. “In the beginning, I enjoyed the novelty of the situation. When we called in at the clubs, everyone thought Troutman was you. I knew a few meals would not break your credit, and so Frederick and I considered it amusing. But soon I heard rumors of your accepting invitations to some of the ton’s finest events. I am profoundly grieved, Remmington, that my lack of forethought encouraged Troutman’s deception.”

“So this Troutman fellow learned of my directions and my habits from you?”

“I fear so,” Howard admitted. “I beg you to extend your forgiveness.”

“When we finish our conversation,” Rem instructed, “I will expect you to repeat your story to Sir Alexander.”

Howard nodded his agreement. Rem had not offered his forgiveness, but eventually he would. He learned long ago to keep Howard on a short rope.

“How long did you remain Troutman’s associate?”

“No more than a fortnight,” Howard confided. “I enjoyed his company at first, but over the first sennight his interrogation regarding your comings and goings began to wear thin. In the midst of our second week of acquaintance, Troutman said something that set my hackles on alert.”

“And that was?” Rem asked suspiciously.

A vaguely disturbing smile crossed his cousin’s features. “One day in the midst of a conversation as we reviewed new quarters for my residence, Troutman said if he were the earl, then he would see that I did not go without, and that is was a grave oversight on your part that I was to know less than I deserved. I attempted to explain how my fortune came from a yearly allowance from my revered father, and I was not your dependent, but Troutman was adamant that I was your responsibility.

“Then he said it would serve you right to lose the earldom to a stranger with ties to the title. I explained that, with my father’s poor health, many saw me as your heir presumptive for even if father first succeeded, I would soon follow. I also explained that if another had a right to claim the earldom that it would not lessen your position in Society. Parliament accepted you as Remmington, and even if another proved to be the earl, the fortune and the unentailed lands would remain with you. The claimant would have Tegen Castle and Davids Hall and little else. From what could be salvaged from those properties, your mother retains her widow’s dower.”

Rem wondered if his pretender had aspirations of unseating him as the earl. “Is there anything else that I should know?”

“Yes,” Howard said as he set his glass upon a nearby table. “The remark that caused me to curtail my association with him was when Troutman asked if I thought you were the father of Lady Kavanagh’s daughter.”

Rem lifted his brows in surprise. He wondered who spoke so intimately to Troutman of Rem’s business.

Howard continued as if Rem had not reacted to the remark. “Certainly it is possible that Troutman overheard those awful rumors, but as many in Society thought Troutman were you, I cannot imagine any fool would speak so freely to your face.”

Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Meet Regina Jeffers

With 30+ books to her credit, Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era-based romantic suspense. A teacher for 40 years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar and a Smithsonian presenter.

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Now for the GIVEAWAY. I have two eBook copies of The Earl Claims His Comfort available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Tuesday, September 19.

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