I love Regency romances and mysteries, but I don’t know enough about the history of the period to keep everything straight. Luckily for me, my good friend M. L. Rigdon (aka Julia Donner) agreed to a Q & A to help promote her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID.
Help me welcome her to my blog. She’s my critique partner and close friend, and I’m also a huge fan of her writing—and not just because I’m prejudiced. I’m pretty picky about what I consider good writing. Not that anyone would know that. I simply don’t review books I don’t like or admire. And I admire her work. Her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID, is one of my favorites.
Thanks so much for asking me here today! And yes, you are biased, but for my latest venture into the Regency world, it may have to do with you providing the title. Remember? We were at a Scribes writing group and I whined about not being to come up with one. Thanks again for that!
I’ve been reading more novels than usual set in or close to the Regency period. The mystery I’m reading now makes the Prince Regent and his father, actually most of his family, look really bad. It shows the Prince as a spoiled, narcissistic hypochondriac and womanizer who’s so pampered, he couldn’t possibly rule a country. His “handlers” do it. Is this a realistic view of him? Was his father really mentally incompetent—crazy or Alzheimers—at this period?
George III reigned as one of the best monarchs until his mental condition worsened. He was admired for his devotion to his wife and family, huge contributions to charity, and his great pride in being an Englishman, even though 100% German. He was strict and pious, which unfortunately was not passed down to most of his children. His son, eventually George IV, was the opposite of his father in every way, although he did love one woman for many years. The problem was that she was unsuitable as a royal wife.
When the Regent became George IV in 1820, he burdened the country with massive debt. One estimate stated that he spent over 4 million a year on his stables. (A wealthy man spent around 5 thousand a year.) Add to that lavish parties and extravagant building projects. Since he behaved exactly the opposite of his father, George was widely unpopular and mocked.
Back to Dad, George III, the controversy regarding his illness is ongoing. In my opinion (take it as you will), the porphyria disease as the cause of his mental problems doesn’t fit. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t suffer from it, just that it’s doubtful it made him nuts. The arsenic found in the DNA from his hair also doesn’t sound like a true cause for dementia, which was intermittent. (Arsenic was an ancient remedy for many ailments, especially venereal disease, but George III was monogamous.) Bipolar fits better, especially since there are studies about neurotransmitters and George was born 2 months premature. High sex drive is often connected to bipolar and George fathered 15 kids. Hmmm…
Did the Prince go on to become a good king? Did the Hanover house lose its rule eventually? And when did Queen Victoria become queen? Close to this period?
George IV was a mess and fortunately reigned only a decade. His only legitimate heir died. The next in line of surviving brothers was William. He had no legitimate heirs, so the line moved to previously deceased Edward the Duke of Kent’s daughter, Victoria.
QE II is a descendant of the House of Hanover.
I get confused about what’s really happening in history at this time period. Is England still fighting the Napoleonic wars? When is the French revolution when French aristocracy fled to England for safety? You mention both in your books. Asterly was a spy for England against Napoleon and Cervantes’s mother fled the guillotine. Care to elaborate?
Napoleonic Wars started in 1800 in Europe. England entered the war in 1803 until 1815.
Louis XVI was executed January 1793 and Marie Antoinette 9 months later.
Reign of Terror began in the summer of 1793.
Significantly, Marquise de Lafayette returned to France and was never hassled. He was as admired there as he was, and still is, in the US.
Most of the books I’ve read in this period hint at how badly England treated Ireland and maybe Scotland, too. How bad was it? Which of your books dealt with this?
It’s mentioned in many of them but most detailed in The Dandy and the Flirt.
I’m not as familiar with Irish history, but the enclosures in Scotland were horrific, as bad as what the USA did to Native Americans.
In MORE THAN A MILKMAID, you have a wealthy father marry a greedy young bride who does everything possible to steal all of the inheritance he left to his daughters. How did inheritances for female offspring work at that time? What are entailments? How was the title and money passed on to heirs?
Primogeniture, inheritance in England of titles and properties, or entailment, cannot be sold. It follows the eldest born of the male line. Women only inherited if monies or properties, were specifically willed to them and administered through trustees or an elder male member of the family or a person of confidence.
In Heiress and the Spy, Elizabeth’s fortune was supposed to be administered by trustees. She directed them. In that case, I took liberties and had her late father arrange special conditions.
Dowry pertains to what the bride brings to the marriage. Everything she owns goes to her husband. A settlement had to do with what legal arrangements were set aside for the financial wellbeing of the wife/widow.
On a fashion note, the heroines in these stories wear day dresses and then dress for dinner each evening. Did they dress formally every evening?
It wasn’t unusual to change four or five times a day—clothes for the boudoir, morning dress for breakfast, carriage or walking dress, habits for riding, frocks for receiving callers. One always dressed for dinner and then there were different types of fancy dress, such as ball gowns or court dress. In the country, a woman could probably get away with changing twice a day. Men changed didn’t change quite as often but most certainly had specific attires for every event or social function.
Anything you care to tell us about this particular book? An excerpt to tempt us?
I’ve gone on a bit long, as I often do when it comes to history, so will just add a blurb.
Lenora Asher’s happy future came to a tragic end when the lad she was contracted to marry lost his life in a fire. Grieving and rebellious, she refused to agree to her family’s plan for an alternate future. When they cast her off, she found work and refuge with an estranged aunt and settled into the struggle to survive—until one day she discovers the love she’d thought long dead was quite vibrantly alive. He returned to show her that the troubled road to happily-ever-after littered with barriers of doubt, distrust and resentment are no obstacle for a man risen from dead, one who will do whatever is needed to restore her love.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML