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The Steward ~Guardian of the Noble Estate (farm), by Susan Karsten

Do we. as regency readers, fully understand how, and from where, the wealth of the average wealthy nobleman arose? Mostly, from farming. Yes, there were those who had ships, investments, mines, you name it, but farming the family land was the most common way to wealth that I am aware of. Some lords were good managers of their estates, but even the good managers needed stewards, especially when they owned multiple agricultural estates and spent much time in London.

Picture an estate of as large as 11,000 acres. For the owners to have any leisure-time, they needed to employ a ‘right-hand man’ to look after the management of the estate. The man in question was the agent or land steward.

 Duties: The estate had a number of heads of departments, such as the head gardener, head gamekeeper, etc. The agent was responsible for all of these departments, paying the wages of the workmen and keeping regular logs and accounts of work done. He kept a detailed set of books recording repairs to buildings, fences or roads, as well as information regarding game, livestock and crops. He was also in charge of collecting the rent from the estate’s tenants, and for this reason he could be an unpopular figure.

The agent  spent a lot of his time touring the estate on horseback, dealing with tenants and estate workers face to face. He was required to keep a terrier, a book recording the boundaries and tenancies of the land, which included the rent roll. A good agent needed a head for figures, meticulous record-keeping skills, an all-round knowledge of farm work and land maintenance, and an aptitude for dealing with people. That the job could be dangerous is clear from records of assaults on agents by tenants, and at least one steward murdered on an estate.

A steward’s house near the main gate of an estate.

The most important position on an estate was the steward, who was the chief administrator and, in earlier times, the lord of the manor’s deputy. The steward wielded considerable executive authority.  He transacted all the legal and other business of the manor estate, kept the court rolls, etc.

The steward was usually resident on the Estate.  The steward was responsible for finding tenants for farms, negotiating leases, recommending and supervising improvements, and collecting and disbursing estate revenues His influence certainly also extended into the domestic realm of the estate.

Those of us who write, or read regencies, can easily see how the dishonest steward often crops up as a plot element in our fiction.  They can be made into a convenient villain.

For the most part, however, they were honest men, working for a living, surely taking pride in the nurturing of the property.

Have you ever read a regency with a lordly hero disguised as a steward? Any regencies with wicked stewards? Please respond in the comments. Thanks, Susan

Originally posted 2013-09-09 10:00:00.

Jane Austen Para-literature – Sequels, Retellings, and More by Susan Karsten

Researching this subject taught me a new term and concept: Jane Austen para-literature. Oh my. This is a huge topic. I am only able to skirt around it, since to cover this topic completely would take years. The incredible array of sequels and retellings of the Austen ouvre is astounding. I, dear reader am a veritable babe in the woods when it comes to such reading opportunities. I have read a few spin-offs, no sequels, and no retellings of Jane Austen’s novels.

Is there a name for the phenomenon of the fact that a movie is never/rarely anywhere near as good as the book? Extrapolating that thought further tells me there could never be a sequel book as good as the original Pride and Prejudice.

Creative or knowledgeable people: Please come up with a name for the above phenomenon. Mention it in the comments.

Inveterate Austen sequel/prequel readers: Have you read any great ones? If so, please leave the titles in the comments.

READ ON! Much good information coming your way in this post.

Please check out these websites for listings of sequels:

{The second site lists them alphabetically, but also has a listing of them in chronological order, so you could skip down to the more recent ones.}

There’s also a list on Goodreads of the popular ones:

And another on Amazon:

From the first link listed above, Ted Adams has a wonderful, comprehensive article slicing and dicing the terminology of Austen para-literature. I have used material from this article below. He said it so well.

“The adaptations, completions, sequels, pastiches and other attempts to tap into the Jane Austen industry … devolve from a most noble sentiment: We have read the six published novels and we want more. We want more and different insights into both the novels and into the type of person that Jane Austen was.

Adaptations are transformations into another medium, e.g., stage, screen and television.

Completions are the finishing off of a novel fragment. Jane Austen’s two fragments, The Watsons and Sanditon have been attempted a number of times.

Sequels are a continuation of the action. To my knowledge, nobody has written a “prequel”, which would be a description of what occurred before the action started.

Pastiches are work written in the style of Jane Austen. Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor is a pastiche. Its premise is that it is a notebook that Jane Austen kept concerning events during a period for which we do not have documentation.

Certainly no Jane Austen pastiche will ever be as good as the original, but that is to be expected. Mind you, when the standard is one of the best writers in the English language, to fall short of the mark is no disgrace. To write with wit, economy, great insight and develop complex and interesting characters is no mean feat. After all, we read Jane Austen with great pleasure 200 years later because she compares well not only with her contemporaries but also with ours and everybody who has come in between.

Personally, I enjoy pastiches for much the same reason that I sometimes enjoy Jane Austen criticism. Even when a pastiche fails or fall short, it can be interesting to try understand how or why it comes up short. And in the meantime, I’ve read a story that really has no requirement to be taken seriously.

The questions I would ask of a pastiche are the same that I ask of criticism: Is the work interesting/entertaining in its own right? How faithful it to spirit of Jane Austen’s novels? Does it provide insights into the work in question and/or the character of Jane Austen? ”

So, dear Austen-loving friends, I highly recommend reading the full text of the Ted Adams article — not the least for the titles of para-Austen books he considers excellent! Thanks for visiting Regency Reflections.

Remember to comment on the questions: What to call the phenomenon when the movie or sequel is never as good as the original AND Give the titles of any Austen para-literature books you’ve read that you think were pretty good.

Susan Karsten

The love of Regency romance lives on today. Comment on any post this week for a chance to win a book by one of Regency Reflections’ amazing published authors. The winner will be emailed the list of available books to choose from. The winner will be announced Monday, August 26th. Winner’s mailing address must be within the United States to win. 

Originally posted 2013-08-23 10:00:00.

Our Favorite P and P People and a Chance to Win!

Congratulations to Nancy! She won last week’s prize of the Jane Austen notecards. Nancy, check your inbox for instructions on receiving your prize. 

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is such a popular novel, largely due to the fascinating cast of characters found on its pages. As we take a look at some of those characters this week, we thought we’d ask our Regency Reflections authors who their favorite characters were. There seemed to be a bit of a pattern…

Ruth Axtell 

From an 1895 illustrated edition of Pride and Prejudice.
From an 1895 illustrated edition of Pride and Prejudice.

She, in my opinion, is one of the best heroines of all time, with just the right amount of spunk, wit, compassion, intelligence, and unconventionality.

Vanessa Riley

My favorite would be Elizabeth. Her love for her sisters, particularly Jane is touching. In the book, Austen shows us more of Darcy’s struggles and how he’s falling for Elizabeth, more so than what the movies do, but who can’t love Collin Firth.

Susan Karsten

It’s been years since I read those books, even thought Pride & Prejudice is on my all-tome favorites list. I have to say that the patience, virtue and purity exemplified by Elizabeth Bennet makes her my favorite Austen character.

Naomi Rawlings

Well, my absolute favorite character has to be Elizabeth. I love a woman who can face a man that’s supposedly her superior and treat him as an equal instead. However another character I love is Elizabeth’s mother. Well, I don’t actually love Mrs. Bennet; it’s more of a love-to-hate relationship. That woman is so obnoxious she makes me squirm in horror at times, yet she embodies the ambition of every well-intentioned, marriage-minded mother who’s ever lived. Her scheming adds a wonderful layer suchto the story. Jane Austen did a great job when she created Mrs. Bennet, however horrifyingly obnoxious the she might seem at times.

Kristi Ann Hunter

So hard to choose. The cast is built in such a way that they all add richness and depth to the story. It would lose something were any of them to disappear. While I love Elizabeth – it’s hard to like the book if you don’t! – I really like Darcy. While I’d like to think I’m more, um, personable than he is, I identify with the awkwardness and strong opinions being misinterpreted and having to patch things up once those opinions change.

Who is your favorite character? Wednesday we’ll be taking a closer look at the men of Pride and Prejudice. Friday will be the Ladies’ turn.

pandPbookThis week we’re giving away a lovely copy of Pride and Prejudice. The book is hard cover with a ribbon book mark. The pages are rough cut to simulate the cut edges an original print would have had after binding. All comments on this week’s posts will be entered in the drawing. Must have a United States mailing address in order to win. Winner will be announced August 19, 2013.

Originally posted 2013-08-12 10:00:00.

Gone Too Soon, Jane Austen

Vanessa here,

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

So begins the words to the novel, Pride and Prejudice, and with it the love affair we have for 1800’s England. Now many of us may have been introduced to Jane Austen because of a high school literature assignment or catching a BBC or a Hollywood version of one of her books. I have come to know and appreciate her talents for unlike me, she was a contemporary author writing of her times, of the societal norms and taboos. Austen excelled at capturing the mood of the classes and the roles of women. Her words allow us to visit that time and space we lovingly call the Regency.

So today, I’d like to spend a few moments highlighting the amazing woman, Jane Austen.

Her Birth

Born December 16th, 1775, Jane Austen was the second daughter, the seventh child of eight for Reverend George Austen and Cassandra Austen. They lived in Steventon, Hampshire. They weren’t a rich family at £ 600 per annum. So Jane would find herself very much like her character, Elizabeth Bennett, with nothing more than her charms to recommend her.

Jane's Father's Church, Her Home
Jane’s Father’s Church, Her Home

Her Education

She learned as most girls did at home, to draw, play the piano, and the running of a household. From 1785 to 1786, she and her sister, Cassandra were sent to an aunt in Oxford for more studies. They were later sent to the Abby Boarding School in Reading.

Her Love of a Good Book

By 1801, Jane’s father possessed a large book collection of over 500 books. She is described by family members as a great reader. Her favorites included Fanny Burney’s Cecilia and Camillia and Samuel Richardon’s Sir Charles Grandison, and Maria Edeworth’s Belinda.

In Jane’s Northanger Abby, she puts up a defense of the reading and novels:

“There seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them… In short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”

Her Love Life

From her letters, one can see a few men came a courtin’ but she found most wanting: Heartley, Powlett, Lefroy.

In one of her correspondences, she writes:

“Tell Mary that I make over Mr. Heartley and all his estate to her for her sole use and benefit in future, and not only him, but all my other admirers into the bargain wherever she can find them, even the kiss which C. Powlett wanted to give me, as I mean to confine myself in future to Mr. Tom Lefroy, for whom I do not care sixpence. Assure her also, as a last and indisputable proof of Warren’s indifference to me, that he actually drew that gentleman’s picture for me, and delivered it to me without a sigh.”

Then later we find this:
“At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, and when you receive this it will be over. My tears flow at the melancholy idea.”

And with the end of things with Mr. Lefroy, Jane’s friend (Mrs. Anne Lefroy, cousin to Tom Lefroy) even tried to play match maker. Mrs. Lefroy tried to fix Jane Austen up with the Rev. Samuel Blackall, a Fellow of Emmanuel College. It didn’t work out (See our take on Blackall). Perhaps her joy of writing claimed all her love. Or was she too poor to make a man fall violently in love with her.

Her Writing

Jane started her writing “career” with short stories. These pieces varied from witty to satirical. Many of these short stories were collected together and called the Juvenilia. Over 20 different shorts fill this collection with the most famous being: The Beautiful Cassandra, Love and Friendship, and The History of England.

Her published works (the ones published during her lifetime or posthumously by family members are included below: (S=Synopsis, W=Link to the Whole Work. Go ahead and download a copy provided for free.)

  • Sense and Sensibility  (1811) S W
  • Pride and Prejudice  (1813) S W
  • Mansfield Park  (1814) S W
  • Emma (1815) S W
  • Northanger Abbey (1817) S W
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817) S W
Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice

Her Death

Jane Austen died in 1817 at the age of 41. She began to get ill in 1816 and the yearlong decline, tapped her energy and made her in the end bed-ridden. The cause of her death is disputed. Some venture it was lymphoma. Others Addison’s disease. Another view is she died from bovine tuberculosis contracted by drinking unpasteurized milk. As I check the label, on the milk cartoon for my coffee, I’ll add a final potential cause, typhus, a recurrent form of the disease developed from a childhood illness. Her death left two more manuscripts unfinished, Sanditon (1817) and The Watsons (1804). She is buried at Winchester Cathedral in Winchester, Hampshire.


Winchster Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral

Well, I think we should all agree, her life was too short. Nonetheless, judging by the longevity of her work, she may just have accomplished what she was born to do. Share with us a favorite Jane Austen line or scene and why it sticks with you.


  • Images are from Wikipedia/Wiki commons.
  • Wikipedia
  • Project Gutenberg

This week we’re giving away a lovely set of Jane Austen note cards.

Win This Prize.

For a chance to win, please leave a comment on any of the posts this week. winner will be drawn Monday, August 12. Winner must have a mailing address within the United States.

Originally posted 2013-08-05 10:00:00.

Happy Anniversary, Pride and Prejudice!

Original title page of Pride and PrejudiceTwo centuries ago, a book was published that would impact the world of romantic literature forever. This year marks the two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

You don’t have to be a fan of Jane Austen, a lover of Mr. Darcy, or kindred spirit to Elizabeth Bennet to see the impact this book has had on modern culture and literature, particularly the Regency romance.

All this month, we will be looking at the different aspects of Austen’s book, her life, and her legacy. Do you have a favorite character? Movie adaptation? Modernization? Maybe you’re an avid reader of the many Austen spin off novels. Perhaps the main fascination Austen and her best-selling book have for you is the lasting legacy they have inspired.

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

We’re going to look at all of these things through the month of August. And, as always, it wouldn’t be complete without you entering in on the discussions.

As if a lively discussion about Pride and Prejudice wasn’t enough to get you excited, we’ll be giving away a Jane Austen or P&P themed gift every week. Participate in one of that week’s three post discussions and you’ll be entered to win. It’s that simple.

So let the celebration begin!

No prize will be rewarded today, but we’d love to hear about the first time you remember reading Pride and Prejudice. Did you love it? Hate it? Absorb it until it’s such a part of your being that you dream of transporting through the shower and taking Elizabeth Bennet’s place… oh wait. That’s Lost in Austen.

Originally posted 2013-08-02 10:00:00.

A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction ~ Guest Post by Michelle Griep

Michelle Griep HeadshotA Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction: How to Tell if Your Mr. Right Has Been Tokin’, Smokin’ or Shootin’ the Poppy ~ Guest Post by Michelle Griep

What comes to mind when I say Jane Austen? Hold on. Let me guess…
–          swirling ballroom scenes
–          dinner parties galore
–          the dashing Mr. Darcy

Any of these answers would be right, of course, but you’d also be correct if you’d shouted out opium usage. Austen’s mother used opium to help her sleep, and her father was an agent in the trade. Elizabeth Barrett Browning took opiates every day from the age of fourteen, Sir Walter Scott consumed 6 grams a day, and Samuel Coleridge was a regular user.

Yes, indeed. I hate to burst your bubble of the romantic days of yore, but opium addiction was an issue to be reckoned with.

The first written account of the non-medicinal virtues of this drug is in De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, published in 1821. He advocates opium usage not as a pharmaceutical pain reliever but as a trip into “an inner world of secret self-consciousness.” Sounds positively hippyish, eh?

Had Mr. Darcy been hanging out in a nearby opium den, these are the symptoms Elizabeth Bennett should’ve looked for:

  • Red or glazed eyes
  • Confusion
  • Slurred or rapid speech
  • Loss of appetite
  • Apathy or depression
  • Frequent headaches
  • Insomnia

While Jane Austen preferred to write of dances and dinners, I dove into the seamier side of things and made the hero in A HEART DECEIVED a recovering opium addict. Why?

Because addiction is a contemporary problem with historical roots.

It’s just as hard for my fictional character Ethan to turn down a bottle of laudanum as it is for a real person today to pass on a hit of meth. With God’s help, it can be done—which is exactly what Ethan discovers.

So take care, gentlewomen, when searching out your Mr. Right. Opiates have been around since the days of Pharaoh, and are likely here to stay.

Interested in Ethan’s story? Check out A HEART DECEIVED…

A Heart DecievedMiri Brayden teeters on a razor’s edge between placating and enraging her brother, whom she depends upon for support. Yet if his anger is unleashed, so is his madness. Miri must keep his descent into lunacy a secret, or he’ll be committed to an asylum—and she’ll be sent to the poorhouse. 

Ethan Goodwin has been on the run all of his life—from family, from the law … from God. After a heart-changing encounter with the gritty Reverend John Newton, Ethan would like nothing more than to become a man of integrity—an impossible feat for an opium addict charged with murder.

When Ethan shows up on Miri’s doorstep, her balancing act falls to pieces. Both Ethan and Miri are caught in a web of lies and deceit—fallacies that land Ethan in prison and Miri in the asylum with her brother. Only the truth will set them free.

A HEART DECEIVED is available by David C. Cook and at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.

Keep up with the exploits of Michelle Griep at Writer Off the Leash, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Originally posted 2013-07-22 10:00:00.

British Rights: What Protected Regency Subjects from the Government?

Hi Everyone,

It’s July, and with this month every summer comes national celebratory days in several countries. Canada celebrates Canada Day on July 1. The United States celebrates their Independence Day on July 4. And France celebrated its Bastille Day earlier this week on July 14. So all the celebrations of the past few weeks (as well as some research I’ve been doing on the Napoleonic Wars) led me to ask a few questions about our Regency men and women.

The Americans had their Constitution and Bill of Rights by this point, and the French had their Declaration of the Rights of Man as well as Napoleon’s Civil Code to help protect its citizens from the government. But did England have anything? If so, what? The entire social class structure that so dominated the Regency Era has never really struck me as fair or liberating, nor does the concept of a hereditary monarchy and peerage. So I did some homework, and it turns out England did indeed have civil rights protection for it’s subjects during the Regency Era (at least those subjects residing in England itself). In fact, England was really one of the first countries to start implementing these protections. We’re going to spend both today and Friday looking at them.

Magna Carta

The first of these documents  is the Magna Carta, signed by King John of England on June 15, 1215. The Magna Carta established rights of English barons and large land owners–rights that the king could not take away for any reason. In so doing, the Magna Carta also limited the power of the king. It is almost a prophetical document of the constitutional monarchy that was to come in the 1600s, and is known for “bringing the king under the law.”

So did the Magna Carta protect the every day commoner? The short answer is “No, it did not.” It protected the already wealthy and powerful from the more wealthy and more powerful king. But it was a start, a very good start, at recognizing the innate value of each and every human being, not just the king.

Petition of Right of 1628

The next major political act protecting the rights of men and women was the Petition of Right of 1628. This document delineates certain liberties that the king could not infringe upon. It says no person would be:

  • Forced to provide a gift, loan, or tax without an act of Parliament.
  • Detained and imprisoned without cause.
  • Forced to house soldiers or members of the navy.
  • Made subject to martial law unless under circumstances of war or direct rebellion.

This petition was passed by Parliament in 1628 and then again in 1641, though it still had a rather rough road ahead of it and would eventually be one of the causes of the English Civil War. But it was a start in affording the common citizen with liberties. And unlike the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right protected the common Englishman and Englishwoman.

The more I study British history, the more I see how its ruling class took actions to protect the lower classes earlier in history that the rest of the world.  Did England have a ruling class that often took advantage of the lower classes? Certainly. But at the same time, the British peerage didn’t shamelessly use the commoner the way the French aristocracy and monarchy did the peasant. They didn’t even extort the average commoner the way they did the colonists across the Atlantic Ocean.

Do any of the rights mentioned above surprise you? I was a little shocked–not that the rights existed, but that some of them existed so early.  Do you feel one of the rights delineated above stands out above the others and is more important in some way? I’d love to hear which one and why in the comments below.

And don’t forget, I’ll be back on Friday to finish this discussion.

Originally posted 2013-07-17 10:00:59.

Harriette Wilson ~ Bad Girl of the Regency Era, by Susan Karsten

This is the way of the adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’ (Proverbs 30:20)

If you’ve done any amount of  Regency fiction reading, you’ll have run across references to Harriette Wilson, demi-monde extraordinaire.  From all accounts, a hardened prostitute, she climbed to fame and notoriety during the Regency.  Her memoirs, though chronicling a disreputable life, are considered to be a serious historical document.

Later in life, while writing her memoirs, she expressed no regrets for her ill-spent life. She frankly admitted to being a blackmailer of her former paramours. Her attempt to extort from the Duke of Wellington stands as one of her failures. He famously responded, “Publish and be damned.”

Duke of Wellington

Regency euphemisms for the word prostitute include: the fashionable impure, lightskirt, barque of frailty, lady-bird, of the muslin company, or Cyprian.  They took on specific colorful nicknames such as The Venus Mendicant, The Mocking Bird, The White Doe, or Brazen Bellona.  Harriette Wilson’s nicknames included Queen of Tarts, Harry, or The Little Fellow.

She is said to have been hard as nails, more matey than romantic, frank and familiar.  Not staggeringly beautiful, but with an alluring figure, fine coloring, and abundant vitality.  She took up with a succession of noble lords and was established in a series of elegant apartments at their expense.

We know that this kind of life leads to destruction and is not to be admired in any way. What is interesting is that out of all the regency courtesans that must have existed, only Harriette Wilson is remembered and mentioned.  Do you think her continued notoriety is attributable to her having written a book?

Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7:27)

gates of Hell


Originally posted 2013-07-15 10:07:51.

The Regency Weather Forecaster

Kristi here. I live in Atlanta, Georgia, unofficially and unaffectionately nicknamed Hotlanta. We have two seasons here, winter and summer. Maybe a week of spring or fall thrown in just to make you hope.

While we are accustomed to hot summers, this year it’s been worse than normal. For most of the United States, higher than normal temperatures have been an issue. With the mixed blessing of weather forecasting we can know that this heat isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Painting of couple walking arm in arm away from church.
How did people in Regency England know whether or not they needed their umbrella?
“A Wet Sunday Morning” by Edmund Blair Leighton Photo: Wikimedia Commons

With this expansive summer heat comes the ever present summer rain shower. I have an app on my phone that can tell me whether or not I can expect rain on a given day and what time it’s going to appear, almost down to the minute.

People in the Regency didn’t have the blessing of their local Channel 5 meteorologist or the Weather Channel app on their smart phone. That doesn’t mean that they were unable to make educated forecasts about the day’s weather.

By the time of the Regency, barometers had become a fairly common tool for the upper and middle class. Barometers use a tube filled with liquid to measure the pressure of the atmosphere. Low pressure meant a higher likelihood of rain and clouds whereas high pressure was usually an indicator of clear sunshine.

Weather forecasting is a notoriously fickle thing. Even the best equipped meteorologist today gets the extended forecast wrong most of the time. This was no different for the amateur forecaster in England. The barometric pressure had an average range of 3 inches. As the tools became used by more and more people, adjustments were made to the barometer’s design that made it easier to read the small variations in pressure.

Example of the wheel gauge barometer. Designed to make it easier to read the small variations. Photo: Morguefile.
Example of the wheel gauge barometer. Designed to make it easier to read the small variations. Photo: Morguefile.

Designers and furniture makers also got into the barometer business, making the tools into decorative pieces for the home and adding thermometers, clocks, or a hygrometer.

The hygrometer used an oat fiber to indicate the humidity in the air.

Barometer makers also created a new way to read the level, creating a wheel gauge that would allow people to more easily detect the level of the mercury. The wheel had a needle that pointed to the pressure level. It had a tendency to stick requiring people to tap lightly on the glass to attain an accurate reading.

While I’m very grateful for the accuracy of Doppler radar and I wouldn’t trade the ability to know how my beach weekend is going to look, I like that so many people acquired a basic knowledge of atmospheric science in order to make their own predictions about the weather.

What is your favorite scientific tool that is now or once was part of everyday life?

Originally posted 2013-07-03 10:00:00.

A War of Ideals: The Difference between War in Regency England and Revolutionary France

For a good portion of the Regency Era (and for the last decade of the 18th Century), Napoleonic WarEngland and France found themselves at war.


War was hardly a new thing for either country. With past wars between England and France, greed, land acquisition, and strengthening the monarchy were the usual catalysts and goals. But with the advent of the French Revolution (and the American Revolution preceding it), a new mentality regarding war arose among the common people.

Before the American and French Revolutions, commoners fought in wars that served to benefit the aristocracy or monarchy. With these new revolutions, regular citizens and common people had a better reason to fight: themselves. Each man standing in France’s army believed he would have a better life if he was allowed to choose who governed his country, rather than be subject to a hereditary monarch.

One thing that the British initially failed to understand about the French  and Americans was WHY they wanted to fight. If you study the French Revolution, American Revolution, Napoleonic War and then the War of 1812, you’ll find this misunderstanding for every single war. With the changes in the French and American governments came a type of energy and belief that the mass of the population could fight for freedom, or for a government they wanted rather than one handed to them by a monarch. And Britain failed to grasp these ideals.

Napoleonic WarsIf you were to ask a Frenchman in 1793 and 1803 why he fought, he would have given an answer that involved something about freedom and thwarting tyranny. Even if you were to ask this question a decade later in 1813, after twenty years of war, the answer may well have been the same. “We want freedom. We don’t want another Bourbon king.”

Interestingly enough, if you were to ask a British subject in 1793 why he fought, he likely would have answered “because the king wants us to fight.” If you were to ask the same British soldier that question in 1803, his answer might well be the same, or he might say something to the effect of “because I don’t trust that French Consulate and Napoleon.” If you were to ask the same question again in 1813, the answer would likely be, “Because that Corsican Monster Napoleon is trying to take over Europe, and he’ll take England if we don’t stop him.”

For the first decade of war between France and England, the average British sailor and Napoleonic Warsoldier didn’t have a reason to fight beyond “the government wants us to.” The average Englishman had nothing to gain by fighting with France until the English populace began to believe Napoleon Bonaparte a threat to England (part of which was came about as a result of printing intentionally untrue propaganda against Napoleon). And only then did Britain truly begin to best France in battle.

Now I’m curious about your views. Do you think Britain misunderstood the motivation of both the French and American people when they went to war? Do you think some of that misunderstanding is what led to two decades of war between Britain and France, and the United States defeating Britain two different times?  When you look at the French Revolution and Napoleonic War, do you believe the French people had a reason to fight? Do you believe the British people had a reason to fight?



Originally posted 2013-06-24 10:00:30.