Marriage Options and Special Licenses

Regency_wedding I’d like to share some research done at The Republic of Pemberley regarding the ways in which hour hero and heroine can marry, and particularly the ubiquitous Special License.  The researcher here is Julie Wakefield, a lawyer in England as well as a scholar of Georgian period. Julie is no longer with the web site, but her legacy lingers. As this is a Jane Austen web site, you’ll find most references to her work and her time. There were three methods of marrying legally in England and Wales in Jane Austen’s day. Marriage in England and Wales was regulated by the Marriage Act of 1753, known as Hardwicke’s Marriage Act after the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke who introduced and oversaw the passage of the Act in Parliament. The Act was controversial as it was the first attempt by Parliament to regulate the legality and form of marriage, something that has previously been subject to the control of the Church. The reason for the act was the great uncertainty and difficulties experienced during the mid 18th century by the various methods of getting married. Lord Hardwicke’s act was designed to clarify the law, to prescribe the methods by which people would marry, and to provide punishments for anyone who flouted the new regulations regarding marriage and the recording of the ceremonies. From 1754 (when the Act came into force) it was only possible to marry in one of three ways. By the reading of banns, by Common License or by Special license. The act made attempts to marry in any other fashion- e.g. by verbal contract, a clandestine marriage, or under the auspices of a so-called Fleet marriage, unlawful, and anyone performing a marriage in this way could be subject to the death penalty, or transported for a period of 14 years (see Section 16 of the Act). Marrying after the reading of banns. Provided both parties to the marriage were over 21 or had their respective parents consent if they were under age, then after giving 7 days notice to their priest, banns would be read for three successive Sunday in both of their parishes, to advertise the fact that their marriage was to take place. The marriage (and this was a requirement for all marriages by banns or by license) had to be performed before two witnesses. The marriage would then be immediately recorded in a register in a form prescribed by Section 15 of the Act, which was to be kept and maintained in proper order by the priest at the church. The reason for all this publicity and recording was to ensure that the marriage was known to have taken place and that there was evidence of it having occurred, should anyone attempt to deny the existence of the marriage in the future.. There were objections raised to this procedure being introduced by many people in Parliament during the passage of Hardwicke’s bill. The fact that a couples nuptials were being advertised in public was perceived to be unseemly. Horace Walpole was appalled by this situation. He wrote to a friend as follows: How would my Lady A—– have liked to be asked in a parish church for three Sundays running? I really believe that she would have worn her widows weeds for ever, rather than have passed through so imprudent a ceremony. (quoted in The Life of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, Volume 2 pp 486-7, written by G Harris.)

Capt. Cook's Marriage Allegation when applying for a Common License
Capt. Cook’s Marriage Allegation when applying for a Common License

For those who objected to such publicity there was another route to take: marriage by Common License obtained from a Bishop. To obtain a common license, which enabled the couple concerned to marry in a nominated parish church, without the necessity of the banns being read, the applicant, usually but not always, the bridegroom, had to submit an application called an allegation to the appropriate Bishop, stating who was to be married, where,and that they had the requisite consents, or were of age. If they were under age, written consent of the parents had to be submitted. In addition, until 1823 a bond (a pledge of money) was also required, which was to be forfeit if any of the facts in the allegation were subsequently found to be untrue. Most people with any pretensions to gentility married by this route, to avoid the publicity and delay occasioned by taking the reading of the banns route to matrimony. Special Licenses were issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, from the Office of the Master of Faculties. Again, allegations had to be made in written from to obtain a license. The big difference between Jane Austen’s time and ours (until very recently) is that a special license enabled a couple to marry, not in a parish church, but anywhere they wished, for example, the bride’s home. A Special License therefore was very desirable for anyone who wished to have absolute privacy when marrying. In view of remarks like that made by Horace Walpole above, one can see why this was appealing to eighteenth century. A Special license was valid for six months from its date of issue, which was recorded by the Faulty office. However, further research into Special Licenses indicates that they might not be very easily obtainable.

Very few Special Licences were issued prior to the 20th century- in fact 99% of all marriage licenses issued before 1900 were Common Licenses.

In a number of cases the residential requirement was fulfilled merely temporarily or even only on paper to ( just about) meet the requirements. There was nevertheless, a rise from eleven Special Licenses in 1747 to fifty in 1757, probably as a result of Hardwicke’s emphasizing that under a Common License a couple should only marry within the parish of one of them. Such a five fold increase albeit to an extremely low absolute number, caused Archbishop Secker to panic and in 1759 to issue some guidelines whereby only Peers, Privy Councillors, Members of Parliament, barons and knights should be married with Special Licenses.

He also expected couples to marry within the normal canonical hours. Special licenses were also intended for a couple to marry in a place with which they has a real attachment, not a mere fascination. (from Christian Marriage Rites and Records by Colin R Chapman).

There you have it. The three ways in which our couples might be married. The Special License not as widely available or widely used as our romances would have us believe.

Posted in Jane Austen, Regency, Research | Leave a comment

Give me that old-time (Regency) religion

I’m going to be a bit daring this week and talk about religion. (But don’t worry. I won’t preach.)

My books aren’t inspirational, so faith issues aren’t in the foreground, but when I create Regency characters I always keep in mind that they do have a religious background of some kind, even if they’re an atheist or agnostic or just aren’t very observant. Even if it’s never overtly mentioned, my characters’ upbringing and beliefs are going to play a role in how they deal with issues of life and death, right and wrong, and love and sex that arise over the course of their stories.

And I also remember that my characters’ religion isn’t as similar to my own as you might think. You see, I’m an Episcopalian, a member of the American branch of the Anglican Communion. You’d think that would give me a wonderful window into writing Regency characters, so many of whom are English aristocrats and therefore good, conforming, non-boat-rocking members of the Church of England. And you’d think that if my characters found themselves flung forward two centuries, visiting Saint Andrew’s with me on a Sunday morning would be a little taste of home.


Not so much, as it turns out. Oh, the liturgy would sound familiar in many spots. And I won’t dwell on the differences that spring from broader social changes–like how my Regency characters wouldn’t have referred to their rector as “Pete,” nor how their congregation’s ordained staff wouldn’t have been 50% female.

No, to a Regency person my modern Episcopal church would be both far too Catholic and entirely too like those overly enthusiastic Methodists and dissenting Protestants. We speak well of the Pope–at least of Pope Francis–which I can’t imagine any Regency-era Anglican doing, given how fraught and bound up in national identity the Catholic-Protestant divide was then. And while I can’t find any specific citations, I don’t think Regency clergy wore ornate, brightly colored vestments or broke out the incense at Easter and Christmas.


(That’s Katharine Jefferts Schori, the current presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, at her investiture.)

But the biggest difference between a modern Episcopal or Anglican Sunday service and its Regency antecedent would be the hymns. Prior to 1820 or so, hymn singing was frowned upon in the Church of England–insofar as congregational music existed, it ran to metrical versions of psalms. Since the psalms were taken directly from Scripture, their theology was unassailable, while hymns were viewed as too emotional and of dubious theological merit. (Which amused me to discover, since 200 years later you see similar debates in the church, only with hymns in the honored place once occupied by psalms and “contemporary praise choruses” as the newbies.)

What changed? Just after the Regency, in roughly the second quarter of the 19th century, the Church of England experienced a period of spiritual renewal. This renewal had two branches–Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic. Both movements had a significant, ongoing impact on the church and made the bright, colorful, musical Sunday mornings at Saint Andrew’s possible.

I won’t be there this Sunday, though. Instead I’ll be worshipping at the Church of Baseball, Mariners vs. Orioles. And lest you think there’s no Regency connection there, baseball is mentioned in Jane Austen. Really. I swear.

How do you feel about religion making an appearance in non-inspirational Regencies? Let me know in the comments. And bonus points to anyone who can find the Austen reference and/or say why I always refer to Sunday games as the Church of Baseball.

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NSFW: Pass The Gravy

In which I talk about sex, or to be more accurate, writing sex.

This is inspired by my reading an actual romance, one that came highly recommended and intrigued me because it was about a woman composer in the late Georgian period. In her afterword the author mentioned that she was inspired by the life and works of Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix’s smarter older sister. The best bits of the book were about music–what it feels like to listen, or to play or create.

The luurve business and the Hessian bumping business, not so much. One was a lazy fall back to some truly awful cliches such as her womanly core and the juncture of her thighs and I’ve spent so long complaining about the use of such dreadful terminology I’m beginning to bore myself as well as the rest of us. Truly, those terms are like iffy extended family members who slurp gravy and get mashed potatoes stuck in their knitting. We know what they are but somehow we can’t get rid of them and keep inviting them for Thanksgiving anyway.

But one thing this writer did get right was that h/h talked to each other–about what they wanted to do, what they were doing now, and could they … uh, have a bit more breast meat. And pass the gravy.

Which brings me to the other writing sex inspiration–a presentation for my local RWA chapter by a former dominatrix who is now a counselor for the LGBT community. She was extremely funny and brought the tools of the trade with her, a collection of whips and other items. But never mind that. And guess what she said–the problem with most fictional depictions of BDSM or polyamorous relationships is that participants don’t talk enough. That’s talking before you do anything. In fact, with threesomes etc. it’s a wonder people don’t wear themselves out with preliminary discussions and collapse in chaste and total exhaustion.

And unless not talking is part of the game–you could, for instance, have a drumstick (or something) wedged in your mouth–chances are these verbal folks would keep right on talking. Because the communication doesn’t stop once the action starts, although in romance it’s far too often all this teeth-gritted, grimacing, straining stuff which reads like a bad case of constipation, even if minutes before h/h have been chatting away.

So, my conclusion with writing sex scenes is nothing new–it’s all about communication. Or possibly the lack of it. Or a yearning to communicate, meld, belong, love as a physical expression. What do you think? And what makes a sex scene work for you?

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Forget-me-nots & (Fake) Worry Letters

By now you’ve probably realized that I’m an utter geek when it comes to nineteenth-century magazines and newspapers and that I love putting all kinds of (mostly obscure) references into my stories just for the fun of it. And so, when I was writing A Tangled Web, the latest installment in my series about the fictional magazine Allan’s Miscellany, I just couldn’t resist including a reference to an advice column I had first heard about at a conference* a few years before: “Cupid’s Letter Bag” from The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine.

Cover of The Englishwoman's Domestic MagazineLaunched in 1852 by Samuel Beeton, The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine was the first British magazine targeted at middle-class women (earlier women’s magazines were meant for an upper-class audience). From 1856 onwards, Beeton’s wife Isabella acted as “Editress” (and yes, that would be Mrs. Beeton from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management). Apart from poetry, serialized fiction, articles about famous people and fashion plates, the magazine included embroidery patterns, sewing patterns, and much practical advice concerning household matters (including recipes).

from The Englishwoman's Domestic MagazineAnd then there was “Cupid’s Letter Bag.”

If you consider the historical and social context, “Cupid’s Letter Bag” was a rather strange advice column, for rather than praising female passivity that was so much part of the Victorian ideal of femininity, it encouraged women to be more active and more intellectual.

In the November issue of 1853 one of the letters to the magazine (well, many of those worry letters were actually written by Beeton himself…) (fake worry letters!!!) started with,

 “Would it be very improper for me to send a few forget-me-not flowers to a young gentleman with whom I have lately become acquainted? […] He has given me bouquets many times; and when he left, he asked me to send him a few flowers of the forget-me-not, to let him see I had not forgotten him, which I did not exactly promise to do, although I fear by my manner I led him to expect it.”

The rather blunt answer was:

 “We think the vanity betrayed in the request of the gentleman is well left unsatisfied. He asked for the forget-me-nots, it appears, to let him see that ‘you had not forgotten him,’ not to remind him of you.”

This letter somehow struck my fancy, and I just had to include it in Allan’s, despite it being a bit too girly and fanciful for Allan’s. But hey, it’s my fictional magazine, so I can include whatever I want! :-)

Now, without further ado, here’s the relevant snippet from A Tangled Web. At the beginning of the story Pel, the hero, arrives at the editorial office in a moment of crisis: the contributions of a new writer have turned out to be utter crap, and the editor (grumpy MacNeil) and his right-hand man (Robbie Beaton) are now discussing what can be used instead:

“What else have we got?” MacNeil shuffled his papers around. “A review of Gervase Carlton’s latest literary offering. A nice one, that.—An article from Our Man Abroad. More about the diggings in the Near East.” He glanced at Beaton. “We already have an Assyrian lion for that one, haven’t we, Robbie?”

In lieu of an answer, Beaton pointed at one of the woodblocks lying on the table.

“Right. Another worry letter for Cupid’s Letter Box?”

“I’ll write that one,” Beaton said hastily. “You’re such a cynic when it comes to love, Mac. Nobody wants to hear what you think about the plight of a young girl who…hm….is wondering about whether or not to send a posy of forget-me-nots to a gentleman of her acquaintance—”

MacNeil groaned. “And thus we all die from an overflow of sentimentalism…”

Unperturbed by the criticism, Beaton just grinned and shrugged. “Flo quite likes the overflow of sentimentalism. Says it gives the magazine a heart.”

The editor threw him a sour look. “Your wife’s taste is not always sound, Robbie. Just look at whom she has married!”

Whistling, Beaton gazed at the ceiling. “Which, if I’m not mistaken, was the making of our magazine.”

“Yes, yes. The search for the Mystery Maiden—all very romantic.” MacNeil made a dismissive gesture. “My brains must have been addled at the time.”


* The conference in question was the 2010 annual conference of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, and the paper was Jennifer Phegley’s “Dear Mr. Editor: Courtship and Marriage Advice in The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine.

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Guest Blogger Keira Soleore

I’m taking a little blogging break for a couple of weeks, but we have an excellent guest blogger today, talking about the gorgeous city of Bath!  Keira Soleore is a a freelance book editor, a content editor for a travel start-up, and a medieval & Regency romance aspiring writer.  Visit her at….

Anyone who has visited Bath, England comes away with loving memories of a city rich in history and beauty. As Samuel Johnson wrote: “Let me counsel you not to waste your health in unprofitable sorrow, but go to Bath and endeavour to prolong your life.” For seventeen centuries, the City of Bath has hosted visitors from all walks of life believing exactly that. There’s this fan of Bath, H.V. Morton, who in 1927 wrote: “I like Bath. It has quality. I like Bath buns, Bath Olivers, Bath chaps, Bath brick, Bath stone (which to my London eyes is the beautiful sister of Portland stone), and watching the Bath chairs dash past.” Honestly, do you see any denizen of a Bath chair (AKA wheelchair) wanting to dash about the steep hills of the city?”

This gem in the Avon river valley lies over a volcano that sends up hot mineral water to the surface. King Bladud, who reigned in England 900 years before Christ is credited with the discovery of these springs. The first shrine at the site of the hot springs was built by Celts and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans later identified with Minerva. Agricola arrived in Bath in the Roman year of 861. He called the city Aquae Sulis and constructed the temple to Minerva in 70 CE. He brought with him a taste for the Roman life, including public bathing, wearing of togas, traveling on well-constructed roads, and building temples and government buildings.

The waters of Bath were a natural draw for the elderly and the sick in the belief that bathing in and drinking of these waters cured the sufferers of all ailments, real and imagined. The Roman Baths that still stand today were built over the course of 300 years. King Bladud’s statue, which stands proudly in these baths, is saluted to in the whimsical words of Richard Brinsley Sheridan “Bladud assures me: Tho’ in his youth, about three thousand years ago, he was reckoned a man of Gallantry, yet he now never offers to take the least advantage of any lady bathing here.”

Bath1While public bathing continued to be the mainstay of life in Bath, many people disapproved of the practice. John Wood the Elder was much preoccupied with the licentious behavior in the baths: “Modesty was entirely shut out of them; People of both Sexes bathing by Day and Night naked.” Can you sense the outrage dripping in each syllable there? Many archdeacons and rectors over the years tried to school people in modesty;drawers for men, smocks for women, and no intermingling of the sexes. But people continued to court excommunication in order strip naked and enjoy bathing in their natural glory.

RoyalCrescentWhile John Wood the Elder was airing his views, John Wood the Younger was involved in a different project. He designed and built the Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent. This greatest example of Georgian architecture was built between 1767 and 1774 and is among the most enduring landmarks of Bath. Be sure to visit Number One Royal Crescent to see a typical townhouse in Georgian times. The others crescents to visit are the Lansdown Crescent and The Circus.

PumpRoom The Grand Pump Room, built in 1789 in the Abbey churchyard, was where the Georgian and Regency nobility gathered in the mornings to partake of the sulfurous waters. It was a place to see and be seen, and people dressed carefully for the occasion. Gossiping over glasses of the water was considered the norm as was promenading around the room. Nowadays, you can visit the building for a meal in the reputable restaurant.

The Bath Abbey, AKA The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, was a former Benedictine monastery, but is now an Anglican parish church. It was founded in the seventh century, rebuilt and/or restored in the 12th, 16th, and 19th centuries. The abbey currently seats 1,200 people and continues to be actively used for religious services, various non-religious ceremonies, and also concerts and lectures. Small eclectic restaurants and shops have sprung up in the lanes surrounding there to cater to the thousands of tourists who throng to the abbey every year.

SallyLunnOne of the oldest houses in Bath and the origin of the famed Bath buns, Sally Lunn’s House is a must visit for its traditional but varied menu. The Sally Lunn Bun is like a teacake made with a yeast dough, cream, eggs, and spice and is very similar to French sweet brioche.

The 148-foot long 58-foot wide Pulteney Bridge, across River Avon, has been in continuous use since 1774. Sir John Soane’s Museum in London in 2000, I saw Robert Adam’s original drawings for this bridge. To this day, it is only one of four bridges in the world to have shops across its full span on both sides.

And finally, I cannot end an account of Bath without mention of one of its most famous visitors, Jane Austen. In 1897, she wrote in Northanger Abbey, “They arrived at Bath. Catherine was all eager delight;her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine striking environs, and afterwards drove through those streets which conducted them to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and felt happy already. they were soon settled in comfortable lodgings in Pulteney Street.”

Posted in Guest, History | 3 Comments

Surgery Complete

The dh came through the back surgery with flying colors, but he’s still in the hospital (as planned) and I’m still with him! I’ll be back next week with a proper blog.

Here’s his room:
As you can see, it’s a nice one!

Here’s how he feels:

But he really is doing very well!!

Posted in Anything but writing | 5 Comments

A Book About Nothing

This is my hero.

While I can’t claim to have thought of the idea first–Seinfeld was famous for being “a show about nothing,”–I can say that I am proudly writing a book about nothing.

It doesn’t work out so well, it seems, when I try to put too much plot in there. So I am writing a book about a gentleman who succeeds somewhat unexpectedly to a dukedom, and finds that the dukedom comes with a duchess–a woman whose parents have entered into agreements to wed her to the man affiliated with the title, no matter who the man is.

It’s a Marriage of Convenience story, and there’s no big villain, or big misunderstanding, or traumatic life or death issues at stake; merely the happiness of two people who are already relatively comfortable in life, at least in terms of their circumstances.

It’s hard to keep the focus purely on the relationship, but I’m a quarter of the way in, and so far, it seems to be okay. I like stories about nothing but the relationship, although I definitely envy authors who can add plot and not make it seem incredibly lame.

Plot will find its way in somehow, it usually does, but meanwhile, I have two characters who have to come to know one another, trust one another and, eventually, love one another.

What other ‘books about nothing’ have you loved?


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Wish me luck!

Scene in Kerry, IrelandThis summer I’m starting a new endeavor I may have mentioned before: a new series. I’m not ready to discuss it here yet, because it’s still so shapeless in my mind I can’t quite believe in it. It’s a project that excites me and scares me at the same time, because it’s going to require a lot more research and plotting on a level beyond what I did for my “Three Disgraces” trilogy, which were only loosely connected.

I hope readers will be patient with me as I take this climb. It looks steep, and after a point, I’m not sure what the path will entail. But there’s also the prospect of some amazing views as I get closer to the end.

So I have ordered some new reference books and stocked up on journals and my favorite pen (G-2 Pilot, in blue, not black), because I do my best brainstorming in longhand. I may also play with some easier side projects (I have several ideas for novellas) to take some of the pressure off.

I’m also taking some time to spiff up how I do ebook formatting. Many thanks to Risky Carolyn Jewel who spent an hour or so patiently answering my questions and gave me some excellent suggestions! Although it is technical work, it’s creative too, and that feeds my muse and it’s fun! (Yes, I am a little bid mad, but harmless, I promise you.)

What do you do to psyche yourselves up for a big project?


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By the way, what were they wearing?

For once not talking about Regency clothes but what happens when you take on all of an author’s books in a short period of time. I attended an Austen discussion group recently where someone mentioned, having read four Austen books in a row, that she was tired of “the stuff”–balls, dances, who was going where with whom, and so on.

I’ve been a victim of this recently, reading with great enjoyment [brief digression to dispose of a mosquito the size of my head followed by burial at sea in bathroom] almost all the books in a series of of mysteries set in England, written by an American author.

What does happen [sorry about the mosquito digression] is that you start to notice the nervous tics, minor obsessions etc. of the writer. Unlike Austen, whose “stuff” is the gears that drive the novel, other writers’ “stuff” may be annoying or endearing. This author is fixated on English sandwiches, the sort sold just about everywhere in triangular packages. They are smaller and more compact than their US counterparts with modest but tasty fillings. The closest thing we have here are those sold by Pret A Manger (a chain that originated in London). Yum.

Now that I don’t mind. I’m quite happy to read about food, and possibly, it’s not too intrusive since the characters tend to chow down and discuss the case. What does bug me about this particular author is that every character introduces themselves in this way: “By the way, I’m …” Really? Do English people do that all the time?

Mysteries seem rather vulnerable to “stuff,” particularly kneejerk descriptions of what characters are wearing, even for cameo appearances. Whether it’s a bizarre reader expectation or an editor demanding a description of some sort, it can be distracting. I read a book some decades ago,  where the action was halted dramatically by sartorial details–memorably, after a gunman burst through a glass door, we were treated to a description of what he was wearing before the action resumed.

Dedication by Janet MullanyMy own writerly nervous tics include huge amounts of tea drinking, leaning on mantelpieces, heroes in tears, and they’re all there in the revised version of my first book Dedication which I self pubbed a few days ago. Filthy and affordable, what more could you ask for? Buy the Kindle version here.

Are you aware of writerly “stuff” as you read? Does it annoy you or do you just accept it as part of the book?

Posted in Jane Austen, Reading | 4 Comments

Game Laws In the Regency

Game Laws — More complicated than you think

My current project involves a scene in which my hero (a duke!) is at his hunting box in December. As I was writing this scene, several questions arose.

1. The term “hunting box.” I have seen the term in historical romances, but is it period? The answer is yes. A hunting box implies something small, but in looking at images and floor plans, these structures were not small. This makes sense if you think about the need to accommodate staff, guests, and their servants AND the equipment, horses and dogs.

2. Who was allowed to hunt and why is, for England, a question of class and rank that comes down to this: if you needed to hunt to put food in your belly, chances are you were legally prohibited from doing so. In order to demarcate who was of sufficient rank to be allowed to hunt, there were any number of thresholds; your family, property you owned, a legal entitlement you might possess, your yearly income, the value of your estate. It’s exactly as complicated as you’d imagine when the real requirement is that you be of sufficient rank–in a culture where rank was derived from ownership of land. Down there at the border between “commoner” and “has enough money and does not need a job” there were ambiguities.

3. If you were a gentleman with the right to hunt—likely on your own property, you also had servants, and those servants, by law, were not permitted to hunt. Laymen could not legally be in possession of the implements of hunting; breeds of hunting dogs, guns, snares, nets, and the like. Nor could they be in possession of game. The penalties could be severe: significant fines, months to years in jail, and, even, transportation. What, then, was the gentleman to do when his servants were prevented from assisting in his hunting? We’ve all seen pictures of servants holding hunting equipment. The answer is a certificate; a document that granted a legal exemption from the laws.

This certificate was a legal document obtained yearly from a local clerk appointed specifically to issue the certificate. If there was no appointed clerk, the local land surveyor would issue the certificate. The certificate cost 3 pounds 1 shilling. The servant or other layman was required to produce the certificate on demand.

Think, then, what this would mean for a household with sporting gentlemen. Legally, only servants who had been issued certificates could accompany their employers on hunts where they would be required to hold or handle dogs, dead or living game, or other hunting paraphernalia.

4. The Gamekeeper was another position entirely, and there were, again, specific legal requirements to be met in order to exempt a layman from the usual restrictions against hunting, and to prevent a land owner from appointing more than one. A Gamekeeper had what amounted to limited police powers. He could seize game and equipment from others, and he could detain them and search property. A lord or lady of a manor could appoint one and only one gamekeeper per property. The position would naturally be one of power, as you would expect, both among and over the local commoners and among other servants. In historical novels in our period, we should be mindful of the importance of the position and of the legal and extra-legal powers that came with it.

Game Seasons, Restrictions etc.

There were also, as you would expect, hunting seasons. Humans the world over have understood that if you do not allow future generations of animals to procreate and raise their young, you will not have future animals. It should be no surprise that the hunting that the proscribed periods coincide with the breeding and raising of young, and that, for birds, that included leaving the nests and eggs alone.

Here is a list I put together from the 1809 Game laws. Obviously, it’s possible the dates were different in different years, but likely not by much, if at all. I did my best to decode the day of certain holidays. For some there were inconsistent results. I also added the NO and YES months for hunting as after a bit my brain hurt.

But, at last, a handy chart to refer to! Would they REALLY have been hunting grouse in June?

1-June to 1-Oct Moulting season for water fowl.
NO: June July Aug, Sep
YES: Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr May
1-Feb to 1-Sep Partridge
NO: Feb, March, Apr, May June July Aug
YES: Sep Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan
1-Feb to 1-Oct Pheasant – unless kept in a mew or breeding place
NO: Feb, March, Apr, May June July Aug Sep
YES: Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan
10-Dec to 20-Aug Black game (birds except grouse) aka heath fowl
NO: Dec-10 Jane Feb March Apr May June July Aug-20
YES: Aug 21, Sep. Oct Nov Dec 9
10-Dec to 12-Aug red game (grouse)
NO: Dec-10 Jane Feb March Apr May June July Aug-12
YES: Aug 13, Sep. Oct Nov Dec 9
1-Mar to 1-Sep bustard
NO: March, Apr, May June July Aug
YES: Sep Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan Feb
10-Dec to 1-Sep Heath fowl in New Forest Co of Southampton (black game)
NO: Dec-10 Jane Feb March Apr May June July Aug
YES: Sep 2. Oct Nov Dec 9
2-Feb to 24-June No burning of gaig, link, heath, furze, goss or fern for preservation of black game and grouse on nay mountains, hills, heaths, moors, forests, chases or other wastes
1-Mar to 30-June No taking eggs of wild birds

HUNTING SEASONS (Possibly Not strictly observed)

Pedestrian animals: hart, hind, buck, doe, boar, fox, and hare

24-Jun to 14-Sep Hart and buck
from St. John the Baptist day til Holyrood-day
14-Sep to 2-Feb Hind and doe:
Holyrood to Candlemas
25-Dec to 2-Feb Boar:
Christmas to Candlemas
25-Dec to 25-Mar Fox:
Christmas to Lady-day. Lady day is either Jan 1 (which does not make sense, or March 25-ish, which makes more sense)
29-Sep to 2-Feb Hare:
Michaelmas til Candlemas

Miscellaneous Rules

No hunting at night. No hunting on Sunday or Christmas. Morning is either 6 AM, 4 AM, or 8 AM depending on the bird and time of year.

No tracing and killing hares in the snow.

No lord or lady of any manor shall appoint more than one gamekeeper within one manor, with power to kill game. Gamekeeper must be registered with the clerk of the peace in the county in which said manor lies.

Persons are forbidden to bear any hawk of the breed of England called nyesse, goshawk, passel, laner, loneret or falcon or disturb or slay them. Same for eggs.


No unauthorized fishing between 6:00AM and 6:00PM.

There you have it.

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