Monday, June 23, 2014

Orphans in Regency England

by Lindsay Downs

When I was writing The Guilty Countess, I had a scene set in Stratford upon Avon at a tea house. One of the characters was a little six year old girl, an orphan who worked in the shop. It got me thinking—was this possible, and what other options, if any, were available to these children? The short answer, there were not many. So I went off to do some research on the topic, and what I found was not only interesting but surprising.

During the Regency period, there wasn’t adoption as we know it today. In England, this didn’t come about until the 1920’s.

If the head of a household brought an orphan in but left no provisions for the child in his will, the new head had no obligation to continue the care. If the head did have unentitled property that could be left to the child in the will, it was probably with conditions until adulthood was reached.

Another option would be to have a family in the village take the orphan in. This is what I did with my character. Depending on the needs of the family, the child might become a scullery maid or if taken in by a farmer, might become additional help. These are a few of the best possible options for these waifs.

Another, and better, choice would be that a childless couple might take in a relative’s children. Here, through a provision in the will, the orphan would be able to inherit on the passing of their foster parents. This was not necessarily required of the new parents.

When the child didn’t find a home with family or friends, they were turned over to the parish. Here an orphan could be contracted to a master under certain conditions. The pact gave control over the child to their, for lack of a better word, owner who was required to feed, clothe, and care for the boy or girl, and apprentice them in a trade. Sometimes the new master might not be as scrupulous as was thought, and he would force the child into dangerous work situations. One which comes to mind is a chimney sweep’s apprentice where they could easily die if care was not taken.

In conclusion, the life of a young child in Regency England could be easy or harsh. In book four of the Markson Regency Mystery series, I will be going into what a boy, as a chimney sweep’s apprentice, would endure. That book, tentatively titled Swept Away, will be releasing later this year or early next year. I should warn you, though—some of what you read might shock and astound you.

In conclusion, the life of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens was real.

References used:
Common Regency Errors by Allison Lane
The Word Wenches


When Lord Robert Markson, Viscount of Hampshire, is force to return to England to find out who murdered his father and older brother, he’s in for a surprise. It comes in the guise of Lady Kristina Rosewood, daughter to the Earl and Countess of Crossington. To many she’s quartz but to him a multifaceted diamond.

While recovering from an attempt on his life which thrust them closer together, they work through emotions for each other while sorting through letters sent to his mother years ago. Slowly, they’re able to discover the one man who could have set the murders in motion. The only problem: he’s been dead for years, so who could it be and more importantly, why now?

Once all the evidence is compiled the answer is something neither could believe, as the threat comes from within the late viscount’s house.

Accused of murdering her husband, Lady Donna Kersey turns to the only people who can prove her innocence—her brother and his new bride.

As Robert and Kristina start their search for the real killer they learn the murder might be more complicated than first thought. Uncovering evidence sends the three in pursuit of a possible suspect only to find this person is innocent, or is he not guilty of the murder but something else?

When Robert and Kristina learn Lord Kersey might not be exactly who they believe him to be, the facts become murky. It takes a surprise visit by Kristina’s brother to help set the record straight which only adds more confusion to the facts.

Will Robert and Kristina find the killer of Lord Kersey before the authorities take Lady Kersey away in irons?


What does it take to be a bestselling author? Determination, skill, talent, luck or taking a risk with a venture into a totally new genre. For me it was a little of some and a lot of the others.

In 2008 when I got two books published I thought it was due to skill; little did I know it was more luck than anything. Over the next three years I wrote, submitted, and was rejected. I then did what I tell everyone who asks; I wrote some more. I didn’t give up.

More on a dare than anything, I tried my hand at a Regency, one of the most difficult genres because of the rules, of which, I might add, I broke almost every one. Within two days of its release, the book was on a best seller list and stayed there for two months.

Turns out it is all of the aforementioned.

After two failed marriages, one from divorce while with the other died unexpectedly, I decided upon retirement to move. That opportunity came in September 2012 when I migrated to Texas.
For me, as a multipublished author, it was one of the best things I’ve done to date. Now, every day I can write, creating stories to take my readers to places they can only dream about.

I’m also a member of the Published Authors Network (PAN) by the Romance Writers of America (RWA).

Where you can find me
Facebook Page           
Twitter- @ldowns2966


  1. Debbie,
    Thanks for inviting me to come and share a little bit of history on this blog.

  2. So glad you did, Lindsay! I long knew about Charlotte, Princess of Wales adopting several children, but it never occurred to me that it was not done in the same way as a child would be adopted today.


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