As you know, we’ve been talking talking about Inevitably a Duchess, the story of Richard and Jane. Today I’d like to share with you the interesting bits of historical research that went into the story. I feel the need to explain that I may be obsessed with history, so you will perhaps find the following a bit much. I can’t help it. I’m a nerd.
There is a very small reference to Queen’s House in Jane and Richard’s story, but several readers have noticed it saying, “When is this book written? What queen?” Queen’s House was what Buckingham Palace was called at the time our story takes place. Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, had her first child in August 1762 (The Prince of Wales and later George IV) and moved around that time to Buckingham House, the original structure on the property that would later be the palace. Queen’s House was looked at as a retreat for Queen Charlotte, and St. James’s Palace remained the official royal residence. But after someone got the urge to renovate (probably after watching marathon episodes of Rehab Addict on HGTV), Queen’s House became what is today Buckingham Palace.
The Rights of Man was an actual publication by Thomas Paine that first became available around March 1791. However, there was such an uproar over it that Paine released The Rights of Man 2.0 in 1792 and was still arguing about it late into the year. That Richard Black would be required to read it as an agent for the War Office in November 1792 is very plausible as Great Britain actually did fear a revolution.
Terrified that revolution was coming, loyalist associations formed to stop it. The Bull’s Head Association in Manchester, UK, was just one such association. Especially during 1792, “loyal Britons” banded together to stop lower classes from gaining more rights. This is why Richard Black thinks it’s so odd that Lady Straughton would support a revolution. She had married into money and wealth, but her French roots ran deeper, it seemed.
Richard Black is following a gang of body snatchers, people who dig corpses out of graves and sell them to medical schools. Body snatchers were often called ressurectionists or ressurection-men. The corpses were used for dissection to teach anatomy courses at colleges. Before 1832, the only bodies that could be used in medical schools were the corpses of condemned criminals (capital punishment), and with the rise of medical schools, the supply of corpses couldn’t keep up with demand. So people stole dead bodies and sold them. It was so common that friends and relatives of a deceased person would hang out around the grave until the corpse was likely decomposed enough not to be stolen. The business of bodysnatching was lucrative and the punishment, if caught, was laugable. It would make sense for a radical to look to bodysnatching to support a revolution.
I don’t want to put any spoilers in here, but I do feel the need to explain the card game that is such a key element in this story. (Editor’s note: I will never, NEVER, EVER, again attempt to write a card game into a novel. Even I lost track of where the turn was and which cards hadn’t been played.) I chose the game Pharaoh in honor of my writing partner, Lady Josephine. Apparently, Pharaoh is a card game that originated in the card game basset (see what I did there? Lady Josephine is a Basset hound for those who do not know) and is played between a banker and several players. In England during the 18th century, Pharaoh was referred to as Pharo (of course, it was) and had actually been outlawed in France. I took creative freedom and simplified the game a bit to make it easier for the scene to play it. Essentially, players place bets on what card the banker will pull from the dealer’s box based on the layout shown in the photo above. The banker’s card is the losing card, so as long as you did not place your bet on the card that shows up, you do not lose. You don’t win either unless your card is pulled. When a player places what was called a “copper” on the card, the player wished to reverse the win/lose situation of the pile (banker’s card would now be the winner). An abacus-like item called a casekeeper was used to tell which cards remained. I will leave it there for anyone who has not read the story.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little history lesson as much as I enjoyed conducting the research for Inevitably a Duchess. You must excuse me now. Lady Josephine is telling me it’s my turn. (Editor’s note: Never play basset with a Basset. They always win.)