More Dukes than Dustmen

It’s no secret I enjoy a good Regency romance now and then. I read a slew of them last summer and still manage one or two a month on average. They are easy reads with predictable plots, perfectly decent escapism when you don’t want the complications of figuring out whodunnit. Plus many of them have hot sex scenes and wonderful descriptions of fancy ball gowns.

Is it sad that often I prefer the ball gown descriptions?

The heroes may or may not appeal to me but I’d really love that slate blue silk, empire waist, full length gown with the elaborate beadwork at the bodice and hem and matching long gloves. Oh and the dark blue wrap with matching slate blue lining.

It would look so amazing for dinner out at Ruby Tuesdays.

Now, when you have read as many Regency romances as I have (216!) little things start to pile up in your subconscious. I’ve mentioned some of them before – lack of morning breath, heroes with nothing to talk about once the adventure is over, and perfectly strong & capable women being ‘proved’ to be helpless due to macho males stupid actions, just to name a few.

My most recent irritant is the sheer number of Dukes apparently running around Regency England. There were maybe 20 dukedoms in existence in Regency times, 6 of which were royal (around 100 dukedoms have been created since 1066, most  of which no longer exist). But judging by Regency romance titles (the Duke and I, Only a Duke Will Do, Once Dance with a Duke, The Art of Duke Hunting, etc)  and the assorted heroes of non Ducal titled books (Duke of St Ives and the Duke of Wolverstone in Stephanie Lauren’s Cynster saga for example) there are approximately 400 or so dukes populating England at the time; the vast majority of whom are wealthy, attractive, unmarried rogues in their early 30s. Or they are wealthy curmudgeonly men in their 60s with heirs who are attractive, unmarried rogues in their early 30s.

Pretty much you can’t swing a dead cat in Regency era London without hitting a Duke or his heir.

Given the large number of such men available to be pursued on the Marriage Mart, even they are avoiding it, I can’t see what the cachet of the title is apart from getting to go in first to supper.

And even that can’t count for much since there are 399 others of equal rank out there, any number of whom might be at the ball & might take precedence over you because their distant ancestor set foot on the shores of England 2 seconds before your distant ancestor did back during the Norman invasion, leaving you – horrors! – 3 in line for seating.

Earls appear with a certain frequency as well, but it is far more justified because there have been over 200 earldoms created & even if half of them are part of a dukedom, extinct, dormant or forfeit by Regency times, the titles existed at one point & even if  you remove those from the consideration you are still looking at close to 4 times as many actual Earls as Dukes

Marquesess are mentioned much less often despite there having been 100 or so actual marquisates in existence. Considering that is nearly same number as dukedoms I have to wonder why the preference for Dukes. The greater rank, even though any other titled nobleman in the story is always of equal or lesser rank? Audiences find the title Duke more recognizable? Duke is easier to spell than Marquess?  (my spell check hates Marquess & wants me to change it to Marquis. I imagine that would get really irritating over the course of an entire novel)

I recently chose to read How the Marquess was Won based on nothing more than the fact that the hero was not a Duke.

You know who are really underrepresented in the Regency England of fiction? Barons. There have been more baronies created than I was willing to count but if you run into a fictional Regency era Baron you can bet he is the heir to a Earl & not a Baron in his own right.

Frankly, for sheer exclusivity give me a Baron any day.

Or you know, someone from the wealthy yet untitled gentry. They are practically non-existent apart from the heroine’s family.


This writing prompt inspired by Mama Kat’s Weekly Writer’s Workshop.

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