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Alas, Poor William!

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Last Monday down at the courthouse as I was waiting to be called up on jury duty, I took the little bit of down time to re-read what I’ve written of RH. I just wanted to make sure everything was flowing before continuing on with chapter nine. But I was already ruminating on a problem.At the beginning of chapter nine, I have the hero, William, dressing for an event to which he must wear his formal naval captain’s uniform. As I have written that he received a knighthood many years prior to this, I went online to research what sort of decoration he would have—a medal worn around the neck on a ribbon? Adornment on his uniform? (No to the medal—only after 1815 and I’m in 1814; yes to the adornment—I found a couple of great pictures of what it would look like so I could describe it). The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, for several reasons, I need to strip William of his knighthood and all privileges and honors pertaining thereto, including the title of “Sir.”

Reason 1: Too Many Sirs. This has been an ongoing issue for me as I’ve written this novel, as Julia’s father has a knighthood, which is necessary to secure the social standing needed for the story to work. Then there is the antagonist, Sir Drake, who is a baronet, a title also a necessity to the story. Because the title “Sir” acquired with a knighthood is considered higher than the naval rank of “Admiral,” he would have been referred to by those not of the Royal Navy as “Sir Edward.” The baronet would be addressed as, “Sir Drake.” So, William would also have been called “Sir William.” Too many Sirs! So, now William becomes merely “Captain Ransome.”

Reason 2: Lady Augusta. Before she was Lady Witherington, Augusta Pembroke was the daughter of a spendthrift baronet. As a girl, she planned to marry her cousin, thus securing the Pembroke Baronetcy would remain within her control should anything happen to her father and brother. But her cousin went off and married a wealthy woman of lower birth (okay, yes, if you’ve read Persuasion, Augusta is based on Elizabeth Elliot, the older sister). In retaliation, Augusta found herself a wealthy man of lower birth (then-Captain Edward Witherington) and married him—assuming, of course, that her older brother, who had by then inherited the title from their father, would marry and have children to whom the title would pass. Augusta came quickly to hate being married to a sailor, even one as wealthy as her husband, especially when he purchased the plantation in Jamaica and sent her to live there with their twin children. While she languished in exile in the heathen West Indies, her brother died of a fever—unmarried and childless. So the title then fell to her uncle—the father of the cousin she’d wanted to marry. The uncle held the title for less than a month before he, too, died—although he at least had the honor of perishing in war before he could return to England. At nineteen years old, Drake Pembroke inherited the baronetcy. Lady Augusta Witherington now sees the union of Julia and Sir Drake as her ultimate vindication—she believes that with their marriage, the title—but more importantly Marchwood Hall, the ancestral home—will once again come under her control. She doesn’t care that Sir Drake is a gambler and a wastrel—in fact, that works to her advantage, because she will be able to control him by his constant need for more money. Julia’s bridal inheritance will only go so far, especially with all the debts he had already accrued. This is reason enough for Augusta to object to Julia’s marrying William Ransome. But, the fact that he is now untitled—that his name carries no honor (at least in a social sense), gives her that much more inducement to do whatever she can to stop Julia from marrying him.

Reason 3: Historical Plausibility. As I looked for information on the decoration of the knighthood I’d chosen for William, I learned that before 1815 when three divisions of the Knighthood of the Order of the Bath were created, only 36 men carried the title at any given time, and the action for which they received the recognition had to be something well beyond what William is supposed to have won it for. Now, I could make up a much more elaborate scenario—especially since it happened well before the beginning of the story and I wouldn’t have to show it. But, combined with the reasons mentioned above, it’s better for the story if I take it away from him.

Poor, poor William.

  1. Shannon permalink
    Sunday, September 3, 2006 10:44 pm

    LOL, Kaye!!!

    Sounds defensible to me … although I hate when I have to do things like this to my characters, too …


  2. Kaye Dacus permalink
    Sunday, September 3, 2006 10:49 pm

    You know I had to justify it to myself–I love William so much if I hadn’t had several strong reasons, I wouldn’t have been able to do it to him!


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