Tag Archive | Whig

Elizabeth Boyce: Valor Under Siege (Giveaway)

Kissing and Voting in the Regency Era

by Elizabeth Boyce

In election years, I frequently become misty-eyed about the work of suffragettes whose valiant efforts finally culminated in women being granted the right to vote in the UK in 1918, and in the USA in 1920.

It’s easy to imagine that prior to having the franchise, women were not involved in politics. It’s particularly easy to imagine Regency-era ladies were too constrained by social etiquette and gender roles to hold a political opinion, much less express one, but friend, we would be wrong. So very, very wrong.

Women did not have the right to vote in the UK during the Regency era, but they played a vital role in the political life of the nation. Lady Holland was an ardent supporter of the Whig party in the during the Regency, and her home, Holland House, became unofficial headquarters for the Whigs. She and other political hostesses worked on behalf of their favored party by hosting suppers and salons for politicians after Parliament had let out for the day. Debates continued over a meal and caucuses were held in drawing rooms. Women were expected to be present at such events; in fact, a political evening only attended by men—a “man dinner,” it was uningeniously called—was quite a letdown for guests.

But the political work of women during the Regency was not contained to the domestic sphere. The female family members of a man running for political office were expected to help get him elected. Women canvassed their communities, going door to door to speak to voters and, maybe more importantly, those voters’ wives. You see, even though only men could vote, his vote was often regarded as the common property of his household, and wives could absolutely influence how that vote was cast (Remember, this was before secret ballots; a husband who voted against his family’s wishes might have had to answer for it at home!).

This canvassing was not limited to voters of their own class. During an election, ladies of the upper echelons mingled with the public of all social orders. It wasn’t unheard of for a duchess to call upon a butcher in an effort to win his vote.

In addition to knocking on doors, women bestowed little gifts upon the electorate, such as preserves, candles, or lengths of fabric. Such treating was not seen as bribery at that time. Regency-era voters expected to be wooed!

Speaking of wooing, sometimes canvassing became a little more… personal… than jams and ribbons. Remember the duchess and the butcher I mentioned a moment ago? In the election of 1784, the Duchess of Devonshire, while canvassing on behalf of James Fox, a Whig, was said to have kissed voters to win their support—including a butcher. The incident was the subject of political cartoons, and Fox’s Tory opponents attempted to smear Fox through his association with the duchess, but the Whigs were unfazed by the scandal. The party called upon the duchess to continue her work, and Fox retained his seat in Parliament.

My latest release, Valor Under Siege (The Honorables, book 3), features a small town Parliamentary election. It was lots of fun to pit my Whig hero, Norman Wynford-Scott, against Lady Elsa Fay, a former Tory political hostess who runs circles around Norman when it comes to canvassing. It was wonderful, too, to learn about the political system of the era I enjoy so much, and gain a greater appreciation for women’s roles in that world.

Giveaway: To win an e-book copy of Honor Among Thieves (The Honorables, book 1), please leave a comment sharing your own thoughts or memories about women getting involved in a man’s world–be it politics, the workplace, academia, etc. Contest closes 11:59 PM EDT on Wednesday, September 14, 2016. One winner will be chosen at random from all eligible commenters.


About Valor Under Siege

All’s fair in love and politics . . .

When ambitious solicitor Norman Wynford-Scott is ousted from his legal studies due to a holiday revel spun out of control, he adapts a new plan of running for the Parliament seat of a local village. Only trouble is, the same irresistible woman who ruined his good name is thwarting his campaign at every turn.

Widowed and drink-addicted, Lady Elsa Fay has retreated to the family village of Fleck to regain her sobriety. She’s distracting herself from her troubles – and her memories of the one passionate night she shared with Norman – by organizing the Parliament campaign of her husband’s cousin. Until Norman arrives intent on winning the seat for himself.

Shamed and determined, Elsa will do all she can to send her former friend and now adversary packing – even if it means breaking her own heart in the process.


About the Author

eb-author-shot-copyElizabeth Boyce’s first taste of writing glory was when she won a gift basket in the local newspaper’s Mother’s Day “Why my Mom is the Best” essay competition at age eight. From that moment, she knew she was destined for bigger and better gift baskets. With visions of hard salamis and tiny crackers dancing in her head, she has authored seven Regency novels and novellas, resulting, thus far, in two gift baskets from adoring fans (AKA amazing friends).

Elizabeth lives in South Carolina and shares her artisanal cheeses with her husband and three children. She sneaks some to the cat when no one else is looking.

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Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

red_3smLady P: I’m afraid you find me alone this morning, since Susana is so occupied with her accounts that she begged me to talk to you on my own. Of course, I did tell her that it isn’t strictly necessary to pay the tradesmen’s bills on time; mine are often several months in arrears—due to my demanding schedule, you know—but the merchants with whom I do business have no concerns about being paid eventually. [Sigh] But she insists that there are dreadful penalties for tardiness in meeting one’s obligations, such as one’s credit rating being lowered, whatever that means, so I graciously agreed to serve in her stead once again.

devonshireShe just finished reading a biography written about my good friend Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, and she said she thought her readers would enjoy hearing about Georgiana’s political exploits, and mine too, of course, since I did campaign with her on several occasions.

Well, I suppose I must first mention the brilliant salons at Devonshire House where all the important players in the Whig Party used to meet and have the most intriguing discussions. I was able to attend only a handful of times when Pendleton was out of town—he would never countenance that sort of thing, you know, being a Tory from way back, although I did try at first to explain to him that politics is not something that can be inherited like money or a house—but when I did I was simply fascinated. Georgiana was astonishingly intelligent, you know. If she hadn’t been a female, I’m sure she would have risen to Prime Minister, and I can assure you that if she had, the country would have fared ever so much better than it did at the hands of the men! Not to mention her sense of fashion.

cjfoxBut…no, those of the female sex were not even allowed to vote, so it was quite a scandal when Georgiana and her sister and several other prominent women marched in favor of Charles James Fox in the early days. Charles was a distant cousin, you see, and they were quite cozy with one another. It was really quite something to see, Georgiana leading the women, all carrying signs, through the streets as the onlookers cheered. She had such a presence, you know. I believe she could have convinced them to vote for a monkey and they’d have done so quite happily.

Why, I’ll never forget the day an Irish dustman approached her as she was descending from her carriage and said, “Love and bless you, my lady, and let me light my pipe in your eyes.” [Chuckle] She was forever saying that “After the dustman’s compliment, all others are insipid.”

But Devonshire put his foot down after someone started a rumor that she was selling kisses for votes—how ridiculous that was, but people will believe the most ridiculous things when they see those scandalous prints that make the rounds. So she had to restrict her political activities to less public venues, although everyone knew she still had the ear of all the prominent Whigs of the time.

Georgiana had a great many faults, of course, but I do give her credit for her role in opening the door for the female sex in the political arena. Why, at the time I really expected that women’s suffrage was right around the corner; how shocked and disappointed I was to learn afterward that it was a good hundred years before women were allowed the right to vote. [Shaking her head] That daughter of Kent’s—what was her name?—Victoria—has a lot to answer for, I vow, for her part in setting the cause of women back for so many decades!

Lady P: Oh dear, Susana says I have neglected to mention that the Whigs—or at least the modern Whigs of my day—supported changes in government and society, giving more rights and power to the middle and lower classes and less to the wealthy aristocrats. Why, Georgiana and Fox both supported the American Revolution, and were called traitors by the Tories for it on many an occasion, even after the war was lost. And Georgiana did support the French Revolution at first, even being a particular friend of Marie-Antoinette, until she saw firsthand what was happening there with the guillotine and all. No, she always used to tell me that she hoped that dealing with the situation with the lower classes before it got to the breaking point would stave off the occurrence of such a horrific uprising here in England.

Because really, even if there are as many as ten thousand of us in the ton, we are greatly outnumbered by the common folk, and one can only press them so far before someone draws their attention to the strength of their numbers and leads them into an uprising. [Shuddering] That’s why Pendleton and the Tories opposed education for the masses. Ignorance makes them more malleable, of course. What would he say if he were here to know that Damian’s wife Theresa supports a free school for the common folk in Granville and Letchworth? Thankfully, he passed on to his reward long before. I miss him dreadfully, of course, but he could be so obstinate at times. I always attributed it to that Scottish great-grandmother of his…

And, as always, please do comment if you have any questions you’d like to ask Lady P about the late Georgian/Regency era. She does love to chat!

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”