International Woman’s Day – Regency Style

It was International women’s day on 8 March so I thought I’d post about an interesting woman from the Regency era, Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey (4 March 1785 – 26 January 1867).

The reason I picked Lady Sarah was because she inherited a senior partnership of one of England’s largest banks, Child &Co, AND took up her seat on the board until she died in 1867. I wanted to show that there were intelligent and business focused women even in Regency times.

I write intelligent heroines and often I get the comment that a woman would never have done ‘that’ in those times. Not every woman I’m sure, but as with every generation, there have been forward thinking, intelligent women, who have pushed at societal boundaries, or else we would never have got the vote or equal rights or equal pay (although we are still fighting for that.)

Lady Sarah was an English noblewoman. She was the eldest daughter of John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, and Sarah Anne Child. Her mother was the only child of Robert Child, the principal shareholder in the banking firm Child & Co.

She inherited the senior partnership from her Grandfather. Her parents had eloped and her grandfather refused to allow her father, John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland or any of his family to acquire his wealth. So he left the partnership to any future son OR daughter. Lady Sarah Sophia Fane was born in 1785 and immediately inherited. She could not take up her seat until her majority (21 years old) in 1806.

Lady Sarah married George Child-Villiers, 5th Earl of Jersey in 1804 (aged 19), and upon her majority in 1806 she became senior partner. She exercised her rights personally until her death in 1867 and took her role seriously. Her husband, George Villiers, added the surname Child by royal license.

Her husband’s mother, Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (also Lady Jersey), was one of the more notorious mistresses of King George IV when he was Prince of Wales.

Lady Sarah’s affairs, though conducted discreetly, were said to be numerous: Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, was thought to be one of her lovers. Her husband George Child-Villiers, Earl of Jersey when asked why he had never fought a duel to preserve his wife’s reputation, dryly replied that this would require him to fight every man in London.

Lady Sarah was also famous for being one of the patronesses of Almack’s, the most exclusive social club in London, and a leader of the ton during the Regency era. Lady Sarah was known by the nickname Silence; the nickname was ironic since, famously, she almost never stopped talking.

What I found very sad was she had seven children and outlived all but one of them. She is a recurring character in the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer, where she is presented as eccentric and unpredictable, but highly intelligent and observant, and capable of kindness and generosity. Her portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London, England.

So, think about some of the interesting characters you meet in a Regency romance, and if you doubt they would have behaved that way, think of Lady Sarah and what she did with her amazing and colourful  life.

A Touch of Passion, book #3 Disgraced Lords series

I have a heroine, Lady Portia Flagstaff in A Touch of Passion who sets up a very successful cider business and I thought of Lady Sarah when I developed her.

In the latest Disgraced Lords novel from USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans, a vivacious thrill seeker clashes with her dutiful defender—causing irresistible sparks to fly.

Independent and high-spirited, Lady Portia Flagstaff has never been afraid to take a risk, especially if it involves excitement and danger. But this time, being kidnapped and sold into an Arab harem is the outcome of one risk too many. Now, in order to regain her freedom, she has to rely on the deliciously packaged Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood, a man who despises her reckless ways—and stirs in her a thirst for passion.

After losing his mother and two siblings in a carriage accident years ago, Grayson Devlin promised Portia’s dying brother that he’d always watch over his wayward sister. But having to travel to Egypt to rescue the foolhardy girl has made his blood boil. Grayson already has his hands full trying to clear his best friend and fellow Libertine Scholar of a crime he didn’t commit. Worse still, his dashing rescue has unleashed an unforeseen and undesired consequence: marriage. Now it’s more than Portia he has to protect . . . it’s his battered heart.

reviewertoppick2Bronwen Evans exhibits the skills that have set her on the bestselling list with this adventurous historical romance. Lady Portia Flagstaff is one of the most feisty heroines I’ve come across in some time. She is a fish out of water in her day and age but she doesn’t simply give in to society’s norms and lives the life she wants. I enjoyed how she never lost sight of how her actions could impact her family and yet still remained true to herself. Grayson Devlin is the kind of hero many women dream about and Portia fell under his spell as a young girl which is easily understandable. He is far from perfect, but he is perfect for Portia as everyone else can see. I enjoyed watching him come to the realization that his perceived obstacles were not actual obstacles at all. The description and settings as well as the mystery and adventure all combined with some fabulous characters kept me up late into the night turning pages and note regretting one bit the sleep that I missed. If you are looking for an entertaining historical this one is a must-read. – Pauline Michael, Night Owl Reviews

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USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans (Bron to her friends) grew up loving books. She’s always indulged her love for story-telling, and is constantly gobbling up movies, books and theater. Her head is filled with characters and stories, particularly lovers in angst. Being able to write her characters’ stories is never work, it’s a dream come true. Is it any wonder she’s a proud romance writer. She writes both historical and contemporary, sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Her debut Regency romance, Invitation to Ruin won the RomCon Readers Crown Best Historical 2012 and was an RT Reviewers’ Choice Nominee Best First Historical 2011. Her long novella, To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield, was a Top 5 Finalist in the Kindle Book Review Indie Romance Book of the Year 2012 and the RomCon Readers Crown Best Historical 2013. Bron lives in New Zealand with her Cavoodle Brandy. When not ensconced in her study writing her characters’ thrilling journeys to their happy ever after, Bron can be found on the golf course. www.bronwenevans.com

6 Responses

  1. I never understand the critics who say “a woman would have never done that.” Just like you said, surely there were women who broke the rules? Not everyone could have been content sitting in their drawing rooms all day. Love your smart heroines!

    • Bronwen Evans

      Thank you. I agree, sitting in a drawing would drive me mad.

  2. Fascinating post, Lady Bronwen! It makes one wonder why, with Lady Jersey’s discreet wild/personal lifestyle, she was deemed as respectable enough to found Almack’s. 😉

    • Bronwen Evans

      Yes, money overcomes many sins! Plus personality.

  3. Teresa Broderick

    I’ve just ordered a book called Not Just Jane about seven female authors before and after Jane who were successful in their own right in their own time. Can’t wait to read it. Lovely post.