The Regency era offers so much for a writer to draw on, any number of possibilities for exciting tales of espionage. That brief period in English history came about when King George III, was struck down by porphyria, an illness which rendered him insane. In 1811, his eldest son, George, an aesthete and a spend-thrift, ruled as Regent in his stead, until his father’s death in 1820 when George IV took the throne.
The beau monde, or ton, met during the London Season, which took place during the months when Parliament sat. They danced and flirted, discussing politics and gossip and the latest ondits. The Regency era was a mannered society with strict rules of etiquette. One could be ostracized if seen to break them. Scandal and gossip was rife. Affairs were the norm and many duels were fought over a lady love.
Young debutantes entered Society during a Season to find a husband. Such marriages were often arranged to provide heirs and preserve the titles and estates of hereditary peers.
While the Victorian era favored the darkly Gothic after Queen Victoria was widowed, Regency London was glamorous, like a glittering, beautiful fan held up to hide unpleasantness. However, beneath this glossy exterior, crime was endemic; there was no established police force until Sir Robert Peel in 1829 set up the Metropolitan Police Force at Scotland Yard.
Throughout the turbulent years of England’s war with France, the Duke of Wellington’s spies supplied him with vital information and came from all walks of life.
“The French armies have no communications and one army has no knowledge of the position or of the circumstances in which the others are placed, whereas I have knowledge of all that passes on all sides.” – Sir Arthur Wellesley (Esdaile, 2004)
After Napoleon had been imprisoned on Saint Helena at the end of the war, Liverpool’s government struggled to steer England safely through years when the country’s resources were badly depleted. The English countryside could no longer feed the people. Where once the populace could live off the land, new by-laws fenced off the land, and drove them to the towns and cities to work in the grim factories.
The government feared the poison of the French Revolution would seep into English society with a similar bloody result. Plots festered among the disadvantaged, and illegal pamphlets continued to be written. In Yorkshire, the Luddites smashed machinery, the Blanketeers marched on London, there was the ill-fated Cato conspiracy to murder all the cabinet ministers, the Spa Fields Riots, and the Peterloo Massacre, a protest against the Corn Laws, which was so badly handled that a tide of dissent swelled against the government.
The British intelligence came of age in the 19th century when it was developed as a key weapon against French power in both politics and war. One such man was part diplomat and part spy, Charles Stuart de Rothesay, later 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay 1779-1845. He was no ordinary diplomat. He’s been called the first 007.
My series, THE SPIES OF MAYFAIR draws on some of these events which follow after the Napoleonic Wars. Three spies work for the Crown to keep Britain safe. Each with their own story.
Meet my spies and the women who love them:
Review: Horatia, riding in the woods, dressed as a boy, discovers a man knocked out after an attack. She drags him to a cabin to help him. He thinks she's a boy, and she's afraid to reveal herself, though she's attracted to this handsome stranger. They both turn out to be not who the other thinks. Ms. Andersen weaves danger and romance together with realistic characters and an authentic setting. I found this a compelling read.
Baron Guy Fortescue arrives in England to claim his inheritance, abandoned over thirty years ago when his father fled to France after killing a man in a duel. He is set upon by footpads in London, and on his way to his country estate, robbers attack him again. Guy escapes only to knock himself out on a tree branch.
Aspiring poet, Horatia Cavendish has taken to riding her father's stallion, "The General," around the countryside of Digswell dressed as a groom. When she discovers Guy lying unconscious on the road, the two are forced to take shelter for the night in a hunting lodge.
Someone wants Guy dead. Is it his relative, Eustace Fennimore? He has been ensconced in Rosecroft Hall during the family's exile and will become the heir should Guy die. Guy proposes a faux betrothal to give him more time to discover the truth.
Horatia is determined to keep alive her handsome fiance, who has proven more than willing to play the part of her lover even as he resists her attempts to save him.
Review: Another engaging book by Maggi Andersen. Well plotted and enjoyable, with lots of dimensional characters, and a gripping plot which is refreshing for a historical romance.
John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn, is on an urgent mission to find the killer of his fellow spy. Has the treasonous Frenchman, Count Forney, returned to England to wreak havoc? Or has someone new landed on English shores to stir up rebellion in the Midlands? After visiting the young widow of one of his agents, Strathairn strengthens his resolve never to wed. And most certainly not to Lady Sibella Winborne, with her romantic ideas of love and marriage. Unable to give Sibella up entirely, he has kept her close as a friend. And then weak fool that he is he kissed her...
Lady Sibella Winborne has refused several offers of marriage since her first Season years ago -- when she first set eyes on the handsome Earl of Strathairn. Sibella's many siblings always rush to her aid to discourage an ardent suitor, but not this time. Her elder brother, Chaloner, Marquess of Brandreth, is insisting she marry. Sibella yearns to set up her own household. She is known to be the sensible member of the family. But she doesn't feel at all sensible about Lord Strathairn. If only she could forget that kiss...
Review: Amazon review of A Secret Affair “A wonderful, wonderful book! The H and h both had had problems in the past to overcome but neither played the victim. There was a mystery, murders, espionage and romance. The ending was sublime! I plan to look for other books by this author.”
A widow resigned to her fate... When Lady Althea Brookwood comes up against a dangerous foe, she is forced to marry a man of influence. But her former life with her cruel husband has made her distrust men. She will grace her husband's drawing room and his bedchamber, but her heart will remain uninvolved.
Leaving his sad past behind in Ireland ... Irishman, Flynn, Viscount Montsimon has become a renowned diplomat and close confidant of the Prince Regent. A handsome rake many women of the ton wish to take to their beds, Flynn treats women lightly. Until he meets a lady who seems impervious to his charms. She appears to want to get to the heart of who he is. But what does she really want?
Embroiled in a dangerous game of intrigue ... Flynn cannot afford to lose his focus, for there is not just his heart at stake...
SOURCE: Franklin, Robert. Private & Secret: The Clandestine Activities of a Nineteenth Century Diplomat. Book Guild, 2005.
Other books of interest:
Deacon, R. (1970). A history of the British secret service. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co.
McGrigor, M. (2005). Wellington’s Spies. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books Ltd.