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Regency titles in Lady Wynwood's Spies

I happened to read a review of Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 1: Archer, and the reader mentioned being confused because characters switched between using first names and last names. I didn’t comment on the review (it’s my policy never to do so), but I thought it might be useful for my readers for me to mention why I have some characters referring to certain others by their first names or last names or titles.

When I was researching British titles, many published historical authors recommended this article, which is one of a series of very informative articles on how the British refer to those with titles.

The article writer mentions that especially in the Georgian/Regency/Victorian time period in England, people did not refer to each other by their first names unless they were childhood friends or close family, and even close family would often refer to a peer by his title name (or a nickname of his title name) rather than his first name (i.e., “Hart” for Lord Hartley).

It struck me that this is very similar to how Japanese people refer to each other. It’s more common for Japanese to refer to classmates, colleagues, employees, and bosses by their last names rather than first names. Even in school, kids are usually taught to maintain a certain level of politeness and will refer to classmates by their last name unless they’re very young or very close to each other, such as best friends or dating relationships. Even teachers will refer to their students by their last names and not their first.

I grew up as 4th generation Japanese American, so I certainly didn’t refer to my classmates by their last names, but I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the practice since I watched a lot of Japanese-language television (with English subtitles) with my parents and read a lot of manga and light novels. Also, my grandmother’s friends would refer to each other by their last names instead of first names. I realize now that this was more of a Japanese practice than an American one, and most Americans just refer to everyone by their first names.

Some modern historical romance writers who are writing for an American audience work around this by having characters refer to other characters by their first names in their internal thoughts. The hero might refer to the heroine as “Phoebe” in his thoughts to himself when he’s thinking about her, but always call her “Miss Sauber” when addressing her. This probably makes the characters more familiar to an American audience who is more used to calling love interests, colleagues and even bosses by their first names.

However, since I write in deep third person point of view, a character would rarely refer to another by their first name in their heads if they don’t call them by their first names in person. Also, I’m used to using surnames with people, so it doesn’t seem odd to me to have a character think of another character by their last name and not their first.

So here’s a quick primer on the peerage in my series:

Viscount Wynwood, secondary title Baron Ibstone, surname Glencowe

His title is Viscount Wynwood. He is addressed in speech as Lord Wynwood. His first name is Terrence and his surname is Glencowe, but no one will refer to him by his surname, and rarely by his first name. His wife might have referred to him as “Terrence” if they were close, but Laura referred to her husband simply as “Wynwood.”

Laura’s title is Viscountess Wynwood. She is addressed in speech as Lady Wynwood. Her first name is Laura and her surname is Glencowe. Sol calls her by her first name because they have become good friends. Most other people call her Lady Wynwood or my lady.

If they had had a son, their son would be Mr. Somefirstname Glencowe while his father was alive, and when his father died, he would inherit the title Viscount Wynwood.

Since they did not have children, the title was inherited by Terrence’s second cousin (Terrence’s father’s cousin’s son), Mr. Newland Glencowe. He is now the current Viscount Wynwood and is referred to in speech as Lord Wynwood. He is not yet married.

Laura will continue to be called Lady Wynwood until the current Lord Wynwood marries, and then she’ll be the dowager Lady Wynwood, although in speech, most people will just continue to call her Lady Wynwood.

Another example:

Miss Isabella Coulton-Jones married a knight, Sir Walter Aymer, and became Lady Aymer. Her husband was referred to as Sir Walter, NOT Lord Aymer, because he was a knight.

One last example:

Viscount Ammler, secondary title Baron Revitt, surname Ackett

His title is Viscount Ammler. He is addressed in speech as Lord Ammler. His first name is Ammon and his surname is Ackett, but no one will refer to him by his surname. His wife is Lady Ammler.

(Only at this very moment did I realize that I made Sep’s father’s title too similar to Isabella’s title. Oh well.)

His eldest living son is Mr. Secundus Ackett (although his siblings and mother call him by the nickname Skand instead of Secondus, the name his father gave him). In society, he is always referred to as Mr. Ackett since he is the oldest living son. His close friends and his family call him Skand, but to everyone else he is Mr. Ackett.

The family's third living son is Mr. Septimus Ackett. Among society, he is referred to as Mr. Septimus Ackett unless his older brother(s) are not present, in which case he is referred to as Mr. Ackett. His close friends call him Septimus or Sep, but most everyone else refers to him as Mr. Septimus Ackett or Mr. Ackett.

Their youngest daughter is Miss Octavia Ackett. Since her older sisters are married (and have therefore taken their husband’s surnames), in speech she is always referred to as Miss Ackett, since she is the only unmarried daughter. Her close friends might call her Octavia, but to most everyone else she would be called Miss Ackett. (If she had an unmarried older sister, her sister would be Miss Ackett and she’d be referred to as Miss Octavia Ackett, to distinguish her from her sister.)

And in case you were wondering, here’s the full list of the Ackett siblings (most of whom I haven’t even mentioned in the books yet):

(1st child, Primus, dead as a child)
2nd child, oldest living son, Secondus (nickname Skand)
3rd child, Tertia (nickname Teresia), married
4th child, 2nd living son, Quartus (nickname Curtis) Ackett
5th child, Quinta (nickname Quin), married
(6th child, Sexta, dead as a child)
7th child, 3rd oldest living son, Septimus (nickname Sep) Ackett
8th child, Octavia Ackett

Lord Ammler calls his children by their Latin names, but Lady Ammler calls them by their nicknames. Now you know the entire Ackett family even though most of them will probably never appear in the series.

I hope this helps you to enjoy my Lady Wynwood’s Spies series a bit more!

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