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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Eton College During the Regency Era

I’m busy writing book #5 in my USA Today bestselling Disgraced Lords series. Book #4 in the series, A WHISPER OF DESIRE released in December and has been well received. The Disgraced Lords series is about a group of lords named the Libertine Scholars, who met at Eton College.

Eton College is an all-boy boarding school established by King Henry VIII (1491-1541).

I thought I’d give you all some background on what Eton would have been like for them in the early 1800’s. What did leaving home mean to these young boys, and how did the halls of Eton shape their characters and friendships.

For instance, the Duke of Wellington is often incorrectly quoted as saying that "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton" when referring to the strength of character of the men who went to school there. Wellington was at Eton from 1781 to 1784 and was to send his sons there. Until recently, most of Great Britain’s prime ministers came from Eton or Harrow. Schools like Eton and Harrow used to teach their boys how to run the British Empire and they helped to maintain the class system.

During the Regency era, boys as young as thirteen were sent to Eton to board either in the College itself, or they lodged in the town in what became known as ‘Dame’s Houses’ with a landlady or ‘Dame’ overseeing the house.  By the early 1800’s there were about thirteen houses connected with the college, and increasingly the responsibility for running them fell to masters as much as to the dames. Can you imagine how open to abuse and other atrocities this set up produced? Most boys were left to fend for themselves.

School life was very regimented. The school day often ran from six in the morning until eight at night with maybe an hour in the day to play sports. Most teaching was done in Latin. The school originally had two terms or ‘halves’ as they were called, only two holidays, each of three weeks duration at Christmas (when the scholars remained at Eton) and in the Summer. These holidays divided the school year into two “halves” a word which has survived despite the change to a three-term year in the 18th century. So, you can see how the boys would become firm friends because they only went home for a few weeks each year.

Discipline was harsh. Offending boys could be summoned to the Head Master or the Lower Master, as appropriate, to receive a birching on the bare posterior, in a semi-public ceremony held in the Library, where there was a special wooden birching block over which the offender was held. I can see a how this could also be abused by sadistic men who were teaching boys who will become their betters. Parents’ rarely visited and no real inspections were taken as to conditions until 1861.

The Libertine Scholars lived in one ‘Dames House’. That’s how they met. Bullying was rife, as it
is in most schools, but of course it was much worse in the Regency era as Masters turned a blind eye and the Dames did not want to see what went on.

These Masters, and the boy’s peers, were really the people who shaped their lives. They spent more time at Eton than they did in their own homes in their teenage years.

Remember, news from home would be via letters only, no phones in those days. No Skype to see how they were being treated, and I’m sure their mail could have been intercepted if the College was afraid of certain details getting home to parents. Mail was slow and often took days or weeks to get to the boys. There was no one to help you, except those you befriended. It’s not surprising that these friendships were strong and lasted throughout their lives, well into adulthood.

I’d like to think Eton College taught my Libertine Scholars about the value of friendship, loyalty, and honor.


Sensual heat melts the ice in the new Disgraced Lords novel from USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans, as a marriage of convenience leads to delightful pleasure—and mortal danger.

Lady Marisa Hawkstone’s nightmare is just beginning when she wakes up naked, with no memory of the night before, lying next to Maitland Spencer, the Duke of Lyttleton—a man so aloof and rational he’s nicknamed “the Cold Duke.” A scandal ensues, in which Marisa’s beloved beau deserts her. As a compromised woman, Marisa agrees to marry Maitland. But on her wedding night, Marisa discovers the one place the duke shows emotion: in the bedroom, where the man positively scorches the sheets.

Taught from a young age to take duty seriously, Maitland cannot understand his new wife’s demands on his love and affection. Marisa’s hot-blooded spirit, however, does have its attractions—especially at night. In retrospect, it seems quite silly that he didn’t marry sooner. But being one of the Libertine Scholars requires constant vigilance, even more so when the enemy with a grudge against his closest friends targets Marisa. Now Maitland must save the woman who sets his heart aflame—or die trying.

Amazon UK - > http://amzn.to/1lZW95u
Amazon Australia - > http://bit.ly/1Lu2Sup
Google Play -> http://bit.ly/1P8vUpx

 
Bron’s Giveaway: Tell me how many ‘Dames Houses’ were used by Eton College in the early 1800’s (it’s in the post). One lucky commenter will win an eBook copy of one of my books, winner’s choice. Contest closes Sunday 28th February 2016.

Join Bron’s Book Club Newsletter – and receive a FREE copy of To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield. PLUS each month I have a $10 Gift Card draw from within my active book club members.


Bron’s Bio:

USA Today bestselling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Evans is a three-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand with her dogs Brandy and Duke.

Bronwen loves hearing from avid romance readers at Bronwen@bronwenevans.com

You can keep up with Bronwen’s news by visiting her website www.bronwenevans.com



2 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

This post is a must-read for anyone who reads or writes Regency romanc! Thank you for helping me to better understand male friendships among the upper class during this time period, Bron.

Judith Ashley said...

Survival with a little help from your friends! I hadn't heard about the Dames Houses before - anything to be deduced from there being thirteen? I had heard about the brutality of the Masters and the older boys as well as the horrific practice of birching.