The History of Blacks in Georgian & Regency Era (Part 3)

The final entry into a look of notable people of color for Black History Month. I did get an inquiry as to why I used the terminology of “black” instead of African-American. Well, mainly because the term African-American did not exist in the 18th & 19th Century. Many of these people I am highlighting were either enslaved or were born of enslaved people. Hope this clears up any questions or concerns as to why I am using a word that may be considered offensive (I am, after all, not wising to offend anyone with this series, but only wishing to point out that yes, people of color did exist in Europe prior to the 20th Century).

The Kreutzer Sonata - Wikipedia
The Kreutzer Sonata (Violin Sonata No.) Public Domain
The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven – Martin Plaut
George Bridgewater, circa 1800s. Courtesy of the British Musuem

George Augustus Polgran Bridgewater, sometimes listed as George Polgreen Bridgewater, as born in 1778 as Hieronymus Hyppolitus de Augustus in Eastern Polad to His father, Joanis Fredericus de Augustus (African decent) and Maria Schmid (German/Polish depending on the historian). Now, back in Part 1 of this series, I mentioned how Aristocracy of Europe (especially Peter the Great), had an affinity for the “exotic” when it came to servants, which would explain how a mixed race person was born in Poland. Jonais, sometimes listed as John in Anglicized sources, claimed to be descendant of an African Royal, who was kidnapped, then sold to a Dutch Captain, and ended up in Barbados married to a local woman. How much of this is his wanting to create a more exotic flavor to his identity and how much of it is truth as we don’t know. But from John’s tale, we can discern some truths. His father was kidnapped (possibly as a child since kidnapping African children seems to be a reoccurring staple of Slavery), sold and ended up in the Caribbean/West Indies where he fathered children. John’s telling of his past could be cobbled together of what his father remembered, but also a need to explain how he ended up in the service of nobility. John was a member of Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy’s household, where he was called the “Moor” and served as the “exotic” page. Maria was most likely a maid in the same household. Prince Nikolus was a patron of the Arts, particularly music, having his own orchestra and personal composer (Hayden, who is sometimes credited as being an early teacher of George and sometimes not). John had two sons, the younger also playing a string instrument, but the focus was on George. John left his wife and second son so to tour Europe with George, dressing his son in more Islamic style clothing (turbans and Turkish robes) to highlight the “otherness.” At some point, they ended up in England, playing for Prince George (later Regent). John gambled away his son’s earning and George, at the age of 12, sought the protection of the Prince. The Regent (because there are just too many Georges in this tale), took George under his protection, paid for the best in education and musical tutors. Bridgewater played such venues as Convent Garden, Drury Lane, Haymarket, an even performed at the Abbaye de Panthemont in Paris where Thomas Jefferson was in attendance. But that is not the most intriguing part of his life. Beethoven, feeling depressed over the knowledge he was losing his hearing, contemplated suicide. How close was he, we do’t know but for composer to lose his hearing, which he needs to write must have been devastating. When Beethoven met George in 1803, he found a close friend. Beethoven was 32, George was 24. They had much in common having endured abusive fathers, being hailed as musical geniuses at young ages, never quite fitting in. Beethoven even wrote the Kreutzer Sonatas for George. But they had a falling out (some say it was over a woman), which is tragic because neither of them even met after their year of mutual affection (affection meaning a strong friendship, not sexual). Beethoven then rescinded his Kreutzner dedication (he also wisely removed a dedication to Napoleon from another piece). George stopped performing sometime in the 1820s, turning to teaching instead. If he ever played his friend’s sonatas, we will never know. But what a splendid and fantastic movie would their tumultuous year together would be! Bridgewater received an MA in Music from Cambridge in 1811, married, had 2 children, and separated from his wife in 1824. He died 32 years after the death of his once time friend and is buried in Kendal Green Cemetray in London.

Prince William (later William IV) with Dorothy Kirwan Thomas. Circa 1788 by James Gillray. Public Domain

Vanessa Riley has written a book on Dorothy Kirwan Thomas (Island Queen) which is being released this coming year (her site says 7/2021). While Riley probably knows more about this amazing woman than I will ever know, I did want to include Dorothy in my post for being not only an entrepreneur in an era where women didn’t have economic power, but for also being a savvy political player as well. Dorothy was born in 1758 and is sometimes known as Doll Thomas and Dorothy Kirwan. She was born into slavery, purchasing her freedom as well as those of numerous family members over a period of 16 years. Thomas had businesses in Montserrat, Dominica, Grenada, Barbados, and Demerara consisting of hotels (one with a French Restaurant), leasing property, running lodging houses, owning slaves and a plantation (because yes, former slaves did engage in owning slaves), as well as selling goods to plantation workers and slaves (known as female hucksters, this was her primary business and probably her first). She was one of the few women, and most importantly, one of the few black women, who was financially compensated for the loss of her slaves when Parliament banned slavery in the UK and in all their territories. It may have helped that William IV, who signed this piece of legislation, was her former lover. Dorothy had 11 children and traveled to England often. All of her daughters married prominent white business men, one becoming Madame Sala, a famous actress as well. All her children and grandchildren were sent to England and received excellent educations. In 1824, she protested and WON against a discriminatory law that targeted non white women, having it overturned. She became one of the wealthiest women in the Caribbean.

George Africanus - Wikipedia
The GRve of George Africaus & his wife, located in Sta Marys Churchyard, Nottingham.

George John Scipio Africanus was most likely born in West Africa (the Sierra Leone region) in 1763, as he was listed as being age 3 when he was baptized in 1766. He was given to Benjamin Molineaux as a gift, but Molineaux decided to educate him and treat him as a servant, instead of slave. When Molineaux died in 1772, George (the son) continued to have Africanus educated. George worked as a servant, and was apprenticed to a brass foundry at some point. He moved to St. Peter’s Parrish in Nottingham when he was 21 in 1784. He met and then married Esther Shaw in this same Parrish in 1788. In 1793, they started a business out of their home, Africanus’s Register of Servants. Thy had 7 children, but only 1 lived to reach adulthood (and later on married in 1825, having children of her own). George died in 1834 and his wife continued to run their business until her death. Africanus was known to be a member of the Anti Slavery Society and he is the first Black Entrepreneur in Nottingham. The v of George and his wife was rediscovered in 2003, with a new headstone being provided by the community. Africanus may not have made much money running his own business , as he did continue to work as a laborer and waiter (and possibly servant now and then), but its important he started his own business. That said business was successful enough to continue after his death due to the dedication of Esther, his wife, is equally important. I did not find if he has any living descendants, but it is likely that somewhere, there are still a few of living in Nottingham to this day. And, dear Reader, what an absolutely splendid notion!

William Davidson, circa 1820. Pubic Domain

William Davidson is included here for being infamous and linked to the Cato Incident. William was born between 1781 and 1786, being the natural (an antiquated term meaning illegitimate) son of the Attorney General of Jamaica and a local woman (free or slave it is unknown as is her name). His father’s name is not listed, but the person is most likely Alexander Henderson, who was the AG of Jamaica at the time of his conception and birth. At age 14, William came to Glasgow to study law, where he became involved in a movement for Parliamentary Reform (The Society of the Friends of the People). I cannot find out if he finished law school, but he was apprenticed to a lawyer in Liverpool, but then, it seems, decided to run away to sea, though perhaps the running away was him being press-ganged into the Royal Navy as both are listed as having occurred. I feel it is most likely William was press-ganged rather than running away, but this is a personal opinion. He then returned to Scotland, where his father then arranged for William to study Math in Aberdeen. William left school, moved to Birmingham and started a cabinet making business. He fell in love with the daughter of a rich merchant The father thought William was after her dowry (7000 pounds is nothing to sneeze at) and had Davidson arrested on false charges. The girl was married to someone else and William attempted suicide. It really does feel as if nothing but hardship and tragedy follow Davidson. He then moved to London, married widow Sarah Lane, a working-class woman with four children of her own, and they had two more children. It seems his past hardships were finally behind William. He converted to the Methodist faith, taught Sunday School, then had to leave for seducing a female student. Now, we don’t know what really occurred, but it may have been racial motivated or a abuse of power (either his or someone else’s). William’s life changed irrevocably on 16 August 1819 when 60,000 gathered to protest for Parliamentary Reform and the Royal Calvary charged into this crowd, killing 18 people. This incident is known as the Peterloo Massacre. This spurned Davidson back into the political activism of his youth and he became associated with the Marylebone Union Reading Society, where members had access to radical publications such as Thomas Paine and inflammatory pamphlets. George Edwards persuaded William, along with 27 others, to meet on Cato Street in Grosvenor Square in February 1820. They were set up and arrested with Edwards helping locate any who managed to flee the police raid. On 28 April 1820, Davidson and 4 others were found guilty. William was hung (drawing a huge crowd to witness this execution) and decapitated May 1, 1820. Davidson continued to claim his innocence and stated that he and the others were set up by Edwards. The transcript of the trial shows that it was George Edwards who was behind the plot to assassinate certain members of Parliament. Edwards who chose the Cato Street location and informed the police of the assassination plot. George Edwards notified the police where the meeting was being held and the names of the people who were going to attend. Edwards was never prosecuted.

African-American Maritime Heritage — PortSide NewYork
Richard “King Dick” Crafus (1791-1830) courtesy of the New England Hisotircal Soceity ion

While I used a picture of “King Dick” Crafus (who was a boxer, priveteer, and an American POW during the War of 1812), I am mainly using his image to show what William Brown (the First Black Woman in the Royal Navy) may have looked like. Her story appears in the Chronicle of September 1815 (which is found on the national archives site) as well as proof she was registered as a sailor onboard a Royal Navy ship in 1815. Now, the article listed her as “Mrs” William Brown, which I find annoying. William Brown was a sailor first, female is just their gender. There are two accounts of this person joining the Navy. The first states they joined 23 May 1815 and was then discharged 19 June 1815 for being discovered as “female.” The September article states this person served aboard the HMS Queen Charlotte for 11 years before being discharged, being a Captain of the Fore-Top (in other words, they were the best of the best of the sailor set), was around 26 years of age, known to be just one of the guys, and apparently was married, but left the husband for a life as a sailor. Second account gives us more information, giving us a date of birth (1789), joining the Royal Navy in 1804 as a sailor on the HMS Queen Charlotte (it was one of the premier Fleet ships during the 1813-1814 Napoleonic War Years and was the Flag Ship in 1813-1815), was extremely capable Sailor, was often allowed to steer the ship and could easily navigate through shallow waters. Now, the dismissal in the first (and discharge incident) is most likely due to the First Lieutenant being jealous of this highly respected, highly capable sailor of color. In 1814, the Navy would have disbanded after Napoleon’s defeat, and would have docked for a refitting. Signing up again in 1815 would have been expected of all Navy personnel since Napoleon was up to no good (again). But did this stop William Brown? Nope. For in July 1815, a William Brown (stated to be 32 & from Scotland) joined the crew of the HMS Cumberland, said to be an able sailor, one of the best, and paid off in August 1815 (because Napoleon was defeated, so time to relax). But wait, there’s more! William Brown then joins their old crew aboard the HMS Queen Charlotte (with a different First Lieutenant) 31 December 1815 (again being the Flag Ship) as Captain of the Fore-Top. Again. Brown then transferred to the HMS Bombay in 1816, which was then the Flagship for Rear Admiral Sir Charles Penrose. With that, William Brown sails off, with no more records. While there are some discrepancies in terms of age, I firmly believe William Brown wanted to live their life as a Sailor and as a Man. Adding a few years to their age is really not that big of a deal. Of course, I came across a historian who thought it must have been a gag, as there was another female (being younger than 20) trying to enlist in 1815 as William Brown. Dear Sir, William Brown is a very common name and I am sure, if anyone decided to look at the sailors who enlisted and served in the Royal Navy from 1800-1820, there would be hundreds, if not thousands, of sailors called William Brown. But for me, this particular William Brown should be applauded as being the first Black Female Royal Navy Sailor, but I also feel William Brown is the first Transman that we know of serving in the Royal Navy. I am sure there are people who would disagree, but William Brown lived a majority of their life as a man. They should be respected as such.

Resources:

New York Times 9/4/2020 Article on Bridgewater

newenglandhistoricalsoceity.com

portdenewy.org

wcml.org.uk

britishexecutions.co.uk

Daily Gazette 2/26/2015

VanessaRiley.com

Spanglefish.com

Georgianera.wordpress

BBC.co.uk (regardig Nottingham History)

jamancianfamilysearch.com

Jamacian Save Insurrection Scare of 1776 by RB Sheridan

The British Musuem

Antislvaery.ac.uk

bl.uk

nationalarchives.gov.uk

The History of Blacks in Georgian& Regency England (Part 2)

I thought I would start Part 2 with a person of whom we know so very little about, and yet who is an important, if forgotten, figure in this era who tends to take backseat to more well known figures such as Ignatius Sancho and Olaudah Equiano.

1784 Engraving by Richard Cosway showing Richard, his wife Maria, and Ottobah Cugoan. Pubic Domain Image

Ottobah Cugoano is a figure from the Anti Slavery Society and Sons of Africa group who doesn’t get enough attention and I am hoping this changes. He was enslaved in what is modern day Ghana at the age of 13 and taken to work on a plantation in the West Indies. He was then sold at age 16 to Alexander Campbell, a British Merchant, who transported Ottabah to England, where he was baptized John Stuart and given his freedom. He is listed as being around 16 years of age at this time. Campbell, it seems, made sure he was educated and in 1784, he was employed by the Cosways. While working at the Cosways, he became acquainted with William Blake, the Prince Regent, and Equiano. In 1787, he published Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of Slavery and Commerce of Human Species. In this narrative, he calls for the freedom of all slaves as he felt it violated the very nature of Christianity (he had become a devout Christian at this time). The Cosways seem to be very liberal employers and allowed Ottobah to travel to speak at Anti Slavery Conventions and to travel to promote his book. In 1791, he released a shorter version of his book for the Sons of Africa. His last letter, also from 1791, he tells the Cosways that he wishes to travel to Nova Scotia and other places. There is no evidence of his existance after this letter and it is preseumed he died in 1791 or 1792.

Bill Richmond 1810.jpg
Hand Colored Ethcing, circa 1810. Artist Unknown; Public Domain.

Bill Richmond was born a slave in Staten Island, New York, but lived the majority of his life in England. If you look him up, he is often referred to as a British Boxer (Puglisit in Regency Terms). He was sent t England sometime during the Revolutionary War (most records state 1777), where he was educated and then apprenticed to a cabinet maker. In 1790 or 17791, he married Mary Dunwick, who was white. He started fighting due to the targeted racism he and Mary faced (they eventually moved to London and had several children). He worked for Hugh Percy, and later on for Thomas Pitt, the 2nd Earl Camelford. He and Thomas were apparetnly inseperable and they often attended boxin matches together. Most believe because Bill was a skilled fighter, and won many matches, he was teaching Thomas, which is mot likely ture. Pitt was killed in a duel in 1804 while Bill bought a pub to semi-retire (and train other hopeful). Investments and betting on failed fights caused Richmond to lose his pub, so he again turned to boxing professionally. In the 1820s, he opted to join a Club where he would teach others how to fight. Lord Byron was one of his students. He is the only black man, out of 18 athletes, who as celebrated at a banquet when the Regent became King Goerge IV. What is trully astoninshing is Bill started his career at age 40, when most athletes are ready to reture. He is buried at St Jame’s in Piccadilly.

Tom Molineaux ('Molineaux') by and published by Robert Dighton.jpg
Hand Color Etching by Robert Dighton, circa 1812. Public Domain

Thomas (Tom) Molineaux (also spelled Molyneaux) was born as a slave in the US, but also lived most of his life in England. Unlike Bill Richmond, Tom is listed as an American Boxer. Historians beieve he was born in the Virginia area and took his last name from a plantantion owner (either the oe who owned him or the one who he bieved fathered him). He arrived in England in 1809 here he ade h is way to the pub (Horse and Dolphin) owned by Richmond. Richmond becamse his trainer and his first official fight was in 1810 against Cribb. He lost his two figts agains the known CHampion t the time, but he fought well, so his name would know he a well known name i th boxing circuits. He stopped boxing proessionally in 1815, but like Richmond, still did exhibitions and most likely some teching. He sufferred from tubervulousis ad is buried in Galway, Ireland (he died in 1818 but the headstone wan’t erected until 2009). Most believe he was in Ireland to do some fighting exhibits or to do some teaching.

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Colonel Edward Despard, Circa 1790. Attributed to George Romney. Public Domain.

Mrs. Catherine Despard is a woman of whom we have no known picture of. Her husband, Colonel Edward Marcu Despard, is infamous for being executed for Treason in 1803. But most know that is not the true reason. Edward married Cathine in Jamaica. Some sources say se is the daughter of a minister. Other sources claim she is a Spanish Creole. All agree that his fmily was not the most welcoming ad when he was executed, they wrote her, and her some by Edward (James) out of the family tree. The picture of Edward shows what he looked like when he married Catherine, which was in 1790. From all accounts, his fellow officers and their wives liked CAtherine. Edward was arrested in 1803 for refusing to recognize racial distinctions in law, and then th charge of eing a conspirtor plotting to assainate the King was added, thus ensuring his death. His execution was attended by at least 20,000 ad when Catherine petitioned for the right to have him buried in St. Faith’s, the public stood by her and lined the streets to see this man buried in his family plot. Ldy Nelson and other officer’s wives did their est to take care of her after her husband’s death. Sir Francis Burdett fought and was able to ensure she received her widow’s pension Catherine couted Valentine Lawless (2nd Baron Cloncurry) as well a other high ranking officrs as friend and supporters. Her son, James, fought for the French Army and returned to Englad after the Napoleonic WArs. The last known sighting of James (for Catherine had passed by this point), was a sighting by General John Despard, his ucle. Despard had seen James entering a carriage, well dressed and with a similarly well dressed lady on his arm. With that, James rode out of history.

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Cesar Picton’s death is registered in the Parrish of All Saint’s Church in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Courtesy of Exploresurreyspast.org.uk

There is no known image of Cesar Picton, which is a pity as he seemed to have quite an interesting life. He was enslaved/kidnapped at age 6, most likely from the Senegal area. He was brought to England by an Army Officer, who presented him as a gift to Sir John Philips in 1761. Philips had Cesar baptized as it was believved he had been raised as a Muslim prior to being kidnapped. Phillips was a baronet and both he and his wife treated Cesar as an “exotic” servant, dressing him in turbans and velvet. Horace Walpole mentioned Cesar in one of his letters, describing his dark skin and exotic clothes. He was treated as “free” by the time he was an adult, much in part to the Somerset Case, and was left legacy of 100 pounds by Lady Philips upon her death in 1788. He used it to set himself up as a coal merchant in Kingston, then did well enough to purchase property in 1795. He was fined 5 pounds in 1801 for illegal poaching, but no other punishment other than the fine was given (poachers were known to be executed or sent off to Australia). In 1807, he rented out his Kingston property and rented a home in Tolworth, being described as a gentleman in the lease agreement. In 1816, he purchase second, larger house with garden in Thames Ditton. He was 81 when he passed in 1836. He never married and it is unknown if he was a member of any Anti Slavery movement. However, he is important for his contributions to the community in which he lived and for being a prime example of a wealthy black man in the Regency Era, which must irk those who state England is for the English.

Ira Frederick Aldridge as Othello by James Northcote, circa 1826. Public Domain

Ira Frederick Aldridge was born in 1807 in New York to Rev Danial and Lurona Aldridge. He attended the African Free School for children of free blacks and slaves, where he received an education of classical English literature, math, geography, writing, etc. He was exposed to theatre as an audence member seeing plays at the Park Theatre. His first professional acting experience was acting in the African Grove Theatre in 1821. Because of the racist views an discrimination he faced at that time, Aldridge emmigrated to UK, landing in the LIverpool area in 1824. Trying to create a pulic image for himself, he implied he was a decendnt of African Ryalty, an took on the name of Keene, associating himself with Edmund Kean. Aldridge would be billed as FW Keene Aldridge, sometimes biled as African Roscius (after the famous BCE Roman actor). He made his debut at age 17 in May 1825 in a small production of Othello. He reprised that role in October 1825, but this time at London’s Royal Coburg Theatre. Aldridge became the first African-American actor to establish his acting career in England. He had a 7 week run at the Royal Coburg, acting in 5 different plays. Aldridge received top billing as Othello. And if the role called for a more European hue, he was not above donning white greaspaint and passing as white on stage (yes, he donned white face). In 1831, he had a successful run in Dublin. He achived his best praise perfoming abrad in Prussia and Russia. In 1863, he applied for British Citizenship and was planning a 100 stop tour in post Civil War America when he passed. He did marry, twice. His first wife was white actress by the name of Margaret Gill (British) who raised his natural son, Ira Daniel Aldridge as her own child. They were married in 1825 and she passed in 1864. He then married the mother of his natural children, “Countess” Amanda von Brandt, who was Swedish. She was his mistress throughout his career and marriage and mother of his four children. He died unexpectedly in 1867 while on tour in Poland, where he is buried. All four of his children became involved int he arts (his two daughters went on to be Opera singers).

Resources

exploresurreypast.org.uk

hisoryisfun.org (the Jamestown Musuem Revolutionary WAr website)

npg.org.uk

english-heritage.org.uk

janeaustensworld.wordpress.com

History Today (Sept 1981 issue; available on hisorytoday.com archive section)

Blackamoors in England: Black London, Life before Emancipation by Gretch Gerzina (https://www.dartmouth.edu/library/digital/publishing/books/gerzina1995/)

the V&A Musuem

The British Library

New York Pubic Library

The Smithsonian

Royal.uk (yes, the Royal Family’s official website. It’s a good resource for genealogy)

haringey.gov.uk

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

Too Many Blackamoors: Deportation, Discrimination, and Elizabeth I by Emily C. Bartels (available on Rutgers website for free via Project Muse)

The History of Blacks in Georgian & Regency England (Part 1)

With Brexit and the unfortunate Capitol Insurrection which occurred January 6, 2021, I wanted to write a two part series on the history of Blacks/Africans in England. I already did a three part series about how there were people of color in Europe before the 20th C, but really wanted to take a deeper look at the time of Jane Austen considering how many times I have queried Literary Agents who inform me that no one would believe that there were people of color in my Regency novels. I am hoping with the success of Bridgerton, that outlook will change.

Unknown Lady, circa late 18th C. Public Domain

In 1772, Lord Mansfield (William Murray), Chief Justice of England and Wales, made a decision that was truly a landmark case for the deconstruction of Slavery. That was the Somerset Case and he declared that the enslaved had rights on English soil. He also presided over the 1783 Gregson v. Gilbert case (regarding the Zong) where he again rule that the Captain and his crew were guilty in the deaths of the 132 enslaved Africans they threw overboard and drowned. This influenced the 1791 Parliament ruling which stated insurance companies no longer had to reimburse shippers (and their financial backers) for the loss of slaves (as they were seen as cargo and not people). William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield, raised Dido Elizabeth Belle and no doubt this did influence his decisions in those to cases. While none of these decisions outright banned Slavery, they did push the narrative forward.

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William Murray, circa 1737. Portrait by Jean-Baptiste van Loo. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery
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Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay & her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray by David Martin, circa 1778. Currently on display at Scone Palace, Scotland and considered Public Domain

When William Murray died in 1793, Dido was granted her “freedom” and was left enough money to be considered an heiress. In 1793, she would have still be seen as a slave, so granting her “freedom” allowed her to marry John Davinier and move about Society freely and openly. But she was not the highest ranking person of color during this Era.

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Queen Charlotte, circa 1760s, painted by Allan Ramsay. Courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust

When Megan Markle married Prince Henry, there was (and is) backlash over Megan being a woman of mixed race. However, it should note that the same hatred Megan still receives is very much on par with what Queen Charlotte received. The Allan Ramsay portraits are considered the most accurate as he never made her appear darker nor lighter, but painted her as she truly was. He was also the preferred painter of her portraits per King George III. Queen Charlotte was a patroness of the Art and her interest in Botany led to the expansion of Kew Gardens. She was a direct descendant of Margarita de Castro y Sousa, who is from the Black/Moor branch of the Portuguese Royal Family. She was often made to look ape like or even dog like in caricature and referred to as “Mulatto Face” in the press. Charlotte endured periods of madness from her husband, the many indiscretions of her sons (Regent was a bigamist and known to have may lovers). She had 15 children, 13 who survived into adulthood, and is grandmother of Queen Victoria. The South African flower Bird of Paradise is named after her as are two China patterns to her name (Royal Lily and Queen Charlotte). She funded orphanages and in 1809 sponsored a hospital for women to give birth in. It’s known today as Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital. Like her granddaughter, Queen Vicotria, she notoriously would keep her daughters close to her, which resulted in them marrying late in life or not at all and having no children of their own. Charlotte was a close and regular correspondent of Marie Antoinette (both were patrons of Music and Arts). She had rooms prepared to received the French Royals and was devastated when they were beheaded. Charlotte is the second longest serving consort in British History, having reigned 57 years and 70 days. Her husband was blind and deaf when she passed in 1818 and except for her jewels, her son (the Regent) had all of her belongings sold at auction (the jerk). The current Royal Family denies the possibility that Queen Charlotte was a person of color, but considering how many people during the Georgian Era made comments regarding her non-whiteness, then I believe it is safe to say she was not as white as the current Royals like to maintain.

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Google’s doodle celebrating the 272nd Birthday of Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equniano was born sometime in the 1740s (it’s given as 1745 in most biographies) and died in 1797. He was enslaved at age 11, renamed Gustavus Vasso, and eventually was sold to a merchant Captain who allowed him to purchase his freedom. He became an author, explorer, and merchant. Olaudah’s first hand narrative pushed the Abolitionist movement forward in both the UK & US. His autobiography went through 9 editions in his lifetime (which was really unheard of) and was a member of the Sons of Africa, a lobby group that was part of the Anti Slavery Society in England. Equniano’s story was key to passing the 1807 law abolishing the trade and capture of slaves (it still allowed the forced breeding, sell, and importation of slaves from one territory to another). He married Susannah Collins in 1792 and had two mixed race daughters. His youngest daughter married a minister in 1821. Some Scholars question if Olaudah was born in Africa[Nigeria specifically] as his baptismal records in England list him as being from the Carolinas. Yet his first owner (and people who knew him) stated that Olaudah spoke no English when he was purchased, making the case that slave traders were possibly lying (GASP) about the origins of the people they enslaved. Susannah died at age 34 and Olaudah died the following year at age 52. It’s sad he didn’t live to see the end to Slavery in England, but at least his daughter was alive to witness it (as it passed in 1833). Considering how popular his autobiography was in his lifetime, there is no chance that Austen would not have come across a copy or would not have heard of him.

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Ignatius Sancho, circa 1768, by Thomas Gainsborough. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada

[Charles] Ignatius Sancho had a very interesting life. He was born aboard a slave ship and orphaned at around age 2. He was given to three sisters living in Greenwich, England and was a slave to them for 18 years. He ran away to the Duke and Duchess of Montagu, who decided to educated him and encourage his interests in literature (other tales state the Duke visited these sisters and being impressed with Ignatius’ intellect, taught him to read and write). There is no record of the Montagus purchasing him, so it may have been they compensated the three women for after a few years, he left the Montagus (Igantius was listed as a servant, not a slave) and became a shopkeeper in Westminister, wrote and published various forms of literature (books, poetry, and essays). Igantius became the first Black person to have voted in 1774 and 1780 being a male property owner of both a house and shop (which entitled him to a vote under English law). Ignatius married Anne Osbourne, who was West Indian, and had 7 children. His letters were published two years after his death and is widely accepted as one of the earliest first hand accounts of slavery. While it doesn’t seem like much, the Duchess of Montague left him an annuity of 30 pounds a year in her will in 1752 (comes to about 2000 in today’s market). Sancho counted Thomas Gainsborough (who painted him twice), actor David Garrick and abolitionist Charles James Fox among his friends. Igantius corresponded with writers and encouraged them to stand up against slavery. He was a loud advocate for the end of Slavery and lectured frequently. Sancho is the first Black person to have an obituary in the newspapers of that era.

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Francis Williams, circa 1745. Artist unknown. Courtesy of the V&A Museum

Almost all we know about Francis Williams comes from the History of Jamaica (1774) by Edward Long. Long downplays Williams and his family’s contributions, so there isn’t much to go on. We do know that the painting was done by someone in Jamaica. The window appears to overlook a town (The V&A believe it to be Spanish Town) and the library setting is kind of typical Georgian background. Other Scholars think it’s a caricature, while I tend to lean towards a person who had not much training in doing portraits as the landscape shows artistic talent (not everyone can do portraits). Edward Long, while he hated Williams, was the owner of this portrait and it was one of his descendants who gifted it to the museum. Francis may or may not have been born into Slavery. He may have been born at anytime between 1692 and 1700. His father, John Williams, was not granted freedom until 1697-1699, so chances are Francis was born as a slave. He had 2 elder brother and one sister. His father, John, became a wealthy landowner who, unfortunately, had slaves. John Williams in 1708 was granted a trial by jury AND had a law passed that slaves could not testify against him, which was groundbreaking as free Black men did not have the same legal rights as his white counterparts. him. He passed in 1723 a very wealthy man. We do know that Francis live in England long enough to become a naturalized citizen. He was a member of Lincoln’s Inn (a club for Barristers in London), and moved back to Jamaica after his father’s death in 1723. Francis opened and ran a school for free blacks teaching Math, Reading, Writing, and Latin. His legacy is problematic because his wealth, and education, re a product of Slavery while he himself is most likely a former slave. Yet his very existence as a wealthy, highly educated, London Barrister who (apparently) wrote poetry in Latin must cause great distress to those who believe in Wyte Supremacy

The Hon John Spencer and his son, the 1st Earl Spencer and their slave, Caesar Shaw. Circa 1744 by George Knapton. Public Domain

Not much is known about Caesar Shaw. He was a slave owed by John SPncer. Casaer was baptzed in Northampton and we do know he was most likely taken from Africa. However, he was eventually freed and gave first hand testimony regaring the horros of slavery at Anti Slavery meetings and conventions. During the Georgian Era, it was seen as a ign of wealt to have black servants. Peter the Great was known to have black footmen, Valets, an eventually tradesmen and merchnts at his palaces. So while many of these servants are namless, knowing even a few of their names help establish that there were Black people in England (and Russia) during the 18th and 19th Century.

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Francis Barber, circa 1770s. Attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds or James Northcote. Courtesy of the Tate Collection & Public Domain

Francis Barber was born Quashey around 1740. We do know he was born in Jamaica on a sugarcane plantation owned by the Bathurst family. It was the father and son (both named Richard) who, when they traveled to London in 1752, gave Francis to Johnson after Johnson’s wife died to serve as a Valet. Johnson was a strong voice against Slavery both in the US and the UK and is known as the author of the Dictionary of English Language. Barber was technically granted his freedom when the elder Bathurst died in 1755, and was given an annuity of 12 pounds. However, Francis then worked at an apothecary, then joined the Royal Navy and eventually came back to work for Johnson in 1760. All the time he was away, he and Johnson were regular correspondents as Francis had been given some education by the Bathursts. Johnson then put Barber through school and Barber became his assistant, having worked on the Dictionary’s second revision, a well a other literary works by Johnson. Francis was also key in helping Boswell write a biography of Johnson after his death. Johnson, from all accounts, was very attached to Francis and left him 70 pounds (well over 2000 in today’s market) a year in his will which was widely covered in the press at the time. It was seen as scandalous to leave a black man more than what a nobleman would leave an assistant (50 pounds was considered a lot). Francis married Elizabeth Ball (white) and they had 2 children. Those children went onto marry white people as well, which some people at that time did not like. Francis Barber still has decedents living in Littchfield to this day.

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Lafayette & James Armistead, circa 1780s. Public Domain

The Revolutionary War brought about a lot of change not only for the British Empire, but for enslaved Africans in the Colonies. It is estimated that in 1775, more than a half a million Africans living in the 13 colonies were slaves. Ministers and Quakers such as George Keith and John Woolman were advocating against Slavery in the 1760s, thanks to the rising abolitionist movement in England. They were ignored. Abigail Adams, future First Lady, herself wrote many times on the irony of wanting to fight for freedom from tyranny while keeping slaves who lived in tyranny. In the first battle against the British, 10 out of 15 black soldiers were slaves. In 1777, the 13 states enacted laws enforcing quotas to push black slaves into fighting the British. In 1778, Rhode Island established a Black Battalion because they could not meet their quota for white soldiers to fight for the Continental Army. Many slave owners (particularly the Southern States) gave the Continental Army slaves instead of fighting themselves. Lord Dunmore, Virginia’s Royal Governor, in 1775 established a regiment of runaway slaves, promising them freedom is they fought for the British. It was not a well liked policy, but it established an interesting paradigm. In 1776, it seems some of the enslaved did not like that the Constitution not making all men equal, and rebelled. The British Army used this outrage t their advantage and promised freedom to slaves, and their families, if they joined the British Army. It is not known how many enslaved Africans switched sides or how may ran away for the chance at freedom. We do know that several thousand freed slaves moved to British held territories after the War and over a thousand moved to Dublin, Liverpool, and London in the aftermath. So, while the Founding Fathers advocated freedom, they refused to free those who were forced to fight the British, while the British freed those who were willing to fight, but not those they had already enslaved in their territories. It’s a weird and interesting time period in the Georgian Era as not many historians (both US and UK) like to discuss the role Slavery played in the fight for Independence. With over a half a millions slaves, that gave the Continental Army a clear advantage over the British. Yet it is Britain who passed a law outlawing Slavery in 1833, over 30 years before the US.

Resources

hisoryisfun.org (the Jamestown Musuem Revolutionary WAr website)

npg.org.uk

english-heritage.org.uk

janeaustensworld.wordpress.com

History Today (Sept 1981 issue; available on hisorytoday.com archive section)

Blackamoors in England: Black London, Life before Emancipation by Gretch Gerzina (https://www.dartmouth.edu/library/digital/publishing/books/gerzina1995/)

the V&A Musuem

The British Library

New York Pubic Library

The Smithsonian

Royal.uk (yes, the Royal Family’s official website. It’s a good resource for genealogy)

haringey.gov.uk

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

Too Many Blackamoors: Deportation, Discrimination, and Elizabeth I by Emily C. Bartels (available on Rutgers website for free via Project Muse)

The Problem of Julia Quinn: Rape Isn’t Romance

I wasn’t going to write another blog post on the rape scene in Netflix’s Bridgerton. I truly wasn’t. I had thought about possibly doing one on the costumes until I came across a YouTube video were VBlogger Book_and_Keys asked Julia Quinn about that rape scene, both in the novel and the adaptation. Reader, I became LIVID at the answer. Quinn replied that most don’t see Daphne raping Simon as “morally wrong” and it’s only become an issue as the “years [have] passed an we [Society] gained new understanding of ‘consent’.” She also states that we (the ones who are concerned and are complaining), lack the finesse of comprehending the historical context in which the novel is based. She believes that Society in 1813 would not have seen this as rape. Excuse me Ms Quinn, but thy Ivy League Whyte Privilege has reared it’s ugly head and history has not only proven you to be wrong, but a liar as well.

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Edgar Degas, The Interior (The Rape), circa 1869. Courtesy of the Tate

As I had written previously, the first series of Bridgerton is based on The Duke & I, which was published in 2000. This meas it was most likely written in 1997 or 1998, but possibly as early as 1995. This is important because what was really big in 1998? The Impeachment of Pres. William Clinton for lying about getting blowjob. The whole issue of consent and the overuse of power was a key point. There was also this HUGE thing about consent between an adult woman and a child in 1997 (Mary Kay Letourneau plead guilty in 1997 to 2 counts of Second -Degree Rape of a Child, which is a felony charge). And if that doesn’t ring a bell, in 1991, sexual harassment (and abuse of power) was brought forth during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings by his victim, Anita Hill. By having Julia Quinn state that the whole rape scene in the novel wasn’t a big deal when it came out in 2000 is really doing a disservice to many readers. I cannot fathom how this even passed her editor or publisher. Cait’s Books (a blog) did state that rape was definitely considered a bad thing when this book was published, so Quinn trying to pass it off as no big deal is, quite frankly, repugnant.

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HS Ford, for Andrew Lang;s Grey Fairy Book, Circa 1900. Public Domain

Now, I forced myself to read The Duke & I this past week, as I couldn’t finish it the last time I attempted it because of the rape scene. Thankfully, there’s this great thing called libraries and borrowing ebooks, so I didn’t have to purchase it. While I had mistakenly written prior that the rape of Simon took place before marriage, it actually occurs after the marriage has taken place. I have no issues to admit I was mistaken as to when it took place (one must, of course, always acknowledges an error, dear Reader). This doesn’t make it less wrong. Simon is drunk. Daphne decides to rape him by forcing him to ejaculate in her. They fight, They breakup. She thinks she’s pregnant, so they get back together and work things out even when the pregnancy is a false alarm. Throughout this narrative, Quinn frames Simon as the villain and he is to blame for everything. Even though it’s been set up that he was abused emotionally (if not physically) by his father during his formative years, which led him to the understandable conclusion to not have biological children of his own. Now, a better writer would have had these two talk and work out the whole children thing so no rape would have occurred. Or if Julian Quinn had done the even the bare modicum of research, she would have realized that the frequency of Simon and Daphne screwing would have led to a pregnancy within the year anyways. Because, science. The book, FYI, is extremely predictable in the Silhouette romance kind of way.

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Artemisia Gentileschi (1614-1620), Judith Beheading Holofrenes. Courtesy of the National Geographic.

Now, full disclosure: There is NOTHING wrong with reading romance novels. There’s NOTHING wrong with writing them. We all enjoy escapism an whether it’s a romance, or Sci-Fi, or true crime story, we enjoy reading. There is, however, something seriously wrong with this need to romanticize rape in 20th and 21st C novels, TV. Film, music, etc. It’s a sick and twisted trope that needs to be weeded out for good.

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Weird Tales cover for January 1929. Public Domain

Julia made the bold and inaccurate statement in an interview with The Guardian where she believes she’s being “dinged” for the historical inaccuracies in the Netflix adaptation. While she was primarily referring to the casting, that’s not the main issue people like me have. And yes, there are a lot (and I mean A LOT) of issue with historical accuracy in the show (corsets, dresses, etc). But most of us know that this is meant to be fictional and while I would like it if some of the costumes were more Regency instead of Victorian, many of us are upset over this rape scene. Quinn firmly believes those of us criticizing the rape don’t understand the context of the time period she set the tale in. Au Contraire, Ms. Quinn. I have studied the years 1740-1860 since I was 12 years old and am currently 40, so I am more than a tad well versed in this area. Not to mention my MA Thesis was on 19th C Burlesque. I am well equipped to handle this Kevin Kruse style smackdown.

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Suzanne Lacy, Three Weeks in May 1977. Courtesy of suzannelacy.com

First, the historical context. Historically, rape has existed. It existed before Jane Austen was born and continues to exist after her death. I suspect it will continue long after my own demise as well. Marquette University has a wonderful page dedicated to Gothic Novels and the issue of Rape in them. They even state a 7th Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale (1671-1676) as stating “in a rape case it is the victim, not the defendant, who is on trial.” Marquette University also points out that there was this 1753 Act of Parliament called The Hardwicke Act, which was written and passed to prevent “clandestine marriages” from being legal. In our modern vernacular, they were trying to stop the kidnapping, rape, and forced marriages of wealthy women (or girls) to their rapists in order to preserve their honor. The main reason these illegal marriages were occurring stemmed from men who wanted control over the fortune and/or family connections these ladies had to offer. Now, how many marriages were still forced to save a woman’s honor? Probably quite a few even after this had passed. Most families would opt for the marriage to keep what occurred a secret instead of allowing it to become a scandal. But this doesn’t man rape was never prosecuted.

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Edgar Degas, Rape of the Sabines (based on the Nicholas Poussain 1630s Painting), 1861. Courtesy of the Norton Simon Museum

In 1777, Benjamin Russen, Clergyman and Educator, was found guilty and executed for the rape of Anne Mayne, child. While there were very few men executed for rape in the 18th C, there are many examples of rapists being accused and a few even went to trial. Most were, naturally, men of means (i.e. wealthy) and were found not guilty by attacking the victim’s character, especially if the victim was not a virgin to begin with. If this tactic sounds vaguely familiar, it’s one that is still used in our modern Society. Recall the hatred all the women who came forward to talk about the sexual abuse they experienced Brett Kavanaugh? How many times did we hear about how they had to be unreliable, but Kavanagh’s testimony was to be believed 200%? Or the over 20+ women and girls who have stated Donald Trump raped them and yet people don’t want to believe them? For all our talk of progressive values, it seems the issue of not believing a victim of sexual assault has existed for eons, and that should worry everyone.

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Evariste Vital Luminais, The Abduction (El Rapto), 1887-1889. Courtesy of the Museum of Belle Arts, Argentina

But wait, there’s more! These are a few, but not all, cases of rape that we know occurred PRIOR to the year 2000:

Hypatia of Alexandria (412) CE: stripped, beaten to death, body torn apart and burned. PLUS, we all know (even though it’s not recorded), they raped her

Rogneda of Polotsk (10thC CE) from Scandinavia was raped by Vladimir, the half brother of her fiancee, Yaro Polk I of Kiev, in front of her parents

Xenia Borisorna, Tsarina (1605), raped by False Dmitry I, who then forced her to become his concubine before sending her to a nunnery 6 months later

Artesmia Gentileeschi, Italian Artist (1611), raped by fellow artist Agostino Tassi and his friend, Cosimo Quorli

Mary Travers (1864), raped by Sir William Wilde, father of Oscar Wilde (playwright)

9 Yr old Girl (1860s), raped by Amos Greenwood, who was attempting to cure his syphllis (she died from it)

Waterloo Outrage/Mt Rennie/MaryJane Hicks (1886), 16 yr old Mary was gang raped by at least 8 men

Suryanelli Rape Case (1996), 16 yr old girl in India was gang raped by 37-42 men over a period of 400 days

Aruna Shanburg (1973) raped and choked by Brtha Walmiki (she passed in 2015 after bing in a vegatatve tate for 42)

Mathrua (1972), 15 yr old and raped by 2 policemen

Eliabeth Pena (16) and Jennifer Ertman (14) were gang rapped and murdered by 6 teenage boys in 1993

Junko Furuta (1988), raped by 4 men over a period of 40 day over 400 times before being murdered

Bhanwari Devi (1992), gang raped by 5 men

Pausanias of Orestis (336 BCE), bodyguard and lover of Philip II of Macedonia wa raped by Attalus & his servants (Attalus was Philip’s father in law); Pausanius killed Philip because there was no justice (and this led to the reign of Alexander the Great)

Boudicca’s Daughters (45 CE), gang raped by Roman Soldiers

Indigenious Peoples (1490s CE) raped by Columbus and his crew and they took notes on it (seriously, we have their journals)

Sarah Woodcock (1798), raped by Baron Frederick Calvert

Harriet Jacobs (born a slave), raped by her former owner Samueal Treawell Sawyer (who was a Congressman AFTER the civil War)

Kishnev Rape [POGROM], the murder of 49 Jews and the rape of Jewish Women by Russsian Men occurred in 1903

Dylan Farrow, 7, by her stepfather Woody Allen, in the 1970s

Marilyn Monroe (as a minor)

Eartha Kitt (born of rape and raped herself)

Billie Holiday

Maya Angelou

Rita Hayworth, raped by her father

Sandra Dee, raped by her stepfather

Oprah Winfrey publicly talked about her sexual abuse (which resulted in a pregnancy) in 1986 from age 9 to 13

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Kathleen Gilge, Susanna and the Elders Restored. Courtesy of kathleengilge.com

As we can see, we’ve known about rape for quite a while before 2000. And Austen herself knew about rape not only from literature (the Gothic novels of her time), her education (which would have included some of the classical mythologies as well as her upbringing as the daughter of a minister). It’s clear in Sense and Sensibility that Wiloughby’s seduction of Eliza (who IS underage) would be seen as a rape under English law at the time. Now, he refuses to marry her, even though she is pregnant, as this would have been seen as a way of saving her honor. But o notice that nowhere does Austen blame Eliza (nor does Brandon blame Eliza) for the decision to live quietly, have her child, and not be forced into a marriage with her rapist. This is a fairly modern way of thinking. Now, in Emma, Mr. Elton’s insistence that he was led on by Emma Woodhouse’s behavior is very much how a rapist defends himself in court (victim blaming). He tells her that she led him on with how she behaved. He refuses to take any blame for his actions. While I could find no evidence of Austen ever attending any rape cases, it is fairly certain she would have heard how they were conducted from her father, or even her uncle, who was a lawyer. Jane Austen would have know that current (to her time) English rape laws were based on the military laws of Henry V and Richard I (these primarily dealt with rape during a war and if you haven’t figured it out yet, Austen grew up during a time of war and had 2 brothers in the Royal Navy).

The Rape of Europa
Titian, Rape of Europa (1560-1562). Courtesy of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

In 1563, the 24th Session o the Council of Trent made forced marriages illegal (though French Women were not granted this until 1793) and the marriages only had to be consensual between the two parties and lack of parental consent was not seen as an invalidation (unless you were French and female). We acknowledged date rape/acquaintance rape as something that does occur in the 1980s. Martial rape was recognized in the US in 1975 in South Dakota (the first state) while North Carolina didn’t recognize it as a violation until 1993 (making it the lat state). During the time of the novel, 1813, Napoleon in his address to the Army in Egypt, stated that he found rape committed by soldiers to be disgusting and declared that rapists were monsters and if he found any of his men committing such acts they would be executed. Again, this is something Quinn could have easily found IF she had done any research (which she does claim that she does do in order to write Regency romances). We could also mention that since the adaptation has made Simon a person of color (POC) Daphne raping him has strong connotations of colonialism and slavery as well.

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1823, Enslaved Africans cutting Cane in Antigua. Courtesy of University of Virginia & slaveryimages,org (image NW0054)

So, Julia Quinn, where is this no historical context you speak of? Clearly, during the period of 1813 in which you place The Duke & I, rape was an issue and there had been many laws regarding this. And as for the statement that women were seen as property in 1813, this would be an outdated mode of thinking as Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1797. Not to mention the popularity of women authors earning their own money during this time (Anne Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth, Fanny Burney). I can even cite more laws, because why not.

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John Opie, Mary Wollstonecraft (Mrs. William Goodwin), 1790-1791. Courtesy of The Tate Museum

Poet Lucretius in 50BCE condemned rape as a primitive behavior out side the boundaries of an advanced civilization (Volenta virir vis atque impenda libido). Emperor Dicoletion (284-305 CE) stated a victim is innocent of the rape, but at the same time stated it may have been caused by behavior. Lex Julia de vi Publix (3rd C CE) defined rape as forced sex by anyone against anyone (most scholars belief it has its roots from the reign of Julius Caesar; this did not protect sex workers or slaves). Ancient Rome had no statute of limitations on Rape, but Adultery had to be prosecuted within 5 yrs, Rome also had a law called The Crime of Lauis, meaning a man who is raped (based on the rape of Chrysippus by Lauis). Romans saw rape as a capital offense and a rapist could be executed (this was one of the few crimes one could be executed for in Rome). Thomas Aqunias in Suma Theologica (question 154) stated rape is sinful, but then goes on to state it’s not as bad as pulling out or masturbation. Medieval England had a Raptus Law (1100-1500CE), but was more about how women were property and raping of them was desecration of said property (law never saw a distinction between rape and abduction). Emperor Constantine redefined rape as a public offense instead of a private one (again, because women were property), and if it were discovered that the woman consented, she and the man were burned alive (even if she did not consent, she was burned as an accomplice to her own rape because patriarchy). Again, these are all laws that predate Austen and we should point out that even Rome acknowledged that men can be raped.

Rape of Lucretia by Sextus Tarquinius and her suicide, 16th C Illuminated Manuscript (Anon, Southern Germany, pre-1560). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Now, I thought I would list artworks that depicted rape, as Quinn as a degree from Harvard in Art, and decided to put a few examples scattered throughout this blog. Given her background in Art, there is no reason Quinn didn’t know that rape (specifically heroic and mythological rape) did not exist prior to Austen and prior to writing The Duke & I. I firmly believe there is no logical reason for rape to be included in any romance novels, or any form of entertainment, at this time. In 1979, a soap opera called General Hospital had Luke rape Laura, then stated it was a seduction, then resolved it all by getting the two characters to marry, because how completely 16th C of them to preserve Laura’s honor. Reader, even the actors who portrayed those characters have stated it was a rape and they hated that scene. Rick Deckard in Blade Runner (1982) forces himself on Rachel, but it’s portrayed as romantic and sexy with the music and in the sequel. Rape, even with a sexy saxophone background, is STILL rape. Dr. McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy forces Meredith Grey to go out with him (he IS her boss) and just because they get married doesn’t make it any less wrong.

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Hans Van Aachan, Rape of Peresphone (1589). Public Domain

Shondaland Productions is know for gritty and dark moments. They did not HAVE to include the rape scene. While Quinn states readers haven’t made a big deal of it, the fact a majority of reviews of The Duke & I mention the rape and how it should have been left out. And some of these reviews date from when it was first released. Just because they made Simon sober instead of drunk doesn’t make it less of a rape. The whole scene is about power and consent. Daphne wants control over Simon. She denies him consent. If this were reversed, we would definitely be calling this out as rape.

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Simon Basset (Rege-Jean Page)

Lastly, Quinn made the remark in The Guardian that no one wants to adapt a contemporary piece of fiction anymore. And this is clearly a lie. Outlander has been successful and rape in those novels is depicted as violent (they wisely chose to NOT depict the violence as written when adapting the novels). To All the Boys (a Netflix Production) is a contemporary and minority driven romance adaptation. Even Game of Thrones decided to not depict a rape scene in the book when it was adapted. And GOT was all about sex….and dragons, but mostly sex. So if other adaptations can successfully NOT depict rape, even when its in the original novel, so can Bridgerton. Especially when the rape is being used in a way to romanticize the relationship. Because we shouldn’t normalize the notion that rape leads to love. Rape is a violation. It is morally wrong. Nothing about rape indicates love. NOTHING. So yes, Julian Quinn needs to be called out on this and needs to be held accountable. She’s not writing The Monk, nor The Italian (both Gothic novels predate Austen and depict rape or the threat of rape). Rape in literature, prior to Austen, was used to show depravity of a character and the power they had. By the time Austen was writing, there was no need to use rape as a literary device. So, Ms. Quinn, what’s your excuse then?

Resources

Morgan, Susan. Why There’s no Sex in Jane Austen’s Fiction. Women & Early Fiction V 19 N 3, Fall 1897. Pgs 346-356.

Easton, Celia A. ‘The Encourageent I Received”: Emma and the Language of Sexual Assault. JASNA V 37 N 1, Winter 2016.

Rodgers, Stephanie. Rape Culture and Austen (Boots Theory 1/14/2015).

Castle, Terry. Austen’s Characters know nothing of Date Rape, Unwanted Pregnanacies Hip Hop Bitches. Stanford University Book Haven (2/23/2014).

Tauchert, Ashley. Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen: Rape an Love as (Feminist) Social Realism and Romance. Women and Cultural Review, V 14, N 2, Jan 2003. Pgs 144-158.

Kelly, Helena. Many Ways in Which We are Wrong About Jane Austen (Lit Hub May 3, 2017).

Friedersdorf, Conor. Jane Austen and Men Who Refuse to Hear No (The Atlantic 10/22/2014).

Anonymous, The Continuous Romanticization of Rape Victims. Voice for the Innocent (Feb 27, 2017).

Ortega, Johanny. Stop Romanticizing Rape in Books and Write What you Know (Medium 8/31/2020).

Beck. Julie. When Pop Culture Sells Dangerous Myths About Romance (The Atlantic 1/17/2018).

Harris, Carissa. Women have been Drugged and Raped by Men for Centuries (Vox).

Lewis, Matthew. The Monk (1796).

Coleridge, ST. Review of The Monk (1797).

De Sade, Marquis. Justine or The Misfortunes of Virtue (1791).

Cleland, John. Fanny Hill (1748-1749).

Richardson, Samuel. Sir Charles Grandison (1753), Pamela (1740), Clarissa (1748).

Pope, Alexander. The Rape of Lock (1717).

Radcliffe, Anne. A Sicilian Romance (1790), Romance of the Forest (1791), Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), The Italian (1797).

Burney, Frances. Evelina (1778), Cecilia (1782), Camilla (1796).

Walpole, Horace. Castle of Otranto (1764).

Romano, Aja. Bridgerton Has a Rape Scene, but it’s not Treated as a Rape Scene (Vox 12/26/20).

Schifano, Izzy. There was a Rape Scene in Bridgerton and No one Seems to have Realized (Vox 1/4/2021).

Kelly, Alice. How Bridgerton Failed Male Rape Survivors (Your Tango 1/13/2021).

Simon-Kerr, Julia. Unchaste and Incredible. Yale Law Journal V 118 N 8 (June 2008).

Redhead, Amanda. Stop Romanticizing the Sexual Assault of Young Men (Huff Post)

The Mary Sue, Bridgerton and Consent.

Fox, Caroline. Bridgerton Failed to Fix Mistake (Screen Rant).

Freedman, Eselle B. Women’s Long Battle to Define Rape (Washington Post 8/24/2012).

Bindel, Julie. Rape: A Burning Justice (The Guardian 8/13/2013).

Wolf, Leonard. Women are Purused, Tortured, Ensalved, Raped. (NY Times 1/14/1973).

Thompson, James R. Metaphor of Rape Culture (Wisconsin. edu)

Eitelmann, Matthais and Stella Butler. The Organic Uncanny: Taboo, Sexuality, and Death in British Gothic Novels.

Sex and Horror in Gothic Novels (Bookbywomen.org)

Gothic Tropes and Incest (The Gothic LIbrary)

Grove, Allen W. Coming out of the Castle: Gothic, Sexuality, and the Limits of Language. Historical Reflections V 26 N 3 (Fall 2000).

Incest in the Gothic Novel (Denison.edu)