The research I did for the first short story of the White Swans series was both interesting and fun. Historical facts are important no matter what genre an author writes, but especially writing for young adults, since teens are impressionable and tend to believe everything they read. Even the accuracy of the details of clothing, which might seem trivial, is essential.
The Regency Era has intrigued me since I was a child, but even more so after reading “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. For many of my facts, I turned to the Jane Austen websites, which are full of wonderful and historic details.
One of the more challenging items I researched was how to address people. I had been under the impression that I could refer to a duke as ‘My Lord.’ Boy was I wrong! To do so is quite degrading. A duke is addressed as ‘Your Grace’, and he’s introduced as, for example, ‘Charles Emory, the Duke of Deverow.’ Yes, he is one of the leading characters in my book.
What about the funny little hat maids wore that looked like a shower cap? Well, that’s called a mob hat, and no, it has nothing to do with mobsters and gangsters. It was an essential part of a maid’s uniform.
Speaking of servants, I had to understand what a footman does versus a butler. A footman did a variety of indoor and outdoor jobs. Important to me were the indoor jobs. Learning that a footman laid out the table, served the meal and tea, and assisted the butler helped me determine what Wordsworth’s duties had to be in the book.
During this research, I learned that the butler was responsible for household security and most important, the wine cellar. The butler didn’t wear a uniform, but he wore a black cravat instead of a white one so he would not be mistaken for a gentleman.
I also needed to know the difference between a chambermaid, parlor maid, a personal maid, and a lady in waiting. The housekeeper supervised all the maids including the cook, ordered food and supplies, and took care of the household accounts. She pretty much ran the house. I chose not to give my character Lady Kendíka a lady in waiting. Instead, I gave her a companion, whose duties I describe in the second book.
Another very important servant was the personal maid or “abigail.” A personal maid took care of all the lady’s needs. In White Swans, Cordova is Lady Kendíka’s abigail, Cordova dresses and undresses Lady Kendíka, helps with her hair and also mends and takes care of all her dresses.
Finding out about men’s wear was interesting. I always wondered about the cravat, also called a neckcloth. Worn with high-collared shirts, a cravat is a long, narrow strip of linen or silk wrapped around the neck several times and tied in the front.
Behavior and manners are also important. My character Charles has exemplary manners. While his etiquette is excellent, Kendíka, who is new to the world and comes from the 21st century, has much to learn.
It is my firm belief an author should use the facts of history correctly to leave the proper impressions with the reader, especially when dealing with impressionable teens.