Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Historical Research -- The Ten Thousand

I had a reader recently ask me -- "Why are all your characters seemingly related to one another? Lady Olivia is cousin to almost everyone, and then there are so many others who are second cousins or once removed cousins. What's up with that?"

The "original" aristocracy (meaning way back in the Middle Ages) was made up of Dukes and Barons fighting for their feudal lord. I suppose if you wanted to remain King you placed your friends and relatives close to you. (It didn't always work, but you know how it goes. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.)

(Duke is in line for the throne -- any male with a bloodline that can be traced.** A Baron was like a body guard for the King. He kept his people in line. Sort of a Middle Ages County Sheriff.)

By the 1600's, the nepotism thing really took off. Dukes, Earls, Marquesses, were mostly made up of family members to the King. If you didn't have a title, you married into one. When you died and had no heir, the King usurped the title and then gave it to someone else. Which is why every man worth his salt tried to have as many kids as he could, to try to keep the title in the family. (Back then people died from even the smallest cold. Not to mention plague, sword fights, wars, so your life was always hanging in the balance. The more kids, the better off you'd be.)

Fathers used their daughters to gain entry into top families. If you were an Earl, you wanted your daughter to marry a duke's son. If you were a Baron, you wanted her to marry an Earl. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. The son had to marry no less than his station. A Duke's son would marry no less than a Marquess or an Earl's daughter. Forget about love, it was all about the title and wealth.

By the time we enter the Regency, the aristocracy was made up of all these people who were related in one way or another. More or less. Enter the Ten Thousand.

Now, some speculate that the 10K was made up of 10K families. Which I think is a little much. That's a lot of people. I'm assuming, the 10K meant that it was made up of 10,000 family MEMBERS. That, to me, is a lot closer to the mark.

I grew up in the small state of Rhode Island. My immediate family consisted of me and my two brothers. My extended family consisted of six aunts and uncles. My first cousins equal twenty-one. When they married and had kids, my second cousins equal thirty-six. My third cousins number somewhere around twenty-five. (Honestly, I lost count.) So suffice to say, at the family reunion, there are a lot of us. That's not even counting who they married and how those families are also invited to the family reunion. (Because in Rhode Island, the Six Rules of Separation apply. I once met a woman on a plane to Vegas who was related to me through marriage to a second cousin. It's really a very small world.)

So, in writing my series, some of them must be related. Especially if they're members of the arisocracy. I had to make a family tree. On a big poster board. That hangs right by my desk. And then I had to add another one. Lady Olivia was at the top of the first one, but as the series continues, I had to go back further, thus the second one. In order to make all the pieces fit for the last book, I had to make a tree for Olivia's husband Fitzhugh (which also gave me an idea for a new series...hmmm...more on that another time.)

So, that's the exceedingly basic idea of how the ten thousand came to be known as the ten thousand. I didn't get into the Letters Patent, and how that applies to becoming a member of the 10K. I'll save that for another post. It's very droll and complicated. (I touch on it a little bit in THE LADY'S MASQUERADE.)

**Nowadays, women are also in line. Well they were also in line back then (Mary, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth, Victoria), but only if they were daughter to the King with no brother.

Tell me -- How many people are in your family?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

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