Highwaywomen in British History | An Heiress by Midnight research tidbit
With less than a week before An Heiress by Midnight goes on sale, I thought I would share some interesting research, please remember I am a geek at heart. A romantic, but a geek.
As an old English teacher, history buff, and all around lover of details I get very nervous every time I sit down to plan a story. I may have a grand idea in my head, but until I research the time period, I don’t know if it is plausible. Yes, yes, I know I write fiction, so I shouldn’t be worried about historical accuracy, right? WRONG! There are very savvy readers out there, that will know when something isn’t correct and I don’t want to let them down.
I am a firm believer in human nature and the fact that just about anything is plausible during any time period, but I do like to have some history to back me up.
Getting to the point:
When I first got the idea for An Heiress by Midnight, I was at a writer’s meeting in a workshop using tarot cards. Everything fell into place as I sat there looking at the spread I was being walked through. Perfect! But, hey wait—were there historical reports of Highwaywomen?
In fact, a few women were just as tenacious, determined as they are today, and w
ere naughty enough to make the history books. Also, there were many fictional accounts of highway women as well during the 16th and 17th century.
One example that is part truth/part legend is Lady Katherine Ferres. She lived from 1634-1660. It is said that she took to a life of highway robbery when the government refused to give her the income from her estates. She was said to have donned men’s clothes and rode out on horseback. The story ends with her being shot. It is difficult to tell which parts are true and which have been embellished today, but like any good story, there is a grain of truth in there somewhere.
There are many fictionalized accounts as well. In the novel The English Rouge, by Richard Head 1665 there are many mentions and interactions with such female criminals. There is even a ballad written; The Female Frolic that was included as a broadsheet ballad between 1600-1700 England. I was very happy when my research was complete, and I tried to give my heroine, Lady Louissa Adair, those traits that I felt gave these infamous women the tenacity to do what they did in a society where women had few rights and fewer opinions. For many of these fictionalized highwaywomen their fates were not pleasant and often they were not given traits that were so womanly.
Lady Louissa Adair (my heroine from An Heiress by Midnight), on the other hand who is forced into her situation is much more fortunate in her story. Had these other highwaywomen in British history and fiction had a hero like Lord Clive Breakerton, perhaps they would all have lived happily ever after as well.