Baptism and Christening in the Regency Era + an Excerpt and Giveaway from “Lady Chandler’s Sister: Book 3 of the Twins’ Trilogy”

Baptism and Christening in the Regency Era + an Excerpt and Giveaway from “Lady Chandler’s Sister: Book 3 of the Twins’ Trilogy”

I have left my Austen bonnet at home today, but I have kept my Regency one. Today, I would like to introduce you to my latest release, Lady Chandler’s Sister. This is book three of my Twins’ Trilogy. I know many of you were kind to read and review both Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep (book 1) and The Earl Claims His Comfort (book 2). [BTW, Black Opal Books will be reducing the price of the eBooks on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo of Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep and The Earl Claims His Comfort, beginning today, Monday, March 25, for those of you who are interested in reading the first two books of the trilogy.] But first, a bit of history that affects the story.

At most hospitals, the staff record such details, and they are passed on to the proper authorities. The birth announcement appears in the local newspaper usually within a week of the actual birth. This was not so for the Regency. Birth announcements were not recorded during the Regency Era. Births were not always recorded in the parish registers. Generally, only the Baptism/Christening was recorded. Some clergymen listed the child’s age or birth date  when recording the  baptism, but most did not. Usually the child had to be breathing to be baptised and  given a name for the parish records, but that was not an “absolute” in the practice of recording births. [Note! Today the terms (baptism and christening) are interchangeable by many. A Christening is a naming, but the church believes baptism is to save the soul of the infant  and to enroll him in the church of believers. The secular name is incidental and just for records.]

According to Nancy Mayer Regency Researcher, “Most of the evidence upon which today’s perceptions of the era are founded is faulty.  St Martin-in-the-Fields was probably the most fastidious of the parishes in those days, with the sextons recording in minute detail, everything about those they buried – and that included stillborns, abortives, infants (those who’d lived to draw breath), etc., etc.  Name, date of birth, date of death, address, sex, etc., etc.  No detail was missed.  But even in this parish there were anomalies based on the structure of burial fees – abortives were the cheapest burials. Chrisom’s came next.  Stillborns were the third cheapest, and from there, the fees increased the longer the individual lived.  So many infants who had lived through the first crucial week only to succumb to the infections that so beset newborns, were buried as stillborns because the family could not or did not want to pay the higher fees. But even with the stillborns and the Chrisoms, the father’s name was recorded by the sextons.  It was not until well after the Regency that the mother’s name was included.” Although it rarely happened, in reality, the parents did not need to present for the baptism. 

No ecclesiastical law forbid the baptism of a stillborn child. It was the expense of doing so that prevented many from recognizing their child’s existence.

I understand the confusion and grief following the lost of a child, for I lost two children before I had my son. I grieved deeply not to have access to the ones I lost early on, to be able to “bury” them properly. Like me, many in the early 19th Century were developing what we now associate with the British public as a whole: the stiff upper lip. Grief was not shown in public, and record keeping often did not display one’s private heartbreak.

Other parishes were not as meticulous as St Martin-in-the-Fields. Generally, the person requesting the recording of the birth was at the “mercy” of the clergyman overseeing the parish. The clergyman’s opinions or those of the aristocrat providing his living could differ greatly from parish to parish. Some clergy would look poorly upon an abortive situation. An aristocrat might privately have a stillborn child baptised, but a public announcement of such would not occur. The recording of a child’s birth, or the lack thereof, is a major plot plot point in Book 2 of my Twins’ Trilogy, The Earl Claims His Comfort. Any “public” records, such as Debrett’s The New Peerage, would simply include the line stillborn daughter or stillborn son.

41VA23GR86L We find an example of such in Chapter 1 of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Sir Walter Elliot picks up the Baronetage to read of his family history, “”ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH-HALL.
“Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester; by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov. 5, 1789; Mary, born Nov. 20, 1791.”

Many times the private family records, such as the family Bible, contained the name of the stillborn child. Parish records and private records did not always hold the same details. Often, especially in the male line, one might find two male offsprings with the same name in a private record, but the names of the children were listed as several years apart – the first one died at birth or shortly thereafter. 

As with everything else, there were those members of the clergy who accepted payment to record stillborns. Parents might, for example, argue that the Bible does not speak to forbidding the naming of stillborns. Babies could be baptised at home by any member of the household as long as water was used and the child was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This was a valid baptism  in most cases. 

431184283c0ccbfe915e11bf06d3477a Anciently, a chrisom, or “chrisom-cloth,” was the face-cloth, or piece of linen laid over a child’s head when he or she was baptised or christened. Originally, the purpose of the chrisom-cloth was to keep the chrism, a consecrated oil, from accidentally rubbing off. With time, the word’s meaning changed, to that of a white mantle thrown over the whole infant at the time of baptism. The term has come to refer to a child who died within a month after its baptism—so called for the chrisom cloth that was used as a shroud for it. Additionally, in London’s Bills of Mortality, the term chrisom was used to refer to infants who died within a month after being born. (Chrisom)

ATOHCrop2 In A Touch of Honor, Book 8 of the Realm Series, I used a different plot point associated with the recording of births and deaths. In that book, Lady Satiné Swenton dies in a terrible accident and the child she carried is also lost. The surgeon tending the body asks Lord Swenton if he wishes to have the stillborn buried with his mother. The mother and stillborn infant could be buried together as it was with Princess Charlotte’s child.  In that case the child was not named. However, in this time, the father could insist on having the child listed in the  death register and could have a name etched in the grave marker to recognize publicly the birth. The woman’s husband could have his wife and child buried in a private cemetery and act as he thought best for his family. 

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The Church of England provides this tutorial for the ceremony: 

What Happens at a christening?

At a christening a child is baptized with water. This is the heart of a christening. There are several moments in the service which have a special meaning too. Follow each step to see what happens.

“…I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Welcome

The vicar will welcome everyone and especially the child who will be christened and their family. There will be a Bible reading, and the vicar will also talk about what a christening means.

The promises

You and the godparents will make some important promises for your child in the service. You can see the full order of service here.  Everyone promises to continue supporting the child from this moment.

The vicar says: “…People of God will you welcome this child and uphold them in their new life in Christ?”

Everyone present says: “…With the help of God, we will.”

The sign

Often, this is the point in the service when parents and godparents will be invited to come out to stand at the front with the child. In many churches, a special oil may be used to make the sign of a cross on your child’s forehead. It’s a significant moment, which marks your child as belonging to God.

The vicar will say: “…Christ claims you as his own. Receive the sign of the cross.”

The water

Water which is blessed in the church’s font will be poured over your child’s head by the vicar. This is your child’s baptism. It’s a sign of a new beginning and becoming a part of God’s family.

The vicar says: “…I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Prayers and welcome

The vicar, or perhaps even someone else from the church, will pray for the child and for all those who will support them in their path of faith. Everyone present welcomes the child into the family of the church with words given in the service.

A candle

A candle will be given to the child at the end of the service.

The vicar says: “…Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God.”

Godparents play a special role in the ceremony and in the child’s life. The godparents were the ones to take the child to church, make the vows in his/her name, and say the name of the child for all the world to know. The godmother customarily holds the child during the ceremony. The child can be dipped into the baptismal font–first one side and then the other, but often water was poured on his head. Occasionally water was just sprinkled on or a damp cloth is used.  A cross is made with oil on the baby’s head to anoint the child. The rite in the Book of Common prayer of the day was used.

A female child was to have two female and one male godparent or sponsor, while a male child was to have two male and one female godparent or sponsor. Although they could serve the role, godparents were NOT automatically the child’s legal guardian of the child(ren) with the passing of a parent(s). A will would designate the legal guardian in such a scenario. 

During the Regency and beyond, royalty were often asked to be godparents to the children of peers, such as dukes or men who had positions at Court or were at Court often or were ranking members of Parliament. Quite often the royal godparents employed proxy stand-ins. When the child is 12 years of age, he/she would be confirmed; he/she would renew the promises made at his/her baptism for himself/herself.

You might wish to check out: 

10 Ways Christening Has Changed

Sir Alexander Chandler knows his place in the world. As the head of one of the divisions of the Home Office, he has his hand on the nation’s pulse. However, a carriage accident  on a deserted Scottish road six months earlier has Sir Alexander questioning his every choice. He has no memory of what happened before he woke up in an Edinburgh hospital, and the unknown frightens him more than any enemy he ever met on a field of battle. One thing is for certain: He knows he did not marry Miss Alana Pottinger’s sister in an “over the anvil” type of ceremony in Scotland.

Miss Alana Pottinger has come to London, with Sir Alexander’s son in tow, to claim the life the baronet promised the boy when he married Sorcha, some eighteen months prior. She understands his responsibilities to King and Crown, but this particular fiery, Scottish miss refuses to permit Sir Alexander to deny his duty to his son. Nothing will keep her from securing the child’s future as heir to the baronetcy and restoring Sir Alexander’s memory of the love he shared with Sorcha: Nothing, that is, except the beginning of the Rockite Rebellion in Ireland and the kidnapping of said child for nefarious reasons.

An impressive ending to the beautifully crafted Twins’ Trilogy – Starr’s ***** Romance Reviews

Love. Power. Intrigue. Betrayal. All play their parts in this fitting conclusion to a captivating, romantic suspense trio. – Bella Graves, Author & Reviewer 

eBook on Sale in all markets for $1.99 until April 15 

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PVT5GQ9/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=lady+chandler%27s+sister&qid=1553390378&s=gateway&sr=8-2

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1091376581/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=lady+chandler%27s+sister&qid=1553430979&s=gateway&sr=8-2

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lady-chandler-s-sister

Nook https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1131002644?ean=2940161421314

Excerpt from Chapter 2… 

As Alexander turned toward the sound, a small fist punched its way through the opening of the overlap, to be followed by a chubby leg. Miss Pottinger darted around him before he could react. She dropped to her knees to separate the folds of the blanket. “I am here,” she cooed. “Hush. All is well.”

“What in the world?” his mother declared from the still open door.

Alexander was as stunned as his relation, but he managed to respond, “To the best of my knowledge, I would say the sound comes from the babe in Miss Pottinger’s arms.”

Lady Chandler pointedly closed the door. “Why does Miss Pottinger have a baby in tow?” his mother demanded.

The young lady stood to face them. The babe still fussed, but not so profoundly. “I can explain.” A small frown drew her brows closer together. She stared at him with an uncustomary longing that shook Alexander to his core.

“Then I suggest you do,” he instructed, but he held the suspicion he did not want to know the lady’s tale.

“This is Greer,” she said through trembling lips. Unshed tears filled her eyes. “Actually, he is Alexander Greer Chandler.”

It took Alexander an extra heartbeat to respond. “To Hell you say!”

“Alexander!” his mother chastised.

“Did you hear her, Mother?” He pointed an accusing finger at Miss Pottinger. “I have had many who wanted to claim a piece of the baronetage, but never have they thought to produce an heir without my participation. And to think I offered you shelter in my home!”

The tears glistened in Miss Pottinger’s eyes, and she caught the child in a more protective grasp. “You may think of me as you will, sir, but Greer is your son.”

“Who in bloody hell are you?” he growled in controlled tones so as not to frighten the whimpering child.

“I speak the truth.” Her chin notched higher, but she instinctively took a half step back.

“Do you mean to convince me that you and I were lovers? Or perhaps you think to imitate the blessed Mary with a divine conception? You should well understand I am not cut from Joseph’s cloth.”

“That is enough, Alexander!” his mother ordered. “There is no reason to speak so crudely.”

“What would you have me do, Mother?” he barked. “This woman,” he pointed to Miss Pottinger again, “makes a mockery of the kindness we extended to her.”

“Even so,” his mother declared, “you will act the role of gentleman.”

Alexander returned his gaze to the woman holding the child, and her eyes fixed steadily upon him. Silence filled the room with unspoken questions. What frustrated him the most was that even now his body would enjoy being Miss Pottinger’s lover. For some reason he could not name, he remained attracted to her physically.

The lady’s eyes closed as she sighed heavily. “What must I do to convince you?”

“More than stand before me with a child in your arms. I am not easily moved by the Madonna image. If this is your scheme to earn funds from me, you have erred. Did you think me an easy mark when you approached me upon the street?”

To his dismay, Miss Pottinger’s eyes softened in what appeared to be compassion. “I waited for you upon the street. Only you. The men stationed inside the building would not permit me entrance to the floor where your office is located, so I could call upon you privately.” She instinctively rocked the child in her arms and kissed the tuft of sandy brown locks upon the child’s head. “If I held the means to raise Greer without you, we would still be in Scotland. When you did not return as you promised, Aunt Maude and I possessed few choices to see to Greer’s future.”

“Scotland again,” his mother said as her hand came to rest upon his back.

“You will forgive my cynical nature,” he said with a snarl. “Consider it a necessity in my chosen occupation. Perhaps you should share with me when and where the child was conceived, and do not omit the name of the child’s true father.”

She stiffened in what appeared to be ire. An odd tightness swept across her face. Her vestige of control had faded. “Your most recent journey into Scotland was in September; you arrived, once again, in Kelso. We knew great joy at your return.”

He wondered how she knew of that disastrous journey. Certainly, both he and his mother had mentioned his time across the border, but neither he nor Lady Chandler had disclosed the particulars of his stay in Scotland.

For a moment, he thought Miss Pottinger would not continue. She looked pointedly to her aunt before she spoke her response, and the elder woman nodded what appeared to be her encouragement. “Greer’s mother’s name is Sorcha Pottinger. Do you not recall Greer’s mother? Do you not recall? I am a twin. Another held the same countenance as I.”

Fear filled his chest. Fear that what the woman would disclose next would turn his well-ordered life upon its head. “And why has the child’s mother not accompanied you on this journey?” he asked in cautious skepticism.

A long silence held, and he suspected the lady organized her response in her head, before speaking it. At length, Mrs. Steele spoke, “Greer’s mother is never far from my heart. We were certain you knew that our dearest girl, Alana’s twin, has passed. You were always so kind to her, we believed, in our soul, that you would grieve as we do for our family’s loss. Her leave-taking coming within a month of her delivering a child.”

He could feel the pair of them anticipating his response, watching him with matched intensity. He should have swallowed his words, but they slipped out just the same. “How convenient!”

“It is never convenient to lose a loved one,” Miss Pottinger chastised in disapproving tones. “You, of all people, should know that. You spoke tenderly of Sir Loren’s passing, and how often you wished to ask your father a question regarding the estate. Like you with your father, I yearn to ask my sister’s advice on so many things. The void I experience each day will never be filled.”

He stared at her in growing confusion, struggling to make sense of a situation he knew he would have difficulty rebuking, for he held no memory of what occurred while he was in Scotland, and that fact put him at a distinct disadvantage, a place he rarely found himself. His chest tightened, constricting his breathing. Attempting to take control of the panic rushing to his heart, he made himself present her a rueful smile. Alexander ignored her rebuke; instead, he took a deep breath to steady his composure. “And when did Miss Sorcha and I create this child?”

Miss Pottinger blushed thoroughly. “One would assume shortly after your marriage.”

“Oh, bloody hell, no,” he sputtered. “Although I hold no knowledge of a Miss Sorcha Pottinger, you might have convinced me that on a drunken night I laid with your sister, but even deeply drunk, I would recall a marriage ceremony. I know my duty to the baronetcy.”

“You often spoke of your obligations,” Miss Pottinger declared without candor.

“Name the church where the ceremony occurred,” he demanded.

“No church,” she admitted with a half-smile.

“Not over the anvil,” he countered.

“No.” Her gaze fixed upon him. “Not exactly.” The jade green of her eyes had faded to a murky obsidian. “It was not as you think. At a celebration for my cousin’s wedding, you stood with Sorcha before the gathering, joined hands, and pronounced your pledge to each other.”

“That cannot be legal!” his mother gasped.

“Call it what you wish: handfasting or marrying over the anvil or a clandestine marriage. It still be as legal in Scotland as a vicar pronouncing the vows in the Church of England. Such is very much what happens at Gretna Green or a dozen more villages along the border,” Mrs. Steele countered.

“It does not matter whether such a marriage is legal or not, for my marriage never occurred,” he hissed.

The lady stiffened. His words had found a target. Her mouth set in a straight line. Her eyes flashed in resolve, and the earlier sympathy he noted on her features quickly faded. She turned on him, and her expression was grim. She challenged him, “Our baggage holds a letter from our local clergyman testifying to viewing your declaration and to the recording of said joining that occurred between Sir Alexander Chandler and Miss Sorcha Pottinger and subsequently of Greer’s recorded baptism. You signed the record for Greer when you joined us in Kelso. By all that is holy, Greer is your child.”

“I want you out!” he ordered. “I want you removed from my house this very minute!” He gestured emphatically toward the door.

Yet before anyone could move, his mother caught his arm and tugged downward upon it. “No. We cannot send Miss Pottinger away until we know the truth.”

A spark of indignation reared its head. “You cannot be serious, Mother! Less than a minute ago you declared clandestine marriage illegal.”

“But what if…” she began her protest.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! I have 2 eBook copies of Lady Chandler’s Sister, as well as one eBook copy each of Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep and The Earl Claims His Comfort, for those who comment below. [If the winner already read “Angel” and “Comfort,” I will present him/her a copy of Lady Chandler’s Sister.] That is FOUR eBook prizes. The Giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Thursday, March 28. The winners will be announced Sunday, March 31. Good Luck to Everyone! As always, Random.org will choose the winners. 

 

 

26 Responses to Baptism and Christening in the Regency Era + an Excerpt and Giveaway from “Lady Chandler’s Sister: Book 3 of the Twins’ Trilogy”

  1. Fascinating research and detail. I just ordered the book and hope to read it very soon! I love this series! So sorry for your loss.

  2. What interesting research. I had no idea. I love that book cover. I’ve read books 1& 2 and look forward to reading this one. I read the blurb but not the excerpt as I want to wait until I read the book. Thank you for the reduced price. I told my friends and hope it does well. I grabbed it as soon as I read your post today. Thanks you so much. Blessings on the success of the series.

  3. A wonderful post. I’m a Godmother as well as a mother and I do take it seriously, even though my Goddaughter is grown up now. I’m so sorry for your own loss. It must be a terrible thing and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what you went through. Good luck with the books. They sound great.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Teresa. The worst part was being in a room during the second loss with a girl who was giving up her child. Not that her actions were not admirable, if she could not take care of the baby. It was just a horrible irony that I wanted a child and could not have one.

  4. What fascinating information. Had no idea church records re: baptisms, christenings, etc. during the Regency were so scant. Always assumed they were being recorded. Thank you for the chance to win.

    • It often frustrates me, Diana, to come across a real-life person’s ancestral line for research only to find out there are gaping holes. Of course, the same holds true nowadays. I know very little of my father’s family.

  5. Very interesting post! Love learning things like this. Now I wish I’d given my children each one extra godparent!

  6. There is always so much to learn. The term Christmas was new to me. It’s heart breaking to realize that there were so many distinctions about birth and death. Congratulations on your new book!

    • I am blessed that Black Opal Books supported me in this one, Eva. I was ill through part of the time I should have been writing, and my turn around time was affected.
      As I have practiced several religions over the years, I am well aware of the many shade of “christening” and “baptism.”

  7. I’ve come across baptism records when doing genealogy research so this information was very useful. Enjoyed the excerpt, thank you for the chance to win a copy.

  8. How interesting!

    I am writing a novel where the heroine ‘s daughter is unfortunately stillborn.

    My research showed that “a stillborn child could not be buried in consecrated ground”

    So now I am questioning this 🙁

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy. 🙂

    • I would think in such cases that the aristocrat would have more say than, perhaps, if the stillborn belonged to one of his cottagers, Virginia. The “law” and the clergy did not treat the situations equally.

      • Very interesting research. Heartbreaking as well for some families. Congratulations on your new book!! Best wishes Andy has success.

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