Elements in Lit 201:

Filed in Elements in Lit , The Quirky Lover Posted on February 1, 2012 @ 3:00 pm 7 comments

We talked a while back about the British peerages, but when reading through historicals, we quite often see the French titles mixed in with the British (English?) ones. The reason for this comes mostly from the royal families attempting alliances through the marriages of their sons and daughters.

In my first search through the information, names popped up like “Cleves”, which was the surname associated with the Count of Nevers. It’s also familiar because it was connected to one of Henry VIII’s wives, though Anne of Cleves was of German desent. (Henry VIII was considered to be “King of England, France, and Ireland” so it’s no surprise that his name would pop up, but also because he’s a subject I’ve looked into a lot over the last year :-p ) I’m sure though, that somewhere in Anne’s family tree, a connection would be made to that French house also.

There are many of the duchies that should be easily recognizable, if you have the same habit as myself, ie. looking into historical facts. The Duke of Normandie, Duke of Anjou, Duke of Orleans, Duke of Guise, Duke of Bourbon, and the Duke of Rohan are but a few of the many examples of the duchies that were up and running in the past. Looking at this list though, I’m saddened to see so many of them listed as “extinct”. Then again, we might not be as interested in their bookish incarnations if their were real men out there, still holding these titles, right? (Nah, that would never happen.)

The main difference I’ve found is the French designation of “Count”; this was not used in British peerage, but is the equivalent to an “Earl”. (As for how to address a count or countess, you would call them “My Lord” or “madam”.) It’s curious to me that Bram Stoker chose his main man, Dracula, to be a count. After several searches, I couldn’t find out if “Count” is only used in France, if so, Stoker was off base, right?

From that list linked above, there was another item that piqued my interest. If you look at all the surnames associated with each area, they are nice French sounding names: Savoie, Lorraine, Montmorency, Caumont, La Tour D’Auvergne (this was my favourite). But about a third of the way down the list you see “Douglas” and “Stewart”. My ears instantly perked up because I’m part of the Stewart clan (in some very, very distant manner, I believe). These are name associated with Scottish clans. I knew of the heavy involvement the French and Scottish had at points in history, but this was neat to see. Anyway, the Douglas’ were associated with the Duke of Touraine and the Stewarts with the Count of Evreux, if you’re looking for some extra trivia.

One last point I wanted to mention: I think we all know that a Duke presides over his “duchy”, but I got to wondering what a Count would be master of….yep, it’s a “county”. Personally, I thought that was more of a U.S. thing, but there you have it.

So what great books have you read that include (French) Dukes and Counts? One name that comes to mind in real history is Margaret of Anjou (from Wiki: “[she] was born in the Duchy of Lorraine, into the House of Valois-Anjou…. the second eldest daughter of René I of Naples and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine”), who was married to Henry VI of England (the catatonic one). What other great real or fictional characters come from France/ French royalty?

About Jackie

Jackie is a quirky mom, living in Ontario, Canada. She's a bookkeeper by day and a book lover by night. She also blogs at The Novel Nation and writes occasionally for Heroes and Heartbreakers.

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  • blodeuedd February 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I do love these posts 🙂

    Dukes…well I am sure there have been plenty. As for real peeps…yup plenty of those in my books too

    • Jackie February 1, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      Aw, thanks! Especially the non-medicated versions, right? LOL.

      For me, it’s hard to remember which books involved the French Dukes. I feel there should be more that I’ve read, but they all lean towards the British…

  • pattepoilue February 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Loved the post Jackie!
    I have to say I know more about British history than the French one *hides* so not many French aristocrats come to my mind.
    You did mention the books I would have mentioned. Oh and Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades is filled with French aristocrats.
    We don’t have counties anymore but some regions kept the name like ‘Franche-comté’.
    Damn I feel like I should have paid more attention in class LOL

    • Jackie February 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm

      Thanks, hon! I picked the Anne Stuart book just for you 😉

      And you should totally be our resident expert! I read the DiPasqua book, which had the French “Marquis” Jules in it, but I want to find more now. (Gah! Just typing that out, I realize I missed the “Marquis” designation…there’s just so much to learn 😉 )

      • pattepoilue February 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm

        Awwww thank you!! I loooooove the Anne Stuart books *g* <3.

        Ah now I remember which famous book about French Aristocrat I wanted to name! Les Liaisons Dangereuses with the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise something. They were so wicked!

        • Jackie February 1, 2012 at 9:50 pm

          Oh! I wonder if that would be one of those books that would be better read in French? 😀

  • aurian February 5, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Thanks for this new class Jackie, I really enjoy those posts!

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