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The Regency Housekeeper — 17 Comments

  1. Thank you for such an informative post. I always did wonder at the familiarity shown by Mrs. Reynolds. Now this makes a great deal of sense to me. She may have been related to the Darcys. And she would most definitely have to have formidable abilities to run such an extensive household.

    • I love that she could be related to the Darcys in some fashion! That was a tidbit I hadn’t realised before writing this. Thanks, Deborah!

  2. This was wonderful information. I, too, like the idea that Mrs. Reynolds was somehow related. It makes her statement about knowing hi since he was four more understandable. She was not likely to have been housekeeper 24 years ago and is a lower level servant at that time, she really could not have claimed to have known him. As a relative, however, she would have had access to the nursery and known him from “leading strings”. I suppose she could have been a nursery maid, but it seems a stretch that a nursery maid could have risen to housekeeper, especially as there would have been a change in nursery staff between the time Darcy was born and then out of the nursery and then later, when Georgiana was born and the nursery set up again.

  3. I think it is a stretch. One thing we were told at Wimpole was that servants were not always hired from the local area to help keep gossip at bay. I would think it was very important with a housekeeper. It’s harder to establish yourself as a manager when you’ve been on equal or lesser footing with those you are managing. I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I also love that Mrs. Reynolds could have been a relation. Gets my imagination going too! Thanks, Kathy!

  4. Informative article, Leslie. It’s always difficult for people today to get beyond the term “housekeeper” and realize that she held a highly respected position, one even thought worthy of a gentlewoman in need of a home and occupation. Your research gives justification to the fact that at the end of “The Darcys of Pemberley” I have the widowed and homeless Charlotte Collins taking the position at Pemberley after Mrs. Reynolds dies. She and Elizabeth, lifelong friends, then work together as a team to manage the household. As Elizabeth says to Darcy when they’re discussing the possibility:

    “I think it is an inspired idea! Considering how much Charlotte enjoyed managing the parsonage at Hunsford, I warrant she would take great pleasure in the larger challenge of superintending this house. She loves to be active and useful. As for remarrying, I do not think that is her object. She never was a romantic. She only married Mr. Collins as a means to support herself.” Elizabeth laughed when she remembered what Charlotte had said about that. “She told me then that all she really required was a comfortable home. I thing Pemberley qualifies, do not you, Darcy?”

    • I think a lot of Mrs. Hughs at Downton! I have never had the impression she was related in any form, but she was unmarried her entire life (until she marries Carson) and is a very competent household manager. I’m glad you were intrigued! Thanks, Susanne!

  5. I think of Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre: her husband was related to Rochester. Hiring a relative, distant or not, was surely a way of inspiring loyalty as well as trust. Relatives would usually be more protective of the family name and thus be on guard against gossip. Hiring outside of the loyal area is a new idea but I could see how it would also protect the family against gossip plus it would also create to separate the servants from locals in matters of family members coming to the door looking for shelter, handouts or just to “visit”. That sounds mean but with someone like Lady C. I am sure these were factors considered in hiring. Although with the Darcy family I am sure their relationship with the community was one of realizing happy townsfolk and area residents led to the community be protective of the family who provided jobs, Harvest Balls and Christmas baskets and support of charities and the church.

  6. Thank you for the post.
    I hope there’s a give-away of a Regency housekeeper. I could sure use one – even if all she does is supervise the female staff (which would be me).
    BTW I think that if the mistress had a special interest in it – and some did,- she handled the stillroom herself, regardless of whose responsibility it generally was.

    • I’m sure the mistress could assume any extra duties she wished–after all, she was the mistress. However, I could see quite a few of those mistresses being like Caroline Bingley and feeling the duty below them. I will say that if I had a Regency housekeeper, I wouldn’t be giving her away! 😉 Thanks, Beatrice!

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