Regina Jeffers joins the blog today with a fascinating post about the thinking behind her new release in the Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series. I’ve mentioned that my new book, Fated Hearts, retells Macbeth’s story. Regina is taking up the Sheriff of Nottingham. If anyone can have the reader cheering for the Sheriff of Nottingham’s happiness, it is award-winning author Regina Jeffers!
Permit me to introduce my latest Regency era novel:
I Shot the Sheriff: Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series Novel
How does one reform the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham? Easy. With “Patience.”
William de Wendenal, the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham, has come to London, finally having wormed his way back into the good graces of the Royal family. Yet, not all of Society is prepared to forgive his former “supposed” transgressions, especially the Earl of Sherwood.
However, when de Wendenal is wounded in an attempt to protect Prince George from an assassin, he becomes caught up in a plot involving stolen artwork, kidnapping, murder, and seduction that brings him to Cheshire where he must willingly face a gun pointed directly at his chest and held by the one woman who stirs his soul, Miss Patience Busnick, the daughter of a man de Wendenal once escorted to prison.
I Shot the Sheriff is based on the classic tales of Robin Hood, but it is given a twist and brought into the early 19th Century’s Regency era. Can even de Wendenal achieve a Happily Ever After?
Choosing the Characters and the Basic Plot for the Story:
The Sheriff of Nottingham >>> William de Wendenal
I grew up reading tales of Robin Hood and his nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Therefore, the concept of providing the Sheriff a “happily ever after” was a task I was not certain I could manage; however, I do adore a challenge. As readers, we are not certain if the Sheriff’s character in the Robin Hood tales is based on one particular person or whether he is a composite of several men who held the post of the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and the Royal Forests.
I chose to call my “Sheriff” William de Wendenal, who was a real-life person, a Norman baron living in the 12th Century. De Wendenal was one of the officials charged with overseeing England when Richard I was absent from his homeland, while participating in the Third Crusade. Although we have no record of the land de Wendenal owned, experts assume he was related to a noble family. Some scholars believe he held a joint title with William de Ferrers, 4th Earl of Derby.
A legal document dating to the Middle Ages names de Wendenal as the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and parts of Yorkshire, making him a powerful political force during those years. The document indicates de Wendenal assumed his position in 1190, taking over the duties previously performed by Baron Roger de Lizoures, who, in addition to his responsibilities to the Sheriff position, also served as the Constable of Chester and Lord of Pontefract and Clitheroe, and, therefore, likely lived for a time at Ludlow Castle.
Robin Hood >>> Robert de Lacy, 6th Earl of Sherwood
The first reference to Robin Hood can be found in the poem “Piers Plowman” in about 1370, but the tales, as we think of them today, date to the latter part of the 15th Century. From the 16th Century forward, the different tales present Robin Hood with a title, making him the Earl of Huntingdon, and my first instinct was to name him as such in my tale.
However, in actual history, not fiction, throughout the reign of Richard I, David of Scotland, an heir to the Scottish throne until 1198, was the 8th Earl of Huntingdon. The title of Earl of Huntingdon has been created several times in the Peerage of England. In fact, there is a current Earl of Huntingdon: William Edward Robin Hood Hastings-Bass, 17th Earl of Huntingdon. Therefore, not wishing to make references to the Huntingdon earldom, in my tale, I made the “Robin Hood” character Robert de Lacy, 6th Earl of Sherwood. I chose “de Lacy” because the de Lacy family, in real life, were the Lords of Pontefract, Bowland and Clitheroe, which are mentioned above.
Maid Marian >>> Miss Marian Fitzwater (now Lady Sherwood)
The “Maid Marian” character does not appear in the Robin Hood tales until the 16th Century. She was likely a character associated with the May Day celebrations, probably derived from the French legend of a shepherdess named Marian and her shepherd lover Robin, recorded as Le Jeu de Robin et Marion. The shepherd of the original tale, however, was not an outlaw. The names simply appear to have stuck when the stories were constructed in the oral tradition.
Robin Hood did have a shepherdess love interest in one of his tales, “Robin Hood’s Birth, Breeding, Valor, and Marriage,” whose name was “Clorinda.” Ironically, in the tale, “Marian” was one of Clorinda’s “aliases.”
As one of my college degrees has theatre as a minor, I am basing my “Maid Marian” character and even part of the action of the story on the Robert Davenport play, King John and Matilda. The play dates to c. 1628 and was originally performed by Queen Henrietta’s Men at the Cockpit Theatre. In the play, Maid Marian, who after the first 780 lines becomes “Matilda,” is the daughter of Lord Fitzwater, one of the rebellious barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. For reasons I shall explain a little later in this list of characters, the Maid Marian character in my tale, that is, before she became the Countess of Sherwood, is Miss Marian Fitzwater, the daughter of a baronet.
Will Scarlet (or Scarlett) >>> Gamwell Scathlocke
The character of “Will Scarlet” was part of the Robin Hood tales from the beginning. I chose to use a later ballad, “Robin Hood and the Newly Revived,” which ascribes the name of “Gamwell” to the Will Scarlet character. In this late Robin Hood story, Gamwell has fled his family estate, at age fifteen, after killing his father’s land steward during an argument.
The Will Scarlet character is also known by several variations of his last name, including Scarlock, Scadlock, Shacklock, etc. I chose “Scathlocke” for my version of the tale.
I attributed these characteristics to Gamwell Scathlocke: hot-tempered, spirited, and a skilled swordsman—able to use two swords equally well at the same time.
Alan-a-Dale >>> Sir Allan Clare
Alan-a-Dale did not appear in the Robin Hood tales until the 17th Century. I chose to use the Pierce Egan the Younger’s story, entitled “Robin Hood and Little John” for this character. In Egan’s story, Alan is presented the name Sir Allan Clare, and he is the brother of Maid Marian. The use of “Sir” before Allan’s name during the Georgian era would have indicated the man was either a baronet or had been presented a knighthood for service to the Crown. I have made Allan a baronet and half brother to Marian. In the Egan tale, Allan’s sweetheart is Lady Christabel, the daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who means to marry the girl off to an elderly knight. As you read, you will see how I twisted that bit into my tale.
NOW for an EXCERPT from the latter part of Chapter One, which begins at Carleton House.
SETTING FOR THE ACTION: Lord William de Wendenal has managed to ingratiate himself to Prince George once more, after having been shunned for many years for de Wendenal’s earlier stance in support of Princess Caroline against Prinny. The action begins as a pair of assailants mean to bring harm to the Prince. William de Wendenal joins others who mean to prevent the future king from knowing harm. Enjoy!
William noted when the baronet’s grip tightened on the Prince. “It ‘pears. Yer Highness,” Sir Carter said with another lurch to better position Prince George for what was to come, “my family ’as deserted me. What should I do?” Sir Carter’s tone sounded of a “pity” drunk. Unfortunately, the Prince’s attacker did not appear compassionate.
William nodded to Lord Swenton, a baron he recognized from the House of Lords and his estate in Yorkshire, who stealthily approached the scene from Sir Carter’s left, while Lord Worthing, a future earl from Derbyshire, quickly crossed the musician’s raised dais to stand some ten feet behind the Prince’s attacker, but William doubted either man would reach the Prince in time. He was closer than the other two, and, if they were to save their country’s future heir to the throne, the task would fall to him to knock the gunman from the way.
“Remain with me, my boy,” Prinny said with a fake smile as he clutched Sir Carter’s arm.
The unknown assailant whispered something to Sir Carter, but William could not hear the man’s demands nor the baronet’s response. However, he assumed whatever the man wanted had something to do with the Prince’s and Sir Carter’s gazes on someone or something on the balcony above them. Although interested in the turn of events, William did not turn his head to determine what brought everyone’s gaze to the overhang surrounding three sides of the room. Rather, he edged closer still, praying to be in a position to capture the man who threatened the Prince, while the baronet acted to prevent His Highness’s death, for William held no doubt Sir Carter would act, nor did he doubt that the man dressed in servant’s garb held a gun.
From above, another voice called, “Monroe!” in a deep threat. The sound of a collective scream and two quick gunshots filled the air as William lunged forward, making a grab for the fake servant. Yet, before he could reach the man, a third bullet tore through his shoulder, spinning him around to collapse to his knees. He did not view the fall of the assailant from above or Sir Carter pushing the Prince from the way, but he heard two thuds in close succession and felt the floor vibrate from the impact.
Screams echoed through the room as pure chaos broke out. As William attempted to struggle to his feet, the Prince’s attacker skirted past him.
Lord Worthing’s voice assured he would assist the Prince. “Catch the attacker!”
Bent over in pain, William glanced to the side to view Sir Carter disengaging himself from the hold His Royal Highness still had on the baronet. The man swayed in place for a brief second before darting after the attacker, blood dripping from Sir Carter’s arm. William managed to pull himself to a standing position, and, although wounded himself, wrestled his small Queen Anne pistol from his coat to join Lords Worthing, Lexford, and Hellsman in a defensive stance about the Prince.
It was only then that William noted the body shedding blood upon the Carlton House’s polished floors. It appeared to be the footman he had seen earlier, the one who snuck out onto the terrace. A glance upward revealed Lord Godown and the pretty blonde from before. Although chaos still reigned, within seconds, Godown leaned over the railing to call out, “Grace!”
It was something to behold. Majestically, the Marquise of Godown moved to where her husband might look upon her. “Yes, my lord?”
“You hold my deepest regard,” the marquis announced as if no one else shared the room with the couple. William knew instant jealousy. He thought the act incomparable.
“As you do mine, my lord,” Lady Godown declared boldly.
The marquis nodded his acceptance. “Assist Ladies Worthing and Lexford. I will return soon.”
Lady Godown’s chin rose in command. “Be safe, my lord. Renard and I await your presence.”
Lord Godown bowed to his wife before turning the blonde’s steps toward what surely was an unseen door and, William supposed, a return to the terrace.
A hand touched his arm lightly. “Lord de Wendenal, permit me to assist you. You appear to be injured.”
William glanced to the order returning to the room before his eyes settled upon a woman. “I believe you are correct, ma’am.”
“I am Lady Worthing,” she said. “I understand the Prince’s physician and his surgeon has been summoned, but Lady Godown and I shall be pleased to assist you until then.” She gestured toward a nearby chair.
“Might I lie on the stage instead?” he suggested. “I suddenly feel quite weak.”
“Certainly, sir.” The lady placed her arm about his waist as if she thought to support him. Although he recognized the woman as Lord Worthing’s lady and the future Countess of Linworth, the woman’s tenderness touched his heart. It had been too long since anyone had offered him a touch of humanity.
Lord Lexford appeared on his other side. “Permit me to assist you, de Wendenal. Lady Worthing, my wife could use your voice of authority as the daughter of a duke in sending the Prince’s guests back into the supper room while we set all to order.” She nodded her agreement and disappeared before he could express his gratitude.
“Is the Prince wounded?” William thought to ask.
“Likely very bruised,” Lexford said with a cheeky grin. “It took all of Sir Carter’s strength to knock His Highness from the way.”
William sat heavily on the dais. “Sir Carter appeared injured.”
“Godown has joined the pursuit to assist the baronet,” Lexford said as he worked to remove William’s jacket. “It was brave of you to join the fray.”
William adjusted his seat, feeling a bit uncomfortable with the praise. He was more accustomed to a snub from Society’s gentlemen. He glanced to where the viscount tore William’s shirt sleeve to examine the wound. “Some will say I acted to ingratiate myself to the Prince,” he stated in no-nonsense tones.
“Did you?” Lord Lexford eyed him seriously.
William shook his head in the negative. “I know what others think of me, Lexford, but, despite the censure, I am an excellent sheriff. I noted a footman who appeared extremely nervous, and when he saw me, he darted away, retreating to a terrace with what I assumed had no exit.” He glanced up at the balcony surrounding the room on three sides. “I thought to follow, but, before I could do so, I noted a second man standing exceedingly close to His Royal Highness. I convinced myself the younger footman had stolen a bit of Prince George’s champagne and would return momentarily.”
Lord Lexford examined William’s arm. “The bullet did not lodge in the wound, but I cannot tell if it tore the muscle or something more vital. Lie back and permit me to put pressure on it to slow the bleeding.”
William did as his lordship instructed. “Do you know who shot me? The man on the balcony?”
Lexford tightened a strip of cloth about the wound and tied it off. “I do not think so,” the viscount explained as he worked. “Lord Godown distracted the man long enough for me to take aim. Godown placed a knife in Monroe’s throat just as I fired. Monroe’s bullet went into the ceiling. The plaster is on the rug, but not the bullet fragments.”
“Monroe?” William asked with a flinch of pain. “Part of the Ransing’s investigation?”
“Sir Carter’s former secretary,” Lexford explained. “Quite a complicated story.”
William attempted to concentrate on what the viscount shared. “Three shots. Yours and Monroe’s were two.” He squeezed his eyes shut to block out the pain in his arm as Lord Lexford pressed down on the wound. As the sharp wave of nausea subsided, he continued, “The Prince’s assailant shot me. A ricochet?”
“Now there’s the rub,” Lexford pronounced with a sly grin. “The assailant stationed behind the Prince shot Sir Carter, who was some seven or eight feet from you and slightly ahead of you.” He eyed William with an odd look, as if he expected William to confess to something he did not do. “And you were shot in the shoulder opposite of where the action took place.”
William thought to shove himself upward to have a look around to visualize what Lord Lexford stated as evidence, but the viscount held him in place. “I do not understand,” he said honestly. “Then who shot me?”
“I thought perhaps you might enlighten me.”
About the Author:
Regina Jeffers, an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era romances, has worn many hats over her lifetime: daughter, student, military brat, wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, tax preparer, journalist, choreographer, Broadway dancer, theatre director, history buff, grant writer, media literacy consultant, and author. Living outside of Charlotte, NC, Jeffers writes novels that take the ordinary and adds a bit of mayhem, while mastering tension in her own life with a bit of gardening and the exuberance of her “grand joys.”
Thank you, Regina!
Dear readers, I hope you enjoyed this post. Let us know what you think in the comments.
Next week, I have another special guest with a tragic character’s story retold!