You can read other Friday Features here: Mr. Darcy’s Miracle at Longbourn / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter Second Edition / Sufficient Encouragement/ Mr. Darcy’s Kindness / Once Upon a December / Love Lasts Longest / A Sense of Obligation / No Cause to Repine / Undone Business / Letters from the Heart / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter
What if Mr. Darcy wasn’t a Darcy?
I don’t mean what if he was switched at birth or abducted as a child. There’s several stories out there where he and George Wickham are switched. There are gender swap stories where he is a Bennet but retains all of his Darcy-ways, he’s just no longer wealthy. I mean, what if he didn’t have a drop of Darcy blood in him? What if he wasn’t just adopted or a foundling? What if he was illegitimate and he knew it? Would that change his character? Or would it just explain him in a different light?
The fact is, we know next to nothing about Darcy’s parents. His father was revered at the estate and in the surrounding area, as attested to by Mrs. Gardiner. However, he was loyal to George Wickham. We only know that Lady Anne was Lady Catherine’s sister and the daughter and sister of earls. How did she come to marry a mere mister? We really know nothing about her personality. Was she like her sister? We do not even know when she died.
There are more questions about Darcy’s parentage and relations that are unanswered in the original book. Why did the elder Mr. Darcy choose his barely-of-legal-age son and wife’s nephew to be guardian of Georgiana? Why does she seem to have a lack of female influences in her life? Are they all like Lady Catherine? And yet, nothing is said of how Darcy’s other relations feel about his marriage to Elizabeth. Lady Catherine seems to have been the most hostile. So why not involve them in Georgiana’s care?
Where are all the other Darcys? They could all be dead. And yet nothing is mentioned about the entire lineage resting just on Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Historically, the third Earl Fitzwilliam, who was alive during Austen’s lifetime, was one of the wealthiest gentlemen in England and a powerful politician. At one point, he seemed poised to be a prime minister. The real-life Darcy clan does not have anyone that could fit our hero’s description. The line dying out as the final heir had only daughters. However, centuries before there had been several barons Darcy. Perhaps the most famous was Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy and his role in the Pilgrimage of Grace during the reign of Henry VIII. Thomas Darcy was executed for “surrendering” Pontefract Castle to a rebellious Catholic mob, which was deemed treason.
Did any of these things play a part in Austen’s choice of name? I contend that Fitzwilliam certainly did. It would have signaled to her readers just how rich and powerful Darcy’s family was. I am less sure what her reasons for using Darcy would be other than the name somewhat suits the county he is from. Nothing is said that he is related to this old line of barons or that anyone cared about Thomas Darcy three hundred years later.
In my mind, a Darcy that is insecure about his position in the world and who he is, one who has to cover a dark secret that could undermine everything he wants to be, could explain a lot about his character. The scene of him being separated from his adulterous mother at a young age came to me and explained his search for love and dissatisfaction with the Ton.
To be perfectly honest, I drew upon personal experiences of my husband and I. I am illegitimate. You would think it wouldn’t matter any more, and yet my mother always acted like it did. It weighed on her. She was always certain people disapproved of her…even when we lived in a community when it was common. My younger siblings had a relationship with their father, even though their father and my mother were divorced. However, I had never even met my father. I know nothing about his family history, which continues to be a source of bewilderment when it comes to medical concerns at the moment. How would I feel if he showed up out of nowhere and I was thrust into a whole new world?
My husband lost his mother to breast cancer at age eight. By all accounts, his father was not particularly involved before but really withdrew after his wife died. My husband’s only sibling is fifteen years older than him. He was not permitted to have contact with his mother’s side of the family due to some disputes and his father’s relatives lived several hours away. He grew up so lonely. I can tell you there are still wounds from that almost thirty years later. I have known him for nineteen years and we have been together as a couple for eighteen years. He is very Darcy-like in many ways and I can only imagine what the effect of another ten years would have been on him, especially if he had an estate and younger sister to care for.
A few chapters into this story, I realized I had a chance to make it really memorable and poignant from Darcy’s point of view. Years before, I had written a short story after I read in a forum that someone wondered why there were no forced marriage stories where Elizabeth didn’t fall in love with Darcy. I had pointed out that when Regency marriages have to last until death, unless you kill someone early there’s a very long time to fall in love. I don’t think I could share a lifetime with someone and not fall in love with them. In fact, I’m convinced no matter how you love each other when you say your vows, you have to continually fall in love with your spouse. However, I couldn’t leave that idea in someone else’s hands, lest they destroy it, and had to explore the idea for myself. Before beginning The Secrets of Pemberley, I had been considering expanding this short story. Now, it feels like it was always meant to be part of this longer, heart wrenching story.
Another thing that I did with The Secrets of Pemberley, is that it was the first story I’ve ever written just from one point of view. It was really fun to be so deep in Darcy’s point of view. Maybe one day I’ll do one based on Canon events instead of doing a variation. What I liked the most was adding depth to him. We didn’t just see his desire and longing for Elizabeth. He was such a well-rounded character with goals and fears. He had a past and hopes for the future. He was flawed and trying to learn and be better, just like all of us. And it was so moving and beautiful to be directly in his point of view and know all of his thoughts and feelings when he realized Elizabeth was coming to love him. It was a wonderful reward for all the hardships!
Speaking of hardships, this is probably the angstiest story I’ve ever written. I don’t want to give spoilers but there’s a few chapters in the first half that make it such. I mean, it can’t look any darker and more impossible to have a happily ever after than I gave it.
On that note, I did get some upset messages of readers ready to give up on the book. However, nearly everyone that pressed on loved it.
In hindsight, I wrote this story at the beginning of some real difficulties in my own life. I recently reread the story for this post and fell in love with it all over again! I can honestly say that I think working on this story at that time in my life was really cathartic and brought me peace. I’m just thankful that others enjoyed it as much as I did!
Sometime after publication, I was inspired to begin a series examining each hero of Austen from their point of view. I’ve gotten very behind on that plan, but I do have plans to continue! Here’s a link for a teaser of The Secrets of Donwell Abbey to read about Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse!
Soon, they all packed into separate coaches and drove through the crowded streets, arriving nearly an hour later. The porter began to explain the policy of arranging a later date for touring but immediately changed his policy when Darcy mentioned his name. He invited the party of seven in.
To a man of Darcy’s intellect, the Museum housed untold wonders and diversions. He earned his entry today both from frequent visits in his younger years, before he was burdened with the duties of a large estate, and also by donating some manuscripts from a long-ago relative.
Although called the British Museum, much of the displayed collections came from Greece, Rome, and Egypt curiously mixed with British items. The corner stone of all things British, the original Magna Carta, stood on display in the manuscript room. Although damaged from a fire decades before, it continued to command awe and respect. Georgiana gasped at the frescos and marvelled at the vases and remains of ancient life. She had never before conceived history could come alive.
As the group moved to other rooms, their amazement continued. The concept of fossilisation fascinated Darcy. Years and years of pressure impressed two objects together so much that when one disintegrated its image remained fixed in the other object. Elizabeth is etched in my heart like this, Darcy thought as he considered a fossilised leaf. Something so delicate and innocent had left an indelible and immovable mark on a hard, unyielding rock.
Continuing through the animal rooms, Bingley and Marshall gawked at the strange creatures. Consulting his pocket watch and their cards, the officer rushed them through the coin room, and none of them appeared to care. Returning to the great hall, Elizabeth stopped before two black monuments covered in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The others moved to inspect a series of Greek sculptures. Without intention, Darcy walked to Elizabeth.
“What does it say?” Elizabeth asked with a note of awe in her voice. She had not looked up, and yet it seemed she knew who was at her side.
“That is the mystery of it all,” Darcy explained. “There is Greek here,” he pointed to the appropriate section, “while these others are Ancient Egyptian.”
“They read in pictures?”
Darcy chuckled at her tone of incredulity. “At some point. Language evolves over time. We know this area,” Darcy waved his hand over the middle portion, “is a form of Egyptian first used before the first century.”
“And the…images?” Elizabeth’s mouth twisted as she attempted to treat the idea of reading via images seriously.
“They are not certain but thousands of years before Moses led the Hebrew children out of Egypt.”
Elizabeth gasped. “What an incredible time we live in.”
“Indeed,” Darcy smiled down at her.
“These three languages each say the same thing?”
“No, that is the tricky part. Scholars can read the middle area, and they can read the Greek, but it does not match perfectly. As such, they stumble at the hieroglyphics.”
Elizabeth nodded. “I see. They must understand the meaning, the full concept and then they might break down what each of the…what did you call them? Yes, hieroglyphics—what they mean.”
“That is the hope. It has been over a decade since the stone was discovered, however, and it may take many more years before someone understands the key.”
“Is that not like all of us, sir?” Elizabeth turned her eyes upon him. “Words can mean so many different things to each of us. What one considers harmless criticism, another may perceive as a deadly insult. One might try to compliment but only give offence.”
Darcy stared at her. Was she referencing his proposal? Their entire acquaintance? “Yes, that is a misfortune, indeed.”
“You and I begin to understand each other, I think,” she said softly.
“Do you?” Darcy felt himself step an inch closer to her. Was he imagining the air turning thicker between them?
“Perhaps I will keep that secret,” she teased.
Darcy met her gaze, his eyes piercing into hers. “How I wish it were true.” If he could never have her, just knowing someone in the world really saw him made his heart beat wildly.
“Darcy, Miss Elizabeth,” Bingley called to them. “Mrs. Gardiner requires rest. We must go.”
The spell broken, Darcy and Elizabeth turned to leave. The others had already entered the carriages. Outside, the rain had muddied the streets and created puddles everywhere. As soon as they exited, it began to pour, marring visibility. Elizabeth laughed as she jumped over several puddles to avoid soaking her shoes and garments. Darcy was seized with the urge to lift her in his arms and carry her to safety.
“Take care, Miss Elizabeth,” he called over the roar as the rain slapped the cobbled streets filled with the noise of people and carriages.
Elizabeth laughed again, pulling a smile from Darcy’s lips. Her carriage was only a few steps away when a flash of black caught the corner of his eye. A man ran up the street, his hat crammed over his eyes. Heedless of where he went, he crashed into Elizabeth. Darcy dashed several steps and lunged to reach her, saving her from just falling entirely in a puddle. As it was, her gown hung in it, and his movements sloshed water around them. As Darcy settled Elizabeth into an upright position, Marshall jumped from his coach which he shared with Bingley.
“You there!” He shouted at the reckless man and ran after him.
Darcy imagined he had him by the collar, but he could not take his eyes off Elizabeth.
“You harmed a lady! You good-for-nothing-drunk, apologise!” Marshall continued to berate and argue with the man.
Finding his voice, Darcy asked, “Are you well?” He scanned Elizabeth’s features as the rain slowed.
A variety of emotion crossed her face. She was unhurt and found the whole thing ridiculous, she did not like Marshall’s treatment of the man…and a final expression Darcy could not name but her eyes did not leave him.
“I am well,” she answered. “I am well,” she said again in a stronger voice.
Darcy realised she repeated herself for his benefit. His hands still gripped her arm, and he had felt terror seize him as he watched her begin to fall. It was too much like his disturbing dream. “You are certain?”
Elizabeth nodded, and as Darcy let go of Elizabeth, he heard Marshall approach.
“I am sorry I could not get the worthless lizard to face you and apologise directly,” Marshall said with a bow.
“I am uninjured. Mr. Darcy’s aid was most timely,” Elizabeth said with a blush.
“Thank God for that,” Marshall winked at Darcy then stepped forward to hand Elizabeth into the carriage.
To the world, Fitzwilliam Darcy has it all. He’s the young master to one of the kingdom’s oldest and wealthiest Norman families. Through his mother, he is related to a powerful line of earls. Beneath the perfect façade lies the truth: he’s the product of his mother’s affair and the heir George Darcy never wanted.
At twenty-eight, Darcy has fought hard to put to rest the pains of the past and earn his place in Society. But can he resist the allure of ending his loneliness with the unsuitable woman who has tugged at his heartstrings? Will he tell her his secret and if he does, will she keep it? Or will someone else from the past destroy everything Darcy has worked for?
10 thoughts on “Friday Feature– The Secrets of Pemberley”
I did read and leave a review about this story…loved it. Well done.
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