Murder and Regency Policing

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Highlighting Historical Romance with Elf Ahearn on the subject the police in the Regency era.

The Baron of Bad Behavior is the second book in a new series I’m writing. It’s a lighthearted romp featuring a daredevil heroine. That said, in keeping with my tagline, “Regency romance with a Gothic twist,” a minor character meets an untimely end. There was no formal police force in Regency London, so I turned to The Maul and the Pear Tree, a true accounting of the grisly Radcliffe Highway murders.

On the night of Dec. 7th, 1811, Timothy Marr, a linen draper, had just closed his shop when an assailant snuck into the premises and murdered Marr, his wife, their infant child, and an apprentice. Each had had their skull brutally bashed in with a carpenter’s maul.

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Twelve days later, a second, and equally horrific murder occurred, ending the lives of the publican of the King’s Arms, his wife, and a serving girl.

The first responders in Regency London were the night watchman. According to P.D. James and T.A. Critchley, co-authors of The Maul and the Pear Tree, watchmen could make arrests but they were typically drunk old men. Next, were constables: these individuals had more brawn, but worked part-time and received little training. There also existed an 8-man police force. “These men wore no uniform and had no badge of office or equipment of any kind,” the book says. They were under the command of the magistrates. In turn, the magistrates were men assigned their position by the church wardens of the local parish. Although educated, these individuals were not professionals and many had little interest in administering the law.

The crème de la crème, of law enforcers were the Bow Street runners, who were trained in policing. At the time of the Radcliffe Highway murders, however, their job was patrolling the highways leading into London. Ultimately, the River Thames Police Force, whose beat was protecting shipping cargo, did the majority of the detective work on the killings.

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John Williams

It should come as no surprise then, that possibly the wrong man was arrested. John Williams never made it to trial, he hanged himself with his scarf the night before a hearing.

About the Book: The Baron of Bad Behavior

Lady Jillianna Farrington is an avid adventurer who, on the eve of her come out, knows exactly who she will marry: Chase Hart, a fellow daredevil. There is only one tiny drawback: he’s a thief. Her family is horrified. So is Chase. Undeterred—because in fact, Jilly has never been deterred by anything—she pursues her reluctant quarry confident that in his heart of hearts, he is a good man who loves her… and she’s right.

Excerpt in the bell tower at St. Lawrence Jewry Church

Teach me to waltz—absolutely no one will,” said Jilly. “They say it’s risqué.

Chase looked at her incredulously. “There’s a massive gap in this floor. Do you want to die flattened in the nave of a church?”

Jilly laughed, delighted by his concern. “I’ll be safe in your arms.”

She raced to the farthest bell and clinked on it with her fingernails, tapping out the tune to the Sussex Waltz. And oh, Heaven be praised, that smile returned and mischief glinted in his eyes. She tapped louder, and louder still, until he laughed outright.

“You’re a wicked little siren,” he said, leaping easily over the gap, and snatching her hands from the bell.

She stood close and put her palms on his shoulders.

“The dance begins apart,” Chase said, disengaging.

But Jilly wouldn’t let him go. “I’m not interested in that part. What are the steps when we twirl together?

For a moment, he looked as if he’d resist. “Please,” she begged.

“Look at my feet.” He palmed her cheeks, tilting her head down. “I step forward with my left, while you step back with the right.” His grip on her shoulders resumed, and he nudged her foot back. “Then we slide to your left and close with feet together.”


After a few faltering tries, Jilly felt the waltz’s three-quarter time seep into her muscles. Chase quit calling the steps and hummed the Suffolk Waltz, turning her in a circle, and then another and another, until they were flying around the bells so close to the gap she felt the breeze on her ankles. The pace grew faster, and Jilly threw back her head laughing with exhilaration, and suddenly she was airborne as he lifted her in a wide arc over the gap. She screamed with delight, so around they went again, and he lifted her higher, her slippers grazing the brass of a bell as he brought her down to the wood once more. Elation stole her breath, strangling her shrieks of joy.

In the distance, Lizzie yelled, “No rascality, you hear!”

About the Author

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Elf Ahearn, the name is real—the parents surreal—lives in New York State with her loving husband and two shockingly adorable kittens. To learn more about these massively cute beings, subscribe to Elf’s infrequent newsletter, The Writer’s Cat, by sending an email to

Buy Links

I wish I had buy links for The Baron of Bad Behavior, but I just finished edits and am seeking a publisher. In the meanwhile, A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing is a good read.

Amazon  $2.99

Barnes & Noble  $0.99

Kobo  $0.99

11 thoughts on “Murder and Regency Policing

  1. I never knew that about the role of the police at the time (or lack thereof ). And a fun snippet of the book!

    • yup, they were shockingly unprepared to deal with crime back then, but folks were worried about the police intruding into their lives so they didn’t support them much.

  2. I’ve read these books Elf speaks of and they are amazing. Great pic too, Elf!

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Caroline Warfield, Author

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