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Guest Post: A Gypsy Noblewoman, Collette Cameron

collette cameronThe heroine in The Viscount’s Vow, Evangeline (Vangie) Caruthers, is a bit unusual for a Regency romance. Though she’s the daughter of a baronet, she’s also part Romani; a gypsy princess in fact.

I thought I’d share some of the interesting Romani culture tidbits I came across while doing my research. These were true in 1814, the year The Viscount’s Vow is set in.

First, all Roma—that’s how they refer to themselves—have a Gadžo name, their Christian name, and a Roma name. Vangie’s Roma name is Zora. Gypsies vistas, or clans are ruled by a bandolier, who deals with the day-to-day issues that might come up. This person is chosen because of their maturity and wisdom. He is not the gypsy king.

I found contrasting information about divorce. Some sources claimed it was complex because of the bride price paid before the marriage. Others said that within the gypsy culture, if a woman leaves her husband, she’s divorced him and is free to marry another. I used this aspect in The Viscount’s Vow because no bride price was paid for Vangie, so the point was mute. Purity before marriage was strictly adhered to, which is in direct contrast to how the travelers, especially the women have been portrayed historically.

I was astounded to learn the rigorous customs the Roma adhere to regarding ceremonial cleanliness or pollution. For instance, they wouldn’t use a handkerchief because it’s unclean, and they were supposed to only wash in running water. Vangie has been raised as an English noblewoman who spends time with her Romani clan, so she does take baths. Part of her internal conflict is a result of the clash between her English and Roma heritage.

Ian is accepted as a gaje, a Gypsy Friend, which essentially makes him an honorary Gypsy, and he is entitled to the hospitality and protection of the clan. It’s a good thing too, because he has an extended visit with the Roma after Vangie leaves him.

Gypsies are a blood family, and the only way for a gawdji (a non-gypsy) to become part of the family is to either be sponsored by a member of the clan, or travel with the gypsies for a time. Then the vista votes whether to accept the gawdji into the tribe. If a vote of consent is passed, an initiation ceremony must be undergone. Ian doesn’t ever go to this extent, because his time with the Roma is temporary.

One custom I found extremely fascinating is that when a gypsy woman is pregnant, she is cared for by the other women of the clan, and dear hubby takes over all her duties. There’s so much more I could share about these fascinating people, who were continually shunned and persecuted, but the final bit that honestly surprised me the most, was how many of the Roma tribes were devout Christians.

So there you are; a brief introduction to Romani culture and customs. You’ll find many more references to gypsy foods, dress, language, and laws in The Viscount’s Vow.

What intrigues you about this time period?

About the author:
Collette Cameron

Multi-published historical romance author Collette Cameron has a BS in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in Teaching. She only teaches part-time so she has time for her greatest passion: writing. Collette’s been married for 30 years, has 3 amazing adult children, and 5 dachshunds. One doxie, Ayva, sits on her lap while she writes. Ayva also nibbles at and lies on the keyboard. Collette loves a good joke, inspirational quotes, flowers, the beach, trivia, birds, shabby chic, and Cadbury Chocolate. You’ll always find dogs, birds, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels. Her motto for life? You can’t have too much chocolate, too many hugs, or too many flowers. She’s thinking about adding shoes to that list. collette cameron
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