With nine full-length novels and one novella written in The Darcy Saga thus far — and more on the way — I suppose it is obvious that my brand of plotting and telling a story is unique. There are several reasons for choosing this style, but one of the main delights in writing a saga versus a single novel is the opportunity to dwell with characters I adore for a long period of time. Another benefit is the opportunity to create deeper back-stories for the character we love, and to “fill in the blanks” left open by Jane Austen.
Way back when in 2006, while writing what became my first novel — Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One — I began the process of branching out by introducing friends from Mr. Darcy’s youth and university days. Over time, these characters were expanded upon and many have been given pivotal roles within the saga. Eventually, my yearning induced me to elaborate upon his immediate family. This included those mentioned or hinted at by Jane Austen, such as the unnamed uncle-who-is-an-earl, secondary characters Colonel Fitzwilliam and Anne de Bourgh, and even the silent Georgiana Darcy.
Next, I took the next step of fabricating relatives for the Darcy family. Logically, I assumed there would be grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins beyond the handful created by Miss Austen. The oh-so-fabulous Dr. George Darcy, Darcy’s uncle and the star of The Passions of Dr. Darcy, was one result of this creative desire. The eccentric Marchioness of Warrow and Mr. Sebastian Butler, the hero of Miss Darcy Falls in Love, are also byproducts of my need to enlarge the family.
Then I asked myself, why stop with living relatives? Going back in time, as it were, meant breathing life into deceased characters such as James and Anne Darcy, Fitzwilliam’s parents, and many others who must have existed. It has been tremendous fun! The result of this delving and creating can be seen within the pages of my novels, of course, but also in explicitly detailed information AND visually! Check out the CAST OF CHARACTERS page here on the website for a comprehensive character list and a colorful family tree. Then, click over to the DARCY SAGA CHARACTERS IMAGE GALLERY for the official portraits for everyone!
D’Arcy, or Darcy, Family History
My curiosity grew with each step I took further into the past. Who were the Darcys exactly? Where did they come from? Could Austen’s fictional hero be tied to established history?
It was common in the ancient world for family surnames to derive from the location of the clan. In this case, according to Ancestry.com, the origins of the name “Darcy” can be traced to Arcy (or Arci or Areci, as it was sometimes spelled centuries ago), a town/village in Normandy, France. In the French language, “de” is translated “of, or from.” Placing two vowels next to each other is awkward, so rather than “de Arcy” the surname for those folks born in the area was D’Arcy.
There are other possible origins of the surname and none that can be pinpointed definitively as the correct or only origin. For instance, the English surname Dorsey is clearly linked to Darcy (the experts agree), but precisely where Dorsey began and/or deviated is unknown.
While the exact etymology of the surname remains questionable if we proceed on the comfortable presumption that D’Arcy IS the root for Darcy, tracking the movement of those wandering, prolific D’Arcys is relatively easy!
The first documented was a man named David D’Arcy who descended from Charlemagne (Charles the Great, 742-814), King of France and Emperor of Rome. Fascinating, isn’t it? David’s direct descendant, Sir Richard D’Arcy, accompanied William the Conqueror from Normandy into England in 1066, the first D’Arcy to touch English soil as far as can be known.
More than likely there were numerous migrations of D’Arcys not important enough to be recorded. However, the strongest ties are to Sir Richard, who became Baron D’Arcy in short order for his valorous service at the Battle of Hastings. Some genealogies connect this Sir Richard to Richard, the 4th Duke of Normandy, and while that is super cool, the facts are tenuous at best.
Solid scholarship points to the second (?) Norman D’Arcy (or De Arci, a contemporary and probable relative of Sir Richard D’Arcy, although the exact familial relationship is unclear) who was granted thirty-three feudal baronies in the county of Lincoln as a gift of the Conqueror (per the Domesday Book) around 1100. Norman D’Arcy II chose Nocton, one of the thirty-three, as the head of his barony. His posterity retained it as their seat for “divers after ages.” Norman’s son Robert D’Arcy founded an Augustine priory on Nocton’s Abbey Hill, which housed holy monks for some 400 years. Detailed history on this branch of the family can be read on the link below.
In the immediate decades to follow, D’Arcys became governors, constables, sheriffs, served in Parliament, and were ambassadors to foreign courts. By 1300 the family had branched and settled in various places throughout England – York, Lincolnshire, and Derby among them.
Wikipedia (with references) has an extensive article on Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy (c. 1467 – June 30, 1537). In the reign of Edward III, the by-then-Darcy D’Arcys acquired other possessions in various counties, among which was the family seat of Templehurst (or Temple Hurst), near Selby in Yorkshire. Baron Darcy’s early career chiefly involved his military abilities and he distinguished himself in the reign of Henry VII before accumulating a vast array of honors and offices. Interestingly, the Baron and his wife bore three sons: George, Arthur, and Richard. Names that have popped up in my Saga!
D’Arcys did not remain clustered in England, of course. More than likely they spread far and wide, but the records show that the D’Arcy family figures prominently in Ireland’s history. In 1320, Englishman Sir John D’Arcy was appointed Lord Justice and General Governor of Ireland. The chief seat of the family was at Platten, County Meath, with minor septs in County May near Lough Mask and east Galway. Genealogists concur that it is reasonable to assume the Darcys who populate the midlands of Ireland are of the original D’Arcy stock.
In the famous ancient manuscript The Annals of Loch Ce, the name MacDarcy appears as that of a County Leitrim Chieftain in the years 1384 and 1403. An extensive genealogy of the D’Arcys of Kiltulla in Galway, Ireland, and how they trace from Norman D’Arcy, is detailed in four pages of A Genealogical History of the Commoners. This can be read on Google Books (link below).
In England, the name appears to have morphed completely into “Darcy” by the 1600s, long after the lines of nobility — six different baronies and the Earldom of Holderness — had fallen into abeyance. When this happened in Ireland is not as clear. Below is an assortment of D’Arcy and Darcy Coats of Arms, followed by several links to additional reading on ancestry for those who are interested.
If interested in further reading on D’Arcy and Darcy genealogy–
The question is: Did Jane Austen know the grand history of the Darcy surname when she named her best-loved hero? I suppose it is possible, considering how well-educated she was. Or perhaps Austen was lucky to pull a name out of thin air which belonged to a noble family with a fascinating history!
Incorporating ancestry into my Darcy Saga Sequel Series didn’t occur to me initially. My delving into the far past was limited to a couple of vague references to an ancestor, and later in describing the extensive family tree tapestries hanging in the foyer of Pemberley. Then, over three years ago now, I began writing a novella focusing on the previous generation of Darcy children. Beginning with this fun romp starring George and Alex Darcy as ten-year-old adventurous youths, my concept was to write a series of novellas with the Darcy children from different generations as the main players. It is an idea I still wish to follow through on, eventually, if my readers show interest. Anyway, it was as I broadened my mind to consider the sweeping Darcy family that I dug deeper into the factual ancestral research. I decided it would be fun to meld historical truth with fiction to explain the origins of the Derbyshire branch, using the ever-popular “second son” idea. Viola!