The Romany (Gypsies) in Regency England

Laurie Alice here: Today, I invited Josie Riviera to present the Monday history post, for gypsies, “travelers” as they are called today, have played rolls in many Regency romances over the decades of the genre.

Josie has also offered to give away a copy of her e-book, Seeking Patience. Leave your comment, and let’s talk about your impression of gypsies.

SeekingPatience_CoverNote: Only comments on this post are eligible to win. I will announce the winner when I next post on Regency Reflections on March 15, 2013.

Gadje Gadjensa, Rom Romensa.” This is a Romany (Gypsy) saying that means Gadje with Gadje, Rom with Rom.”
“Mashkar le gajende leski shib si le Romenski zor.”
“Surrounded by the gadje, the Rom’s tongue is his only defense.”

So what is a gadje? A gadje in the Romany language means “not one of us.” Many Rom prefer to not allow outsiders (us) into their lives. It’s no coincidence that in my hours, days, and months of researching the Romany for my novels, little information was available. Odd, because the Rom have lived in many places throughout the world for centuries. They’re a widely-traveled people. Yet there is little written history regarding their origins, although recent evidence points to an emigration from India 1500 years ago.

Some believed that The Rom originated in Romania, but they didn’t. “Rom” means “man” in the Romany language.

I believe the reason there is little information available is because the Rom simply prefer it that way. They are a proud people who keep to themselves. And they are nomads, forever on the move, traveling by horse and wagon in caravans. In one of my novels, a bender is described in detail. It is a tent, easily constructed using bendable twigs and any available materials on the side of the road.

The first recorded mention of a Romany in England was 1514.

In England and Wales in the year 1530, King Henry VIII forbid Gypsies from entering the country, and the death penalty was imposed if they didn’t leave within the month. In 1822, the Turnpike Act was introduced, fining any Gypsies camping along the road.

It is no secret that the Rom have suffered persecution, prejudice, exclusion, and discrimination for centuries. The “Gypsy” stereotype includes a criminal, fortune-teller, blacksmith, thief, and musician, a dark-complexioned, shadowy figure. But why do so many of us harbor this unfair prejudice? Perhaps because of the Rom’s nomadic existence, lack of a solid religious belief, and exotic clothes and lifestyle. Their dialect is distinct and related to Sanskrit. Their tradition is oral, for they didn’t have the luxury of building libraries.

I explore many of their beliefs in my novels. One shared by all Rom is cleanliness. Mahrime means unclean or polluted. To avoid mahrime, clothes covering the top half of their body are washed separately from clothes on the bottom. Certain parts of the female body are considered unclean, and doctors are sometimes avoided because they deal with illness. And, a Rom can become polluted by being too close to a gadje.

Beng is a Rom word meaning devil. This evil force continually seeks to dominate a Rom’s life. The dreaded mulo are spirits, always watching, ready to mete out curses and punishments for wrong-doing.

My latest release on, Seeking Patience, is a Regency inspirational romance featuring a half-Romany, half English hero named Luca.

Do people prove their self-worth by strength, or by character?

Luca’s father is an English nobleman, although Luca was raised as a Gypsy. He struggles with his heritage throughout the novel, seeking hope, seeking forgiveness, and yes, Seeking Patience. He is forced to depend on Lady Patience Blakwell, a woman who represents all he loathes. She struggles with her faith, trying to understand why God is not following the plan she had for her life—to be loved and cherished by her husband. After her husband’s unexpected death, her grown stepson charges her with her late husband’s murder.

And Luca must decide whether he should turn away when she needs him, or risk his most vulnerable, forgiving self to keep her safe. By denying his English heritage, has he denied a part of himself?

Seeking Patience:

49 thoughts on “The Romany (Gypsies) in Regency England

  1. Thanks for this interesting post. It’s amazing they are still so mysterious, even today.

  2. Thank you for being our guest Josie. I found this an interesting article about a forever fascinating people.

  3. What a fascinating topic! My dad’s church had a few gypsies at one point and I found their culture very interesting. I can’t wait to read your book!

  4. Sounds like an exciting plot twist to the typical regency novel. It will be fun to delve into the little known gypsy realm and explore how they related (or didn’t relate!) to normal English life. Can’t wait!

  5. Sounds awesome, Josie. I will never stop being amazed at the innovations of authors who can make so many different areas of such a small time in history, different and interesting. I learned a lot!

  6. This is a wonderful book. I previewed the book for an early review and the Romany background was so interesting. Josie weaves a wonderful story.

  7. Hi Susan,
    Yes, I believe that many of the Rom still prefer to keep to themselves. Their lifestyle is fascinating.

  8. Loraine,
    Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy Seeking Patience as much as I enjoyed writing it. Luca, the main character, is a wonderfully conflicted hero.

  9. Collette,
    My heroine in one of my next books, Fatal Fortune, is 100% Roma. I go into detail and explore even more of their beliefs. She is a Gypsy fortuneteller.

  10. Dawna,
    Believe me, the Rom didn’t relate, which made writing the book challenging and interesting.

  11. So glad you enjoyed the post, Sandy. Hope you enjoy the book. The heroine’s name is “Patience”, but the Rom hero, Luca, is seeking more than patience throughout his hero’s journey.

  12. Mary,
    Thanks for posting. I’ve read and researched the Rom culture for years before writing “Seeking Patience.” In fact, in one Rom group blog, I was asked to leave. They didn’t want an author asking so many questions.

  13. How interesting! I remember seeing gypsies selling baskets at a farmers’ market near Yalova, Turkey. They are fascinating and very beautiful people.

  14. I had read about these gypsies in Lisa Kleypas’s novels, and this post helps put them in perspective. Sounds great. Thanks!!

  15. What a great post. I have always loved the nomadic idea of life they led in those earlier times. But, my mother was a redhead and had long brilliant curls. Her mother would tell her what areas to avoid, cause the Gypsies would grab her, especially because of her hair. I used to tell her if they came for me I’d go, I loved the mystic aspect of it all, and imagined those hot, dark haired, alpha males…
    So this sounds right up my alley!

  16. Mona,
    You’re a doll. Thanks for stopping by. What would I do without one of my favorite critique partners?

  17. Martha, I read those very same novels by Lisa Kleypas. They came out about the time I was working on my first WIP. Lisa is a wonderful author.

    • And now I’ll be reading your books! It was thanks to Mona – a common friend of ours – that I found you!

  18. Thanks for reading “Seeking Patience,” Angela. I’m so glad you thought it was a great read. It was fun to write.

  19. Hi Susanne,
    Thanks for stopping by. It’s great that you felt you learned a lot. There is so much more I could share, as I researched the Rom for years before writing.

  20. Josie,
    Love the post and I’m really very ignorant of the Romany and their beliefs. I love exploring the world of Regency medicine. Do you know what the Romany did or do now to take care of themselves both mentally and physically?

    • Hi Jillian,
      In “Seeking Patience”, Luca, the hero, is sick throughout the book. In one of the chapters, Patience, the heroine, forces him to eat a boiled chicken and throw twigs into a fire. This was/is a superstition and remedy for the Rom. Because I write historicals, I’m not as well-versed on current remedies, but hope this helps.

      • Hmm. A boiled chicken. Too bad they didn’t make chicken soup out of it. That might have worked better for the sick but sounds like they were on the right track to some extent. The twigs in the fire. I wonder what that represents to them? Thanks Josie. Very interesting. I look forward to reading this novel.

        • You are very welcome, Jillian. The beliefs of the Rom are very interesting. Many also believe that owls are bad luck.

  21. I didn’t know much about gypsies until I read Josie’s book. It was well written and I enjoyed it. I reviewed it on Amazon. This is an interesting article. Thanks!!

    • Thanks, Gay, for stopping by, and for a wonderful review for “Seeking Patience.”

  22. Interesting article. I will look forward to reading your book. I don’t know much about the Romany culture, but when I was a little girl my grandfather used to play what he called “gypsy music” on the violin. I remember that it was so beautiful it brought me close to tears. Good luck with “Seeking Patience”.

  23. Yes, the music is beautiful. (I’m a professional musician, so I’m always aware of the music.) Thanks for visiting and hope you enjoy “Seeking Patience.”

  24. I also read this book through amazon. I thought the gypsy aspect in the book very interesting.

    Thanks for posting.

  25. This sounds very interesting to me. I love history. I’ve never read any of your books and I’d love a chance to win this one!

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