The Fascination with Governesses in Historical Romances By Susan Frances

Have you ever noticed that historical romances offer limited roles for women? Many authors demarcate the women of yesteryear in three categories: ladies/maidens of the haute ton or high society, prostitutes/courtesans/actresses belonging to the demimonde, or paid companions/governesses. The third category is a lowly occupation that many female readers of historical romances identify with, relating to the untitled woman in society who must work for her livelihood, taking menial wages while keeping her eyes looking upward toward a better life that is always tied in to finding her true love. This image of a governess as a type of princess-in-waiting can be credited to Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre about a sympathetic character who is raised by an abusive aunt and her villainous cousins. She takes a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall to escape her tormenters. The trials and tribulations which she experiences at Thornfield Hall bring her and the master of the manor, Edward Rochester, together, battling the negative forces around them. At the conclusion, Jane wins Rochester’s heart not through any sort of manipulation on her part, but through the natural course of their feelings. The character of Jane Eyre has become the general template that … Read More »