The Thirteen Families
In 1576, Sir Francis Walsingham approached Dr. John Dee with a proposition: train a select group of men loyal to Walsingham and the queen in the use of magic. Walsingham’s goal was to abet his spy network with individuals learned in Dee’s methods of prognostication and second sight, but Dee saw this as an opportunity to create a new Round Table of magical paladins to fight the encroaching darkness. Dee not only taught Walsingham’s chosen men how to use magic themselves, but also how to teach it to their descendants. So was born a secret cabal of occult protectors who still defend England into the reign of George III…
By tacit agreement between the families, the number of households instructed in Dee’s traditions has always been held to thirteen. The thirteen families are all of old, respectable stock but not nobility in their own rights. (All members of the thirteen families sign a pact to refuse political power in order to avoid corrupting their art with material concerns, and so every family has its story of a notable member refusing a peerage.) Intermarriage between the families has preserved the cabal’s secrecy and strengthened its ranks. Despite this, the actual families that make up the thirteen have changed over the centuries as sons have died before their time and daughters have instructed their husbands in the magical traditions.
The Standefords of Plumstone Hall, Thornshire, are members of the thirteen. The other 12 families are:
The Ropers of Atcombe Hall, Barsetshire
Oliver Roper is the youngest family head amongst the thirteen families, being no older than Rosalind Standeford.
The Coltons of Stanscour Pool, Downshire
Sander Colton is in his early thirties and already married.
The Aldridges of Tinport Croft, Glebeshire
Gareth Aldridge is of Rosalind’s late grandfather’s generation, like many of the patriarchs of the thirteen families.
The Wexleys of Rawdon Sands, Glenshire
Gabriel Wexley is the most serene member of the older generation.
The Somervilles of Ringoke, Loamshire
Valentine Somerville is a member of the middle generation, Wymond Standeford’s brother-in-law, and uncle to Rosalind and Pierce. Loamshire borders close on Thornshire.
The Warrens of Barnnash Heath, Mertonshire
Lucius Warren is a near neighbor of the Standefords the opposite direction from Loamshire. He is a member of the younger generation
The Dodsworths of Tamgree Grange, Middleshire
Conrad Dodsworth is a member of the older generation.
The Doves of Dunwort Green, Mortshire
Eyre Dove is a member of the middle generation. He is unmarried but has a dark reputation among his peers.
The Durhams of Stonean, Naptonshire
Ulrick Durham is a member of the older generation. His dealings with the occult have marked him more than many of his peers.
The Ayres of Sculmere, Radfordshire
Janus Ayres is the diplomatic (some say conniving) senior statesman of the older generation.
The Symons of Eltby Chapel, Stonyshire
Simon Symon laughs at his name as much as anyone. He is the merriest of the middle generation and a good friend to Wymond Standeford.
The Hearnshaws of Knightsward, Wordenshire
Wentworth Hearnshaw is a member of the younger generation. His parents perished when he was young and he is the most driven of the thirteen patriarchs. He is known to fund many charities in the East End of London and spends much of his time in the city.
[All of the above information is subject to expansion and clarification as the story sees fit. I still haven’t made up my mind how balanced gender politics are in this particular setting, so some of these men may find themselves women -- or at least get powerful dowager aunts and mothers. The names of the shires are all taken from Wikipedia’s list of fictional counties; most are from Agatha Christie, so obviously I won’t be using them in the final Regency/Gothic product. Wentworth Hearnshaw is, admittedly, a complicated joke but how could I resist when I randomly generated “Wentworth” and “Knight--?”]