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Introducing a patroness of the ball: Maureen O’Connor, the ‘Dowager Duchess of St. Augustine’

This year’s Jane Austen Summer Program offers a new way to support our Regency ball: giving attendees the opportunity to become patrons or patronesses of the event. This includes special incentives such as VIP treatment, photo opportunities with “Mr. Darcy,” fanfare upon entrance, and an aristocratic title during the ball. We are excited to introduce this new feature!


This week, meet one of our patronesses: veteran JASP attendee Maureen O’Connor — and potential special guest Mr. Knightley, the cutest Jane Austen-loving puppy around! O’Connor will go by the aristocratic title of the “Dowager Duchess of St. Augustine” at the ball.

We chatted with her about her love for Austen, excitement for the ball, and, of course, Mr. Knightley.

Why does she love Jane Austen, and when did that love first begin?

At the beginning of 2010, O’Connor’s husband was diagnosed with lymphoma, and had just started chemotherapy. In the hospital with him, she was Googling when she came across the books “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict” and “Rude Awakening.” After reading them, she decided to join the Jane Austen Society of North America. For her, it was a lifeboat in a difficult point in her life. In 2012, she volunteered making and selling gowns at JASNA’s Annual General Meeting in New York. After having a great experience and meeting many wonderful people, she began going to any Austen convention that she could drive to!

pob 5Is there anything we could do to possibly coax Mr. Knightley into coming?

O’Connor would love to have Mr. Knightley join us at this year’s convention. Mr. Knightley has a tail coat, and has been going to Louisville’s Austen festivals for many years all dressed up. We think he is the most adorable Austen-loving puppy we’ve ever seen!

What’s her favorite thing about JASP? Does she have a favorite dance?

O’Connor’s favorite dance is the “Duke of Kent Waltz.”

We asked her to imagine that she had chance to be best friends with any Austen character whom would she choose, and why?

She would choose Emma. It’s her favorite book, and Mr. Knightley is, of course, her favorite hero! O’Connor loves to be the counterpoint to people who say that Emma is “this or that” and thinks that Emma is true to her status in life.pob 3

What is she most looking forward to at this year’s JASP?

O’Connor is most looking forward to the authors who will be speaking, and is excited to learn about the topics of class and wealth in modern-day society that their works address.

If you would be interested in becoming a patron or patroness of the ball, click here for more information. Click here to register. 

The Top 10 Elizabeth Bennets, ranked

Over the past century, our screens have been graced with Elizabeth Bennets of all kinds — and while many have come and gone, our love for them has not. Whether in big-screen movies, TV miniseries, or even a modern-day web show, we’ve all seen our fair share of Lizzy Bennets.

Below, we’ve ranked our top 10 versions of Elizabeth. How does your favorite fare?

10. Amanda Price/Elizabeth Bennet in 2008’s “Lost in Austen”: In this variation of “Pride and Prejudice,” a 21st-century Jane Austen fan named Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) accidentally trades places with Lizzy, leaving Amanda falling for Darcy and the real Elizabeth becoming a nanny in modern-day society. Neither “Elizabeth” is particularly my favorite.

No. 9: Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger)

9. Bridget Jones in 2001’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary”: This is definitely a very loose adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” but Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is a nice variation of Elizabeth even though they might not actually have that much in common.

8. Elizabeth Bennet in 2003’s “Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy”: In this adaptation, Lizzie (Kam Heskin) is a Mormon attending college at Brigham Young University. Though the setting and situation may be wildly different from the novel, we still get a glimpse of Mr. Darcy and the smart, strong-willed Elizabeth we know and love.

No. 7: Lalita Bakshi (Aishwarya Rai) 

7. Lalita Bakshi in 2004’s “Bride and Prejudice”: This Bollywood-esque adaptation includes lots of music and dancing — need I say more? Lalita (Aishwarya Rai) is headstrong and smart, and brings Lizzy Bennet to us in a fresh, diverse way. Still, there’s a little something lacking for me in the chemistry between her and Darcy.

6. Elizabeth Bennet in 1980’s “Pride and Prejudice”: This BBC television adaptation gives us another kind-hearted, lively  Lizzy Bennet (Elizabeth Garvie). But it’s just not my favorite.

No. 5: Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James)

5. Elizabeth Bennet in 2016’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”: Honestly, did you ever really think you would find Lizzy (Lily James) slaying zombies and wooing Mr. Darcy all at the same time? Neither did I, but here she is, and, surprisingly enough, her new character traits work really well (knife-wielding skills included).

4. Elizabeth Bennet in 1995’s “Pride and Prejudice”: Brought to us by BBC, this miniseries presents a classic take on “Pride and Prejudice” and Miss Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle) — that Austen fans are sure to love. That said, this Lizzy comes in at No. 4 on my list only because I’m extremely partial to my top three picks.

3. Elizabeth Bennet in 1940’s “Pride and Prejudice”: Greer Garson gives us a beautiful rendition of our beloved Bennet sister. She’s kind, witty, and just about everything else you could expect from a near-picture-perfect Elizabeth Bennet in this black-and-white rendition of “Pride and Prejudice.”

2. Lizzie Bennet in 2012-13’s “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”: How could you NOT adore Lizzie in this modern-day, vlog-style YouTube adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.” This Miss Bennet (Ashley Clements) meets all of the qualifications for a  21st-century go-getter. Going to graduate school for mass communications, she’s intelligent, hilarious, and oddly great at impersonating Mr. Darcy.

No. 1: Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley)

1. Elizabeth Bennet in 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice”: Maybe I’m just blindsided by my love for Keira Knightley (and because this version of “Pride and Prejudice” is filmed so beautifully), but I can’t help but put this variation of Lizzy at the top of my list. Smart, witty, and absolutely stunning this is an Elizabeth for the ages.

If you’re looking for more rankings of your favorite “Pride and Prejudice” characters, check out how your favorite Mr. Darcys stacked up here!

Agree with our list? Let us know! Think that we’re way off? Tell us how you would rank your favorite Elizabeths in the comments below!


51Lb+8hfxhL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe 2019 Jane Austen Summer Program is just about sold out! If you were thinking of registering, sign up today! As a bonus, the next five registrants will receive a free copy of “Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: A Book-to-Table Classic” — with recipes from Martha Stewart. CLICK TO REGISTER HERE.