Colonel Fitzwilliam is a character in Pride and Prejudice. He is the younger son of an earl and the nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy, making him a cousin of Anne de Bourgh and the Darcy siblings, Fitzwilliam and Georgiana.
Fitzwilliam and Darcy have been the guardians of Georgiana since her father's death five years earlier, and he is aware of her aborted elopement with George Wickham.
He joins his cousin Darcy when they visit Rosings over Easter. He forms a friendship with Elizabeth Bennet that verges on flirtatious, but he warns her that he must marry for money in order to support himself, meaning they can never be more than friends.
His rank in the military is that of a colonel.
Personality and traits
Colonel Fitzwilliam is about thirty years old during the events of the novel. He is not handsome, but the narrator describes him as "in person and address most truly the gentleman."
He is a pleasant and well-bred conversationalist who often visited Hunsford Parsonage to escape his aunt's house. He considered the ladies of Hunsford "a welcome relief" compared to the Rosings party and took a fancy to Elizabeth.
He approved of Darcy's act in rescuing a friend from an unsuitable marriage, and he correctly guessed the friend was Bingley, though he is not well-acquainted with Bingley. He seemed unsympathetic to the plight of the unknown lady, jesting that the lady's (presumed) lack of feelings lessened Darcy's triumph.
His status as the younger son of an earl allows him to live comfortably and to do as he wishes, for the most part, but he cannot marry without some attention to money due to the expensive habits he has developed and his (relative) lack of means.
It might be assumed that he was close to his uncle Darcy since he chose Colonel Fitzwilliam instead of another relative (such as the colonel's father or elder brother, or even a Darcy relative) to share Georgiana's guardianship with Darcy.
Titles and styles
As the younger son of an earl, Fitzwilliam would have been styled at his birth as The Honourable (First name) Fitzwilliam.
As a colonel, he is styled as Colonel (First name) Fitzwilliam.
Notes and references
- As was standard for the time (Georgian) in the British Army, officers, or their family, purchased their commission and rank. This wasn’t a decoration or an honorary title, rather it was a position of authority and responsibility. An officer position and rank, within an actual unit/regiment had to be vacant and available (usually after a death or retirement) for purchase. The price depended on the officer rank and prestige of the regiment. In 1800, a colonel’s commission in the 49th Hertfordshire Regiment of Foot (prestigious infantry regt) would have probably cost at least £3,500 (£300k plus today). It is likely that Fitzwilliam‘s character, the youngest son of a wealthy Earl, would have purchased an available commission in the most prestigious regiment he, or his family, could find at the time. Considering Britain was at war in 1812 (Napoleonic Wars, War of 1812, et al), and had been for most of Austen’s life, most, if not all, Colonels in British Army regiments, especially the prestigious ones, would have fought in one or more of the many military campaigns and wars of the time.