Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Anglo-Zulu War

by David Ebsworth

The subject of the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879 has been covered previously in articles posted on the English Historical Fiction Authors site.

But author David Ebsworth argues here that some of the more fascinating details have often been ignored, particularly by historical fiction writers:

The background story is familiar enough.

The Zulus had become a powerful military state only in the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century under the leadership of King Shaka. Before Shaka, they were simply one of the many clans among the Ngoni people who had been part of the Bantu migrations down the east coast of Africa for over a thousand years. And this particular clan was established in the early 1700s by a man called Zulu, son of an Ngoni chieftain, Ntombela. The word iZulu literally means 'sky' or 'heaven' so that the clan name, AmaZulu, implied both that they were the People of the Man called Zulu and also the People of Heaven. The creation of the Zulu Empire had been a violent one but by the 1870s they had fashioned a way of life that was economically stable and had established a strange affinity with the British. It had all started in 1824 with the personal relationship between Shaka and Lieutenant Francis Farewell (Royal Navy) who eventually founded Port Natal (Durban) along with the physician, Henry Francis Fynn. Farewell’s story became well-known back in Britain and Dickensian London frequently played host to troupes of Zulu singers and dancers who performed to huge crowds on the capital’s stages.

The British maintained their colony in Natal, and settlers grew sugar cane and other produce there alongside the Zulus. There was some conflict, mainly due to the Zulus’ reluctance to work for a pittance on the white plantations when they already enjoyed their own functioning cattle-based economy. So the British had to rely increasingly on immigrant labour normally shipped from the Indian Sub-Continent. And things may have remained that way if it had not been for the discovery of gold and diamonds in the neighbouring territories.

Suddenly it became clear that a very large workforce would be needed if these natural resources were going to be properly exploited – much larger than could be accommodated by immigrant labour – and besides, considerable deposits of this potential mineral wealth lay within the territories controlled by the region’s other major group of European settlers, the Dutch Boers.

Cetshwayo
So by the late 1870s the British had developed ambitions to create a federated dominion of South Africa. But there were two major obstacles that were, at the same time, two significant goals in the British hunger for gold and diamonds – the independent states of the Dutch Boer settlers for their land, and the Kingdom of Zululand for its labour supply possibilities. A pretext was needed to begin dismantling the obstacle elements and, as a start, the British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Bartle-Frere, seized upon the excuse of a relatively minor border incident to present an ultimatum to the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, requiring him to disband his armies – an ultimatum that could clearly never have been met. And thus, without any authority from the Crown, the British army already in Cape Colony under Lord Chelmsford launched an invasion of Zululand. The Anglo-Zulu War had begun.

Its first weeks are well-trodden. The invading army made camp on the slopes of the mountain called Isandlwana. Zulus today will either tell you that the mountain resembles in form a small house or grain hut, and eSandlwana is the isiZulu word for that thing, or they will each give you an entirely different explanation of the meaning. But on the morning of 22nd January 1879, Chelmsford divided his forces, marched off with his main column towards the Zulu capital at Ulundi, and left a force of 1,700 men to guard the camp. Later in the day the camp was quickly attacked by the Zulu army and entirely destroyed with few survivors. Part of the Zulu impi, 4,000 warriors, went on to attack the mission station at KwaJimu, Rorke’s Drift, where a handful of British defenders held off the continuous assaults until the following morning. Those defenders earned themselves no less than twelve Victoria Crosses as a result although only eleven were accepted, with Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne preferring to trade his VC for a commission.

Those two events at the very outset of the war have been commemorated many times by fiction authors and by film makers, most notably in the 1964 movie, Zulu, and then in the 1979 production of Zulu Dawn. It is hard to believe that fifty years have already passed since the release of Zulu, and subsequent generations continue to be drawn to this fascinating period of history by the wonderful Cy Endfield and Stanley Baker production. The film has flaws. Of course it does. Yet it remains a wonderful piece of cinematography.

But what about picking up the story of the Zulu War where Michael Caine left off?

The disaster at Isandlwana forced the remains of Chelmsford’s column to retreat back into Natal leaving a smaller northern column at Khambula and an eastern column on the Zulus’ coast at Eshowe. The northern column suffered its own disaster on the mountain of Hlobane, and the survivors escaped only by feats of heroism that at least matched those of Rorke’s Drift. The garrison at Eshowe also found themselves besieged on 22nd January, but their defence lasted a little longer than the fifteen hours endured at Rorke’s Drift. Because at Eshowe a European army equipped with all the latest weaponry remained under siege by an enemy with little more than spears and shields until 3rd April.

Meanwhile, news had reached London about the Isandlwana massacre, and the response of the British public was very mixed. The newspapers, for example, demanded to know who had authorised this war. People asked difficult questions. Were the Zulus not our friends and allies? Had we not been present at Cetshwayo’s coronation just a few years earlier? But Queen Victoria and her Government could not ignore the disaster. Such a horrendous defeat of the Imperial army could not go unavenged. And therefore reinforcements were dispatched to the Cape. Large numbers of reinforcements. The Zulus must be punished.

Among the reinforcements was a particular young man, the son of the recently deposed and now deceased French Emperor, Napoleon III. Louis Napoleon (Bonaparte’s great-nephew) was therefore now the Crown Prince to the French Imperial throne, and it was widely understood that when the French had done with their current further flirtation with Republicanism, Louis would become Emperor in his turn. He had been living in exile in England for several years, had distinguished himself during military training, but as a Frenchman was unable to hold a commission in the British army. He therefore used his influence to persuade Victoria that he should be allowed to go to Zululand as an observer. The Queen reluctantly agreed, and Louis was sent off to Chelmsford in an administrative capacity. But once there, the Prince’s headstrong nature began to assert itself, and he was soon taking part in patrols as the second invasion of Zululand began at the end of May 1879.

On 1st June, Louis took part in a patrol to the Ityotyosi River along with a small escort and Lieutenant Jahleel Brenton Carey. They were ambushed while resting in an apparently deserted Zulu village, and Louis was killed along with several of the escort. It was a valiant death, but entirely futile and unnecessary. Naturally, somebody had to be responsible. And it could not possibly be Chelmsford. After all, he was only the Commander and under strict instruction about how Louis should be protected. So Carey was court-martialled, although the decision was later not upheld leaving Carey neither officially guilty nor officially acquitted. But he was sent back to England while Chelmsford continued a policy of burning every Zulu homestead he could find, systematically stealing the cattle upon which the Zulu economy was based and fighting skirmishes until, finally, he assembled his new army on the plain below Ulundi. He fought the Zulu army there for the final time, though this time there would be no mistakes, no disasters. And thus Chelmsford deployed gatling guns and artillery to rip through the Zulus’ cowhide shields, while those that survived were hunted down by British Lancers and speared like animals.


Cetshwayo was captured and imprisoned in Cape Town. Thousands of Zulus, driven from their destroyed lands, ended up working in the gold and diamond mines that two wars against the Dutch Boers had put into British hands. And the British Empire now, at last, had its federated dominion of South Africa. But the Empire could not hold it so that South Africa became self-governing in 1910 and fully independent in 1931. The country finally shook off the shackles of apartheid in 1994, and it seemed fitting that the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the ANC had enjoyed such strong support from so many ordinary people in Britain itself as part of the international community of campaigners. In truth, the affinity and mutual respect that had always existed between the British people (as opposed to some of their governments) and the Zulus had never really diminished, and it was almost as if those huge crowds that had filled the London theatres to cheer and applaud the Zulu performers, even in the immediate aftermath of Isandlwana, were the very same who flocked to Trafalgar Square and many other places to celebrate the ANC’s victory in 1994. As if, somehow, a debt had finally been paid.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

David Ebsworth’s third novel, The Kraals of Ulundi, does indeed pick up the story of the Zulu War at the end of 1879 and uses the perspectives of three main characters to tell the rest of this astonishing story. They are the Zulu warrior, Shaba KaNdabuko; the English Lieutenant Jahleel Brenton Carey; and the renegade white trader, William McTeague. The catalyst that brings them together, of course, is the death of Louis Napoleon. But this is also the story of the women who link these disparate characters – Shaba’s sister, Amahle, and Carey’s long-suffering wife, Annie.


Dave McCall (David Ebsworth), September 2014


Monday, September 15, 2014

The Wreck of the Grosvenor

by Mark Patton

On the 13th June 1782, the East Indiaman, Grosvenor, set sail from the port of Trincomalee, in Sri Lanka, bound for London. On board was a cargo of fine silks and a number of wealthy passengers, including William Hosea, the British Resident at Murshidabad, his wife, Mary, and their two children.

The ship's captain, John Coxon, had not, like most ship's captains, risen through the ranks starting as a midshipman, but rather had purchased his command: he clearly had a flair for commerce, but his navigational expertise was much less certain. He did, however, have more experienced seamen on his crew, including the Chief Mate, Alexander Logie; the Second Mate, William Shaw; Shaw's mate William Habberley; and the ship's Third Mate, Thomas Beale.

On the 27th July, the ship sailed into a "hard gale." Coxon was convinced that they were several days away from the coast of Natal so, when Habberley and Shaw sighted what they thought to be native fires, Beale, as officer of the watch, ignored their concerns, keeping the ship on a course that would ultimately converge with the coast. It seems that Coxon attempted to "club haul" the vessel (a desperate manoeuvre which almost invariably failed, and did so on this occasion). The ship struck shortly after 4.30 AM.

The Wreck of the Grosvenor,
by Robert Smirke (Public Domain).

The ship carried two boats, both of which were launched, but both of which were dashed on the rocks. The captain offered a large reward to anyone brave enough to swim ashore with a line. Two Italian seamen rose to the challenge, and a line was fixed from the shore to the mizzen-mast. Some men did escape along this line, but a platform, intended to rescue the women and children, collapsed. What happened next seems to have been down to luck or providence. The wind changed and the starboard quarter, with most of the passengers clinging to it, floated off the rocks. Some of the seamen attached a hawser to it and manoeuvred it into a sheltered inlet. Only one passenger, a servant, died, and, of the 105 crew, 91 landed alive, although some were injured.

The wreck of the Grosvenor,
attributed to George Carter.
National Maritime Museum (Public Domain).

Some dead chickens and ducks came ashore, along with several live pigs. Fires were started and a meal prepared. Pondo tribesmen were, by this stage, moving among the survivors. According to Habberley, they offered no assistance, but were rather concerned to recover the nails and other iron from the wreck. It is unclear to what extent the Europeans attempted to communicate with the Pondo.

"African Hospitality," by George Morland,
an imagined representation of the
interaction between the Pondo people and
the Grosvenor survivors (Public Domain).
The painting, together with its companion-piece,
depicting the brutality of the slave-trade,
was an intentional contribution to
the abolitionist movement.

Coxon, Shaw and Beale organised a roll-call (Logie was, by this stage, seriously ill with dysentery), and salvaged what they could from the wreckage of the ship. They realised that they were a considerable distance from the closest European settlement, either the Portuguese colony of Delagoa Bay to the north, or the Dutch colony of the Cape to the south. There was clearly some further interaction with the natives, one of whom reportedly pointed to the north-east (presumably indicating Delagoa). One of the seamen, Joshua Glover, turned his back on his shipmates and walked away with the natives. Habberley would later claim that he was "disturbed in his mind," but we might now make a very different judgement.

"Xhosa and dogs resting on a hunt"
by Frederick Timpson l'Ons (Public Domain).
The Pondo are one of a number of
Xhosa-speaking peoples on the
eastern coast of what is now South Africa.

On the 7th of August, Coxon addressed the crew. He insisted that they could reach the Cape on foot within 10-17 days. It was a fatal judgement: the Cape was 400 miles away, not the 250 miles that Coxon estimated. Inaccurate charts may have been partially to blame, but Delagoa was, in fact, much closer. They were allegedly harassed by the natives as they moved south: they did not offer serious violence, but they did plunder their supplies.

The terrain proved difficult, and some of the survivors were clearly fitter than others. Coxon decided to make camp with the sick mate, Logie, and 23 passengers, including Hosea. Shaw, Habberley and some of the fitter men went on. All of the captain's party subsequently died of starvation. Shaw sickened, and eventually Habberley was left alone. He was given food in several native kraals, but was expelled after he offended them. It seems that his mistake was to defecate in the cattle enclosure - he could hardly have known it, but he probably relieved himself on the grave of his host's father (the founder of a Pondo kraal was always buried in the cattle enclosure).

A typical Southern African kraal
in the 19th Century (Public Domain)

Habberley and a handful of other men did, eventually, reach the Cape Colony, having been reduced to eating the leather from their shoes. All of the passengers, men, women and children, perished. A subsequent expedition sent to discover what had happened to them found Joshua Glover (the man supposedly "disturbed in his mind") and another seaman, John Bryan (who had been left behind due to illness) living happily among the natives. Bryan was, by this stage, married to a Pondo woman, with whom he had two children.

The official East India Company report into the incident concluded that " ... in great part, their calamities seem to have arisen from want of management with the natives ... they treated the individuals that fell singly amongst them rather with kindness than with brutality." There was a suggestion that other passengers, including some of the women, may have survived in a similar way, but no conclusive evidence of this was ever found.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mark Patton's novels, Undreamed Shores and An Accidental King, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon UK or Amazon USA.



Giveaway: Hand of Fire by Judith Starkston

Judith is giving away a copy of Hand of Fire to a winner in the UK or US. You can read about the book HERE. Please comment below to enter, and be sure to leave your contact information.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Richard I in the Holy Land

by Helena P. Schrader


A medieval depiction of Richard I of
England and King Philip II
of France during the Third Crusade

Richard I’s crusade to the Holy Land, 1190-1192, has often been criticized by historians.  First, it was hugely expensive, and Richard I resorted to a number of devious practices in order to finance it, including the sale of public offices and pressure that was little short of extortion.  Second, it took the king away from his kingdom for an extended period of time, during which his brother and the King of France plotted against him to the detriment of England and the rest of the Plantagenet territories.  Third, the rivalry and conflict over strategy during the crusade greatly exacerbated the tensions between Richard and Phillip of France, and Richard’s insult of the Duke of Austria led to the hostility of the latter that in turn resulted in Richard being held for ransom — again to great cost to Richard’s subjects. Thus, cumulatively, Richard’s crusade is viewed as being responsible for his long absence from his territories and a serious drain on the finances of his subjects.

To make matters worse, Richard singularly failed to achieve the objective of the crusade, which was the re-capture of Jerusalem and the restoration of the Holy City to Christian control. The fact that the crusading army came within just a few miles of Jerusalem only to retreat twice has further tarnished Richard’s reputation in history. In short, Richard sacrificed the prosperity of his own subjects and the security of his kingdom for “nothing.”

  The elusive goal: Jerusalem 

Aside from the fact that it is rather unfair to blame Richard for the treachery of his brother, the King of France and the Duke of Austria, his accomplishments in the Holy Land also need to be reassessed. As I pointed out in an earlier essay, Richard’s conquest of the Island of Cyprus enabled it to become the bread-basket and recruiting base of the remaining crusader states for a hundred years. Yet even more important, it protected the shipping lanes from Western Europe to the Near East, Egypt and Constantinople for more than 300 years. Cyprus was thus vital to the prosperity of the Italian city-states and played a major, if indirect, role in the flourishing of science, technology, philosophy and art that was to become known as the Renaissance.

But Richard’s accomplishments in the East did not end with the conquest of Cyprus. Richard’s role was decisive in re-capturing the critical port city of Acre from the Saracens. Acre had always been the principal gateway from the West to the Kingdom of Jerusalem and it was to remain the commercial heart of Western presence in the Holy Land for another hundred years.


The harbor of Acre as it appears today.

Nor did Richard’s accomplishments in the Holy Land end with the re-capture of Acre.  Within two years he had re-established Christian control over the entire coastline from Jaffa to Antioch. Although reduced to roughly ¼ of the territory held by the Latin Christians before the Battle of Hattin, the remnants of the crusader states in the Eastern Mediterranean kept the pilgrimage traffic alive and so fostered the exchange of goods and ideas and the development of naval resources so vital to Western economic prosperity and intellectual development — particularly for the Italian city-states.

So Richard I’s accomplishments in the Holy Land were far from insignificant economically and culturally. Nor should their pure military significance be under-estimated. Richard I transported an army of roughly 10,000 men across a vast distance in wooden ships powered by sail and oar. He then commanded a multi-national force composed not only of his own diverse subjects (English, Normans, Angevins, Gascons etc.) but of French, Flemish, Germans, Scandinavians and natives of the crusader kingdoms. He organized highly complex amphibious operations and logistical support for his forces in hostile terrain, and he beat the legendary Saladin in every single engagement in which they confronted each other. That is quite an accomplishment!



A medieval fresco depicting Richard
jousting with Saladin; although they faced
one another man-to-man, Richard was the
victor on every battlefield they contested.

It was largely Richard’s personal bravery in an almost endless series of engagements in the Holy Land that earned him his legendary fame, yet as David Miller points out in his sober analysis of Richard’s military capabilities, Richard the Lionheart: The Mighty Crusader, it was really Richard’s careful planning, exceptional logistical organization, and rational strategic thinking that set him apart from the bulk of his contemporaries. Richard I of England would never — never — have let his army march and camp without water nor have exposed his army to encirclement on a field of the enemy’s choosing as Guy de Lusignan did at the Battle of Hattin. Richard ensured that his troops — and his horses — always had enough supplies to be “fighting fit,” and he knew how to integrate infantry and cavalry so that the advantages of both could be utilized. Last but not least, he led by example, not just fighting at the forefront, but doing menial labor like building walls alongside the lowliest of his soldiers as well. That is what makes a great commander.

Without going into greater detail, it is fair to say that Richard was a superb soldier, a brilliant tactician, a sound strategist and a great military leader. He was also astonishingly adept at finance — as not only the financing of his extraordinary expedition across land and sea with 10,000 men shows, but the fact that he could convert his successes like Cyprus into cash as well. Richard remained solvent throughout the crusade, able to hire more men, mercenaries and even the knights of his rivals, while the latter went into debt.

Last but not least, Richard’s diplomatic skills should not be under-estimated.  Despite his ability to defeat Saladin militarily whenever he chose to fight, nothing could alter the fundamental imbalance of forces in the Holy Land. The decision not to capture Jerusalem was taken twice in council with representatives elected from all the contingents fighting under Richard’s command.  The decision was based on a sound assessment of the chances of holding Jerusalem once it had been seized.  Jerusalem was too far from the sea for Western naval superiority to be brought to bear, which meant that it could be cut off from supplies and reinforcements at any time. Richard argued, and persuaded his followers, that the capture of Jerusalem would be costly and short-lived because no sooner would the crusaders have gone home (as they all longed to do) than the city would fall again to the Saracens. Saladin knew this as well as Richard did, so it is a tribute to Richard’s skills as a diplomat that he managed to secure at least free, unmolested access to the Holy City for Christian pilgrims even after his departure.



In the final analysis, Richard may not be one of England’s greatest kings. Philip II, who could never match Richard in tactical and strategic competence much less courage on the battlefield, systematically defeated Richard and his heirs politically.  While Richard failed to expand his inheritance, John lost most of his father’s French territories to the Capets within a quarter century of Henry II’s death and even faced a French invasion of England in 1216.  It would be a century before an English King would again successfully lay claim to French soil under Edward III and his even more impressive son, Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince. Yet Richard the Lionheart’s defense of the Holy Land and his success in stabilizing the situation and enabling a crusader presence in the Eastern Mediterranean until the 16th century was a major contribution to the development of Western civilization as we know it.

Furthermore, while contemporary historians deride the notion of “Good King Richard” from traditional Robin Hood lore, medieval man did remember him with affection.  His example of military prowess combined with judicious leadership and good rapport with his common soldiers had an impact on English perceptions of “good governance” that should not be under-estimated even if they are no longer politically correct.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Helena P. Schrader is the author of numerous works of history and historical fiction.  She holds a PhD in History from the University of Hamburg.  The first book in a three-part biographical novel of Balian d’Ibelin, who defended Jerusalem against Saladin in 1187 and was later one of Richard I’s envoys to Saladin, is now available for sale.  Read more at: http://helenapschrader.com or follow Helena’s blogs: Schrader’s Historical Fiction and Defending the Crusader Kingdoms.


Knight of Jerusalem
       A landless knight,
                   a leper king,
                              and the struggle for Jerusalem.

A Biographical Novel of Balian d’Ibelin
Book I




Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Joy of Reenactment: Medieval Clothing

By E.M. Powell

As a historical fiction writer, so much research is done through written materials or inanimate objects stored in museums. Such resources are of course marvellous but there is one type of research that is very special in bringing history to life. I am talking of course about reenactment.

Earlier this summer, I was very fortunate in meeting a group of medieval reencators, Historia Normannis. Historia Normannis is a 12th century reenactment group, focusing primarily on the events between the reign of Henry I and King John and they bring history to life in a historically accurate, engaging and exciting way. And not only that, they were unfailingly patient and generous in giving me lots of time and answering innumerable questions.

One of the topics we discussed was the clothing of the period. They had so much valuable information and were very happy to share it via this blog.

Medieval Society

To give an indication of how clothing differed across the classes, the reenactors provided this striking line-up. As we pan from left to right, we first see the peasants with plain or non-dyed clothing. The colours and materials of the clothing become ever more sumptuous and expensive as we rise up the ranks to the right. We end the line with an Earl, the most richly-dressed of all.

Earl in full robes
The fabrics are linen and silk, and his long belt is dyed red. Originally, this would have been genuine ox-blood leather, taking its name from the dye used.

He is bare-headed with no coif or head-covering, as that helps to show his status.


The detail of the embroidery on his mantle shows a lion. But it's a twelfth century lion. Norman lions were depicted with no manes as most people had only ever seen lionesses.
Norman lion

Next we have lesser nobles, still dressed expensively.



To modern eyes, a black cloak may look unremarkable but black dye was costly, coming as it did from the iris root. It would take a whole field of irises to yield enough dye for one cloak. The black favoured by monks was actually more a dark brown, coming from the natural black wool of Welsh sheep.

The length of the cloaks may look impractical but were designed to shield the wearer from the weather. Worn when riding a horse, only the head got wet. The lanolin in the wool would have acted as a water repellent.

I also got to try one on (no, no pictures!) and they are incredibly heavy.

Again, the details are so beautifully done.





And  noblewomen of course also displayed their high status through their clothing.

Noblewomen's dress

The woman on the left wears a linen and not a wool dress. The colour is lighter as linen takes up dye less than wool. Blues and purples (from woad and clam shell dye/murex) were among the most expensive, with murex costing more than gold. Both women are wearing clothes that use colour contrast to add to their striking appearance. Necklines are high, with dresses laced tight at either side to follow the curves of a woman's body.

Their dresses have pendulum sleeves, which were a favourite fashion of noblewomen. The design was a way of demonstrating wealth (as the sleeves used extra fabric) as well as demonstrating that the wearer did not engage in any kind of manual work.


Again we see that she has a thick, beautifully decorated cloak. Her wimple, secured with a decorated pin, is white. All wimples were white as it demonstrated purity.She also has a hefty set of keys on her belt along with her Pater Noster beads.The keys suggest she has been left in charge of the estate by her husband, which occurred frequently.

Historia Normannis's sweetest reenactor!

One of the most junior reenactors was willing to be included too!

She a little bemused by the woman in hiking boots and raincoat asking her lots of questions. But she was so charming and polite, and I think she wins a special prize for utterly looking the part.

Still charming and polite (but perhaps not quite so sweet!), came our knights.

Mercenary knights

These  two would be considered mercenaries. They would own their chain mail, a horse, a shield and a sword and their ambition would be to try and serve in a household, thus guaranteeing them a living.

Set of armour and weapons
Chain mail of course gives protection against a blade and is flexible when fighting in. Well, I say flexible. I tried to pick up the mail coat in the picture and could hardly get it off the ground!

With full armour weighing in at about four stone, I guess flexibility is subjective. I was assured by the reenactors that one develops muscles to cope with wearing it. Mail of course didn't protect against blows, and men could suffer massive bruising in battle.

Mail also picked up all sorts of unmentionable debris in battle, ground into the small metal links. It was the unenviable task of a squire to clean it using only a barrel of sand.

And last, but not least, for he was doing an awful lot of the actual work, we have our peasant.

Peasant

He is dressed in his rough, plain-dyed wool, with his coif or hood to protect him against all weathers. One suspects he was probably a bit muddier in real life, but even so, his contrast to the wealth of the nobles could not be more stark.

It was a fascinating day and such an opportunity to get up close and personal with history. Historia Normannis are such a welcoming and enthusiastic group. You can find out more about them and see many more fascinating pictures of them in action at http://www.normannis.co.uk/wp/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

E.M. Powell is the author of The Fifth Knight, a medieval thriller based on the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.

The sequel, The Blood of The Fifth Knight, will be released by Thomas & Mercer on December 09 2014.

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.ca

Visit her website at www.empowell.com

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Flanders Campaign

by David Cook

"The hardest thing of all for a soldier is to retreat." - Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington.

The Flanders Campaign of 1793-1795 was conducted during the first years of the French Revolutionary War by the allied states of the First Coalition and the French First Republic. Europe was a patchwork of kingdoms, principalities and provinces and France wanted to spread its ideals of liberty and equality. The allied aim was to invade France by mobilising its armies along the French frontiers to bully the new republic into submission.

Prince Frederick, Duke of York
In the north, the allies’ immediate aim was to expel the French from the Dutch Republic and the Austrian Netherlands, then march directly to Paris. Britain invested a million pounds to finance the Austrians and Prussians. Twenty thousand British troops under George III’s younger son, Prince Frederick, the Duke of York, were eventually tied up in the campaign.

Henry Dundas
Austrian Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg was in overall command, but answered directly to Emperor Francis II, while the Duke of York was given objectives set by William Pitt the Younger’s War Secretary, Henry Dundas. Thus, from the outset, mixed political machinations and ignorance hindered the operation.

The French armies, on the other-hand, also suffered. Many from the old royalist officer class had emigrated following the revolution, which left the cavalry severely undermanned and those officers that remained were fearful of being watched by the representatives. The price of failure or disloyalty was the guillotine. After the Battle of Hondschoote, September 1793, the British and Hanoverians under the Duke of York were defeated by General Houchard and General Jourdan. Houchard was arrested for treason for failing to organise a pursuit and guillotined.

By the spring of 1793, the French had virtually marched into the Dutch Republic and Austrian Netherlands unopposed. In May, the British won a victory at Famars and then followed up the success for the siege of Valenciennes. However, instead of concentrating their forces, the allies dispersed in an attempt to mop up the scattered French outposts. The French re-organised and combined their troops into larger corps. Dundas requested the Duke of York to lay siege to Dunkirk who had to abandon it after a severe mauling at Hondschoote.

By the end of the year the allied forces were now thinly stretched. The Duke of York was unable to support the Austrians and Prussians because of supply problems, and because Dundas was withdrawing regiments to re-assign them to the West Indies.

Map of the campaign, early 1794.
The allies (red) display their battle lines stretched over a wide area.

The French counter-offensive in the spring of the following year smashed apart the fragile allied lines. The Austrian command broke down as Francis II called for an immediate withdrawal. After the Battle of Fleurus, the defeated Austrians abandoned their century long hold of the Netherlands to retreat north towards Brussels. The loss of the Austrian support and the Prussians (who had also fallen back) led to the campaign’s collapse.

The Battle of Boxtel in September was a minor incident during the Allied retreat and is chiefly remembered for being the first time Arthur Wesley, (before changing his surname to Wellesley), saw action.

In the aftermath of Fleurus, the Austrians had begun to pull back east towards the line of the Rhine, abandoning any hope of recovering the Netherlands. This forced the British, German and Dutch troops to also retreat, where they destroyed bridges, redoubts and places where the French might use for their advantage.

Colonel Arthur Wesley, 33rd Foot
General Jean-Charles Pichegru, with the French Army of the North, advanced towards the British outpost at Boxtel, a town near the River Dommel, which had the only unspoiled bridge in the area. On the 14th the French captured the town after three hours of musket fire with Hessian troops with the aid of Dutch sympathisers. The Duke of York decided to send General Ralph Abercromby to retrieve the situation and protect the British rear-guard. Abercromby was given ten infantry battalions and ten cavalry squadrons, with the infantry made up of the Guards Brigade and the 3rd Brigade. This second brigade contained four infantry battalions; amongst them was Wesley’s own 33rd Foot. As the senior colonel present, he was given command of the brigade, while Lieutenant-Colonel John Sherbrooke, had command of the regiment.

Sir John Sherbrooke
At seven o’clock on the morning of the 15th, as veils of silver mist hung over the damp fields and dykes, the British force hurried to retake the town. It soon became abundantly clear that they were in danger of running into Pichegru’s main force and would be overwhelmed and outflanked by superior numbers. Abercromby ordered a withdrawal. When French infantry and cavalry charged the British, the retreat threatened to turn into a rout. The situation was saved by the iron resolve of the 33rd Foot’s commander – Sir John Sherbrooke. The battalion formed up into line and fired a series of disciplined volleys that shattered the French – so devastating was the fire that they were forced to retreat. Wesley was not directly responsible for their good behaviour, it was Sherbrooke, but he was overlooked and Wesley was given much of the credit that continues (in error) even to this day.

Drawing of the battle
Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

Plaque commemorating Boxtel at the site
The origins of the term ‘Tommy Atkins’ as a nickname for the British soldier is said to have originated during this fight. It is a name, perhaps today, that conjures in the mind images of the British soldier during the First World War, certainly not from an obscure clash in 1794. It is said that Wesley spotted amongst the wounded a soldier of the 33rd with a long service history. He was dying of three wounds; a sabre slash to his head, a bayonet thrust in his chest, and a bullet in a lung. The wounded private looked up at the colonel and said "It’s alright sir. It’s all in a day’s work". He then died. His name was Thomas Atkins, and his valour is said to have left an impression on the future Duke of Wellington. This may explain why the War Office chose the name ‘Tommy Atkins’ as a representative name in 1815. The Soldier’s Hand Book issued that year for both the cavalry and infantry uses the name as a generic soldier, and Wellington certainly gave his concurrence.

The term was used quite widely, and indeed rather contemptuously, in the mid-19th century. Rudyard Kipling sums this up in his poem ‘Tommy’, one of his Barrack-Room Ballards (1892) in which he contrasts the unkind way in which the common soldier was treated in peace time with the way he was praised as soon as he was needed to defend or fight for his country. ‘Tommy’, written from the soldier’s point of view, raised the public’s awareness of the need for a change of attitude towards the common soldier.
A much earlier origin can be traced back to as early as 1745 when a letter was sent from Jamaica concerning a mutiny, and when it was put down, it was mentioned that "Tommy Atkins behaved splendidly".

By the autumn, The Duke of York had been replaced by Sir William Harcourt, but with rumoured peace talks, the British position looked increasingly vulnerable. The only allied success of that year was that of the ‘Glorious First of June’, when Britain’s Lord Howe defeated a French naval squadron in the Atlantic, sinking one and capturing six French ships.

The winter of 1794 was one of the worst any one had ever imagined. Rivers froze, men died in their sleep, disease was rampant, and the soldier’s uniforms fell apart. It was an extremely harsh winter, mainly because the army was starving due to the collapsed commissariat. Troops started to steal from the local inhabitants. The officers were too lazy or indifferent to control them, and discipline amongst some units broke down completely.

By the spring of 1795, the British reached the allied Hanoverian port of Bremen and arrived home, weak, ill and emaciated. Some never fully recovered.

The Flanders Campaign demonstrated a series of weaknesses within the British Army. The Duke of York was given the role as Commander-in-Chief and brought forth a programme of reform, and it created the professional army that was to fight with much success throughout the Peninsular War.

The allies abandoned the Low Countries. Britain did attempt to undertake a second invasion of the newly proclaimed Batavian Republic until 1799 under The Duke of York, but it faltered and proved disastrous.

Notoriously, a children’s rhyme about the Holland campaign mocked the leadership of the Duke of York:

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down

However, there is another satirical verse attributed to Richard Tarlton, and so was adapted where possible, the latest ‘victim’ being The Duke of York. The oldest version of the song dates from 1642:

The King of France with forty thousand men,
came up the hill and so came downe againe.

Many officers who would continue to serve their countries received their baptism of fire on the fields of Flanders. The Austrian Archduke Charles fought in Flanders, as did several of Napoleon’s marshals: Jourdan, Ney, Murat, Mortier and Bernadotte. The Prussian General Sharnhorst, another great reformer of the Napoleonic Wars, saw battle under the Duke of York.

The one good thing to come out of that debacle was that it created Britain’s professional army that was to fight with much success throughout the Peninsular War, into France and which ultimately ‘Tommy Atkins’ played a part in defeating Napoleon at Waterloo.

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David Cook’s new novella Blood on the Snow, about the British retreat during the Flanders Campaign, will be available on Amazon, Smashwords and CreateSpace from the 27th September. For more information, please visit his Facebook page ‘Liberty or Death’.

Madness, Melancholy and Medicine, pt 2

On the Treatment of Nervous Disorders


by Maria Grace

Charpentier, Constance Marie - Melancholy - 1801 The early 19th century saw an epidemic rise in nervous disorders. Thought to be maladies of affluence and sophistication, doctors, surgeons and apothecaries rushed in to provide relief to a suffering and often monied clientele, so much so that after doctors started taking nervous disorders seriously, everyone seemed to be taking medication for them, outdoing each other with exaggerated symptoms and buying an array of medical equipment to deal with them. How strangely 21st century it all sounds.

Doctors did not agree as to the cause of nervous conditions.  Some, like Tennet, argued the stomach was at core of the disorder. Others, including Buchan believed the causes more complex.  Indolence and other things that relaxed or weakened the body like drinking tea, frequent bleeding or purging could lead to nervous disorders. While those things which hurt digestion could contribute to the problem, unfavorable postures of the body and intense application to study were equally likely to cause difficulties. 

The symptoms of nervous disorders were often thought to begin in the stomach, considered the center of the nervous system. These symptoms might be accompanied by difficulty breathing; violent palpitations of the heart, sudden flushes or a sense of cold in various parts of the body, pains throughout the body, variable pulse, fits of crying and convulsive laughing, poor sleep and night-mares. 

Progression of the disease would bring headaches, body cramps, mental disturbances including terror, sadness, weak memory and failure of judgment. 

Treatments for Nervous conditions


In many ways, the recommended treatments for nervous disorders were quite progressive. They included a multipronged approach that included diet, exercise, and adjustments of daily routine as well as medication. 

Since digestive troubles were considered a large contributor to nervous disorders, careful attention to diet was a major part of treatment.  “Persons afflicted with nervous diseases ought never to fast long. Their food should be solid and nourishing, but of easy digestion. Fat meats, and heavy sauces, are hurtful. All excess should be carefully avoided. …Wine and water is a very proper drink at meals: but if wine sours on the stomach, or the patient is much troubled with wind, brandy and water will answer better…All weak and warm liquors are hurtful, as tea, coffee, punch, &c. People may find a temporary relief in the use of these, but they always increase the malady, as they weaken the stomach and hurt digestion.” (Buchan)

As some doctors argue today, exercise was seen as superior to all medicines. Horseback riding and walking were considered ideal, but simply being quick about one’s business and active in their chores was recommended as well. When these were too much, even riding in a carriage could produce beneficial effect.

“A change of place, and the sight of new objects, by diverting the mind, has a great tendency to remove these complaints. For this reason a long journey, or a voyage, is of much more advantage than riding short journeys near home. Long sea voyages have an excellent effect; and to those who can afford to take them, and have sufficient resolution, we would by all means recommend this course.” (Buchan)

Patients were also advised to avoid great fires and seek cool dry air to brace and invigorate the body, though chills were to be avoided. Regular cold baths as well as frequently rubbing the body with a special brush, or a coarse linen cloth should be incorporated into the patient’s routine. Further, “they ought likewise to be diverted, and to be kept as easy and cheerful as possible. There is not anything which hurts the nervous system, or weakens the digestive powers, more than fear, grief, or anxiety.” (Buchan)

Though not seen as actual cures, a number of medicines might be recommended to render the patient’s life more comfortable. Mild purgatives to relieve constipation were recommended as were elixirs to improve digestion and strength the stomach.

Though laudanum was easily available, doctors cautioned against their overuse as opiates “only palliate the symptoms, and generally afterwards increase the disease (and) habit render them at last absolutely necessary.” 

Multiple forms of nervous conditions were recognized including: melancholy, nightmare, swoons, low spirits, hysteric affections and hypochondriac affections. Practioners recommended a unique approach to treatment for each disorder though they were all considered modifications of the same basic disease.

 OF MELANCHOLY


Melancholy was considered a state of insanity that rendered an individual incapable of enjoying the pleasures or performing normal duties of life and might terminate in absolute madness.

To ameliorate melancholy, a patient’s diet should consist of cooling and opening foods. This meant primarily a fruit and vegetable diet, avoiding animal proteins, including fish and shell fish. Onions and garlic were to be avoided as they ‘generate thick blood.’ Melancholic patients should avoid strong liquors of every kind, coffee and tea, instead drinking water, whey or small beer.

Open air exercises of all kinds were recommended to “dissolve the viscid humours, … remove obstructions, promote the perspiration, and all the other secretions.”  (Buchan) In contrast, confinement to a closed room would be the very worst thing for the patient.

A patient’s companions could play a key role in his or her improvement by providing the melancholic with a variety of amusements, entertaining stories, pastimes and music. Music in particular was considered highly efficacious.

Since suppression of ‘customary evacuations’, hard digestion or dryness of the brain were physical factors that contributed to a case of melancholy, medical interventions focused on keeping the body open and evacuating.  Bleeding was often employed as a means of evacuation.

Purging medicines as well as those which increased urine or perspiration were often prescribed for days, weeks or even months at a time. External applications such as blistering ointments and warm baths might also be used.

Of Low Spirits


Physicians of the era believed that those with weak nerves were likely to experience some degree of low spirits, a disturbance much like melancholy, but less severe. Symptoms could include sleeplessness, headaches, indigestion and loss of appetite. These would be exacerbated by solitude and gloomy thoughts.

Treatment for low spirits depended on the suspected cause.  Generous diets, cold baths, exercise, cheerful company and good amusements were thought to be the best medicine overall.  When the stomach or bowels were involved, infusions of Peruvian bark with cinnamon or nutmeg, or purges might be used.  When suppression of menstrual or of the hemorrhoidal flux was suspected, bleeding, blistering or other similar approach was called for.

Those with low spirits were cautioned against the use of too much alcohol, “as the unfortunate and melancholy often fly to strong liquors for relief, by which means they never fail to precipitate their own destruction.” (Buchan) 

Of Hypochondriac Affections


Those of melancholy temperament were the most susceptible to hypochondriac attacks in which “the worst consequences imagined from any unusual feeling even of the slightest kind; and in respect to such apprehensions and feelings, there is always the most obstinate believe and persuasion.” (Perkins) Physical symptoms tended to cluster around digestive upsets, and vague physical discomforts.

The hypochondriac patient should enjoy a solid and nourishing diet, avoiding windy vegetables. Flesh meats were highly recommended, the claret or madeira to wash them down. Every kind of exercise and cold bathing were considered beneficial as were long travels to warmer climates.

Medicines for this disease focused on strengthening the alimentary canal and promoting secretions. Thus the recommendation for “gentle opening medicine, [such] as pills composed of equal parts of aloes, rhubarb, and asafœtida, with as much of the elixir proprietatis as is necessary to form the ingredients into pills. Two, three, or four of these may be taken as often as it shall be found needful, to keep the body gently open. Such as cannot bear the asafœtida may substitute Spanish soap in its place.” (Buchan) 

Of Hysteric Affections


Women, who were considered particularly delicate, were thought to be most susceptible to hysterical complaints. These included fits or laughter or crying, fainting, convulsions, low spirits, anxiety, heart palpations and cramps throughout the body.

Treatment of this disease sought first to shorten the fit, then to prevent their return. Strong patients might be bled during a fit.  Weaker ones required more gentle methods to end the spell. 

Strong smells, hot bricks to the bottoms of the feet, placing the feet and legs into hot water or strong rubbing on the legs, arms or belly might be used to bring a patient back from a paroxysm.

Practioners recommended a milk and vegetable diet, with water to drink, supplemented by a small quantity of spirits, to help cure an individual of their fits.  Additionally cold bathing and everything ‘bracing’ and that kept the mind easy and cheerful was encouraged.

Family and friends were cautioned not to offer too much sympathy for these spells lest they inadvertently excite further episodes. Young ladies who experienced hysterical fits were advised to avoid boarding schools when the disease may be caught by imitation.

Medicines to strengthen the alimentary canal, as described above, were considered appropriate for hysterical affections as well. Vomits and opening medicines were sometimes recommended. Interestingly, opium was prescribed in this case, orally, applied externally or even given in clysters.

 Of the Night-mare


Nightmares were thought to result from indigestion. Some recommended a dram of brandy before bed which was thought to prevent the problem.  Others thought it a poor custom and that foods easy to digest, cheerfulness, exercise and a light supper, early in the evening were better interventions.

If something more was needed, a glass of peppermint-water was recommended in place of the brandy.  And for young people ‘full of blood’, frequent purging could be particularly useful.


References

Buchan, William. Domestic Medicine: Or, A Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines, 11th ed., (1790)
Parissien, Steven. Regency Style. Phaidon Press Limited (2000)
Perkins, John. Every Woman Her Own House-keeper; Or, the Ladies’ Library. James Ridgeway: London (1790)
Sales, Roger. Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England. Routledge (1994)
Shoemaker, Robert B. Gender in English Society 1650-1850 Pearson Education Limited (1998)
Tennet, John . Every Man his own Doctor: or, The Poor Planter's Physician, Williamsburg, VA, (1736).
The Home Book of Health and Medicine. Philadelphia: Key and Biddle. (1834)
Wilson, Ben. The Making of Victorian Values, Decency & Dissent in Britain: 1789-1837 The Penguin Press (2007)
Wiltshire, John - Contrib. to Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge University Press (2005)

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 Maria Grace is the author of Darcy's Decision,  The Future Mrs. Darcy, All the Appearance of Goodness, and Twelfth Night at Longbourn and Remember the PastClick here to find her books on Amazon. For more on her writing and other Random Bits of Fascination, visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook, follow on Twitter or email her.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Victorian Era English Forklore Legend: Spring Heeled Jack

by Regina Jeffers

As a native West Virginian, I grew up on the Mothman prophecies, the story line behind the 2002 movie of the same name, which was intermixed with the unexplained collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The Mothman was a legendary “Devil-like” creature, who made himself known to many of the town’s people – some claiming the ten-foot moth-like man was an alien. Naturally, when I came across a similar Victorian Era legend, I was completely fascinated by the concept.


The first claim of a sighting of Spring-heeled Jack came in 1837 in Sheffield, England. The last reported sighting is said to have been in Liverpool in 1904. An entity of English folklore, “Jack” has made appearances in much of Great Britain, including Scotland. Reportedly, a girl by the name of Mary Stevens was returning to her employment in the Lavender Hill area after having spent time with her parents in Battersea. Passing through Clapham Common, the girl was accosted by a strange figure who leapt at her from a dark alley. According to Miss Stevens, the man held her in a tight grip and kissed her face. He also ripped her clothes and pawed at her with claws as cold as those of a corpse. Her attacker fled when she screamed. Residents could find no such attacker when they searched the area.

The same man supposedly attacked a second woman on the following day, very near to Miss Stevens’ attack. Eventually, the legend changed: the attacker would jump in front of a passing carriage, frightening the coachman and the horses and causing the coachman injury. He would then make his escape over a wall while babbling with a high-pitched laughter. The press labeled the “man” Spring-heeled Jack.

“The attacker was tall and thin, had pointed ears and fiery eyes, and wore a cloak. He tore at his female victims’ clothes and ripped their flesh with hands that felt like iron. When he escaped, he did not run; he bounced away. Those who saw his feet swore he had springs in his boot heels.” (Science: Spring-heeled Jack


On 9 January 1838, Sir John Cowan, the Lord Mayor of London, revealed an anonymous complaint at a public session held in the Mansion House. The correspondent, who signed the letter “a resident of Peckham,” wrote…

“It appears that some individuals (of, as the writer believes, the highest ranks of life) have laid a wager with a mischievous and foolhardy companion, that he durst not take upon himself the task of visiting many of the villages near London in three different disguises – a ghost, a bear, and a devil; and moreover, that he will not enter a gentleman’s gardens for the purpose of alarming the inmates of the house. The wager, has, however, been accepted, and the unmanly villain has succeeded in depriving seven ladies of their senses, two of whom are not likely to recover, but to become burdens to their families.

“At one house the man rang the bell, and on the servant coming to open the door, this worse than brute stood in no less dreadful figure than a spectre clad most perfectly. The consequence was that the poor girl immediately swooned, and has never from that moment been in her senses.

“The affair has now been going on for some time, and, strange to say, the papers are still silent on the subject. The writer has reason to believe that they have the whole history at their finger-ends but, through interested motives, are induced to remain silent.” (Simpson, Jacqueline. Spring-Heeled Jack (leaflet, January 2001) International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.)


The matter was reported in The Times on 9 January, with other newsprints following in the next week. The Lord Mayor received a large number of letters with reports of similar pranks. Stories from Hammersmith, Kensington, Ealing, Camberwell, Vauxhall, Brixton, Stockwell, Lewisham, and Blackheath poured in. The Brighton Gazette printed a like story in April 1838.

Similar entities have been reported around the world. In Chile, one finds “La Viuda” or “the widow.” The Spring Man of Prague, Pérák, is spoken of in Czechoslovakia. Other names include Krampus, London Monster, Owlman, Jiangshi, and Jersey Devil.

“In 1808, a letter to the editor of the Sheffield Times recounted how ‘Years ago a famous Ghost walked and played many pranks in this historic neighbourhood.’ The writer went on to identify this entity as the ‘Park Ghost or Spring Heeled Jack,’ and briefly described its ability to take enormous leaps and frighten random passers-by, but concluded, ‘He was a human ghost as he ceased to appear when a certain number of men came with guns and sticks to test his skin.’”  (The Legend of Spring Heeled Jack

Two teenage girls were likely the most famous of the victims. Jane Alsop claimed to have answered her father’s door on the evening of 19 February 1838 to a man claiming to be a police officer. Foolishly, she followed the officer to the adjoining lane because he had requested she provide him a light as part of his investigation. Instead, the “officer” threw off the cloak he wore. The girl reported that the man vomited blue and white flames, and his eyes were upon fire. She also said he wore a large helmet and a white oilskin. He tore her gown with his claws, as well as leaving marks upon her neck and arms. The sudden appearance of one of her sisters sent the attacker fleeing from the scene.

Lucy Scales and her sister were approached some eight days later. They were returning home from a visit with their brother, a butcher in Limehouse. As the girls passed Green Dragon Alley, a man in a large cloak spit blue flames in her face, which deprived Lucy of her sight and brought on violent fits. Their brother heard the screams and came to his sisters’ rescues. The difference from the Scales’ report was Lucy claimed the attacker was tall, thin, and gentlemanly in his appearance.

The Times boasted a headline reading “The Late Outrage At Old Ford” on 2 March 1838. It was a report on the Jane Alsop attack. One Thomas Millbank had bragged to his drinking buddies at the Morgan’s Arms that he was Spring-heeled Jack. Millbank was immediately arrested and tried at Lambeth Street court. The arresting officer was James Lea, who had earlier arrested William Corder, the Red Barn Murderer. (See my article on The Red Barn Murder for more details.) Millbank was shown to have been wearing white overalls and a greatcoat on the evening of the attack. The candle he dropped was also located. He escaped conviction only because Alsop swore her attacker breathed fire. Obviously, Millbank could not perform such a “skill.”

Spring-heeled Jack became one of the most popular characters of the Victorian period. He was the subject of several penny dreadfuls, as well as cheap theatricals. In the Punch and Judy shows, the devil was often named “Spring-heeled Jack.” In 1843, a second wave of sightings swept England. Reports of the “devil-like” creature came from Northamptonshire and East Anglia and Teignmouth in Devon. In 1847, Captain Finch was convicted of two charges of assault against women during which his accusers described him as being seen in a disguise with bullock’s hide, a skullcap, horns, and a mask. The legend was linked with the phenomenon of the “Devil’s Footprints,” which appeared in Devon in February 1855. Although sightings have been made into the 1990s, the last major reports came in the 1870s.

No one was ever identified as Spring-heeled Jack. The crimes were never prosecuted. Some believe there must be a logical explanation, while others choose the more fanciful approach. A popular rumor in the 1840s was that “Jack” was an Irish nobleman, the Marquess of Waterford. Waterford was known for his drunken brawls and his vandalism. Reportedly, the marquess was not so beloved by the fairer sex. E. Cobham Brewer, the compiler of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, as well as The Reader’s Handbook, accused Waterford of the stunts, saying the Marquess was known to amuse himself by frightening unaware travelers and others often mimicked Waterford’s efforts. In 1842, the Marquess married and settled in Curraghmore House, County Waterford, and reportedly led an exemplary life until he died in a riding accident in 1859.


“The most recent of a Spring Heeled Jack type creature comes an elementary school in West Surrey. Children only see him there, but they describe him as ‘all black, with red eyes and had a funny all-in-one white suit with badges on it.’ They also said he could run as fast as a car, and would approach dark haired children and tell them ‘I want you.’

“Of course, none of this means Spring Heeled Jack is supernatural, or extra-terrestrial, or anything other than the invention of a few generations of adroit, and lucky, pranksters. Some have claimed that the phenomenon is merely an exaggeration of the activities of an old religious zealot who used to dance on rooftops (i.e., E. C. Brewer). Others have identified possible Jacks: Waterford, a law student named Henry Hawkins, and somebody well connected enough to have a descendant bar the use of his name in connection with the attacks.” (The Legend of Spring Heeled Jack)

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About the Author:

Regina Jeffers is the author of Austen-inspired novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley, Christmas at Pemberley, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, Honor and Hope and The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy. She also writes Regency romances: The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, A Touch of Grace, and The First Wives’ Club. A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, Jeffers serves as a consultant in media literacy. Currently living outside Charlotte, North Carolina, she spends her time with her writing, gardening, and her adorable grandchildren. To learn more of Regina's books or her personal appearances visit her website. www.rjeffers.com