Thursday, August 17, 2017

Beowulf: The Mound and the Dragon

By Mark Patton.

In earlier blog-posts, I explored the survival of the Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf, and the likely contexts for the poem's performance in the mead-halls of Anglo-Saxon royal courts. Kim Rendfeld has also discussed the origins of the two monsters that the eponymous hero has to defeat in the early stages of the poem, Grendel and his terrifying mother. These early conflicts represent a rite of passage that rulers in the real world of the early Middle Ages had to go through as they came of age. Beowulf is of royal blood, but must prove himself in battle before he can take his rightful place as his father's heir: a king who could not deliver victory in battle was not a king worthy of the title at all.

In the final section of the poem, however, Beowulf is, in his own right, King of the Geats (a people who lived in part of what is now Sweden), a successful warrior and respected ruler. One might think that he had nothing more to prove, but that's not how early Medieval kingship worked: a king always had something to prove, and the final proof was that of his own mortality, something that hangs particularly heavily over Beowulf and his people, since he has no son or heir to succeed him.

Beowulf's last encounter is with a different sort of monster, a dragon:

" ... the wide kingdom reverted to Beowulf. He ruled it well
for fifty winters, grew old and wise
as warden of the land
until one began
to dominate the dark, a dragon on the prowl
from the steep vaults of a stone-roofed barrow
where he guarded a hoard; there was a hidden passage,
unknown to men, but someone managed
to enter by it and interfere
with the heathen trove. He had handled and removed
a gem-studded goblet; it gained him nothing,
though with a thief's wiles he had outwitted
the sleeping dragon; that drove him into rage,
as the people of that country would soon discover."
(Translation by Seamus Heaney).

The awakened dragon wreaks vengeance on the entire community, and, although he was not the thief, it is Beowulf's duty, as protector of his people, to deal with it, even at the cost of his own life.

The "barrow" is recognisable as a burial mound, thousands of years older than the Seventh or Eighth Century poem. Since it is in Scandinavia, it is probably a Neolithic "passage grave," built by early farming people between five and six thousand years ago, but the "long-barrows" of England and Wales are of similar antiquity and significance.

The "passage grave" of Tustrup, Denmark. Photo: Malene Thyssen (licensed under GNU).

The "long barrow" of Wayland's Smithy, Oxfordshire. Photo: Dick Bauch (licensed under CCA). Wayland the Smith is a figure from Anglo-Saxon and Nordic mythology, so the monument must have been known to the contemporaries of the Beowulf poet. 

Although the Stone Age people who built these monuments had no knowledge of metal-working, objects of bronze and gold were sometimes placed in them by later people, either as ritual offerings or for safekeeping. There are also individual burial mounds, "round barrows," built during the Bronze Age, three to four thousand years ago, both in England and Scandinavia.

"Round barrows" on the Dorset Ridgeway. Photo: Jim Champion (licensed under CCA).

For the people of the Middle Ages, prehistoric burial mounds (whether "passage graves," "long barrows," or "round barrows") were distinctive features of the landscape, places of mystery and fear, but also places where a man, if he were brave enough, might dig in search of treasure.

The Rillaton gold cup dates to the Bronze Age (1700-1500 BC), and was found in a "round barrow" in Cornwall. Photo: Fae (licensed under CCA).

The Ringlemere gold cup is of similar antiquity (it may even have been made by the same goldsmith), and was found on a site in Kent where Anglo-Saxon burial mounds sit alongside those of the Bronze Age. Photo: Dominic Coyne (licensed under CCA).

The "passage grave" of Maes Howe, on the Mainland of Orkney, provides a remarkable parallel to the story of Beowulf. The Orkneyinga Saga tells how, in the year 1153, a party of Norsemen entered the monument, and took refuge there: "On the thirteenth day of Christmas they traveled on foot over to Firth. During a snowstorm they took shelter in Maeshowe, and two of his men went insane, which slowed them down badly, so that, by the time they reached Firth, it was night time."

The "passage grave" of Maes Howe. Photo: Tim Bekaert (image is in the Public Domain).

The archaeological evidence shows that Maes Howe really was entered, on at least one occasion, by Medieval Norsemen, who carved runic inscriptions on the stone walls. Some of these are timeless and predictable graffiti: "Inigerth is the most beautiful of all women ... Thorni f****d, Helgi carved." Others, however, refer to treasure: "Crusaders broke into Maeshowe: Lif, the Earl's cook, carved these runes. To the north-west is a great treasure hidden. It was long ago that a great treasure was hidden here. Happy is he that might find that great treasure. Hakon alone bore treasure from this mound, signed, Simon Sirith."

Runic inscriptions at Maes Howe. Photo: Islandhopper (licensed under GNU).

The"dragon" of Maes Howe. Image: Islandhopper (licensed under GNU).

There is even a picture of a dragon. Was it fear of this that drove later intruders insane? Did Hakon and Simon Sirith really find treasure, or had their imaginations been ignited by an oral performance of Beowulf, or a similar poem? Might it really still have been being performed (almost certainly in another language - Old Norse, rather than Anglo-Saxon), five centuries after it was composed, and one hundred and fifty years after the only written version to have survived was placed in a monastic library? Neither history nor archaeology provide definitive answers to these questions, but fiction can travel where the historian and archaeologist cannot go.

"Conversation with Smaug," by J.R.R. Tolkien ("The Hobbit"). Tolkien, who taught Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, and translated "Beowulf," drew extensively on the poem, and on the tradition to which it belongs, in his own fictional writing (image reproduced under fair usage protocols). 

Mark Patton blogs regularly on aspects of history and historical fiction at He is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books can be purchased from Amazon.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Introducing that Amazing Man, William Pitt the Younger ~ Part II

by Jacqui Reiter

Please cast your minds back to 24 November 2013, when I introduced (or re-introduced) you to the Right Honourable William Pitt the Younger and began explaining to you why you should find him worth the trouble of studying. I have already discussed his youth, his intelligence and his humanity. Today I will bring my explanations to a close.

He defied expectations

Pitt was proverbial for his honesty. This was a time when most politicians were happy to cream off every last financial perk they could, and were indeed half expected to do so. Pitt infused the posts of First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer with a fresh sense of responsibility.

One of the first things he did on taking office was to turn down the lucrative sinecure of Clerk of the Pells. He later turned down the Garter as well. He did accept the Lord Wardenship of the Cinque Ports in 1792, but only after the King told him he'd take a refusal as a personal insult.[1]

This had a lot to do with Pitt's determination not to be anyone's plaything, even the King's. It's no accident that, when Pitt resigned in March 1801, he did so on an issue (extending the political freedoms of Catholics and other non-Anglicans) with which the King vehemently disagreed.

Pitt was no doctrinaire. He described himself early on as an 'independent Whig'[2] and showed a lifelong reluctance to commit himself to political absolutes (apart, of course, from the admiration for the Glorious Revolution and its religious and political settlement that was sine qua non for any ambitious 18th century politician).

He was an admirer of Adam Smith and formed many of his financial policies on a laissez-faire basis, but when things went wrong he was not afraid to depart from Smith's ideas. In 1800, for example, the harvest failed and Britain was on the brink of famine. Pitt outraged many of his more rigid followers by recommending the importation of grain from abroad to relieve the scarcity.

Politically he was creative enough. Many of his more famous ideas were lifted from others, but crucially Pitt made them work. You can blame him for the first Income Tax in 1798, which helped raise much-needed funds for the war with France despite being criticised as an unprecedented attack on personal property. The newest thing about it-- and I'm not sure this happened again until 1992-- was that the monarch was also taxed.

The forging of the United Kingdom and its new parliament after the union with Ireland in 1801 involved startling corruption but also significant administrative change. Less obvious was Pitt's review of the way government departments were run. These were made more accountable, stripped of excess staff and slim-lined in a way that laid the foundations for 19th century bureaucracy.

And of course Pitt was capable of breaking the rules in a literal sense. During a debate in Parliament in 1798 he accused a member of the opposition, George Tierney, of obstructing the defence of the country. Tierney challenged Pitt to a duel, and Pitt accepted. Thankfully both parties emerged unscathed. but it's just another of those unexpected little details that makes Pitt so interesting.

He is a mystery

For someone so famous there is much about Pitt that is simply not known, starting with his own opinions on major matters and working down from there. Like many politicians Pitt was cagey about taking a stand and was rarely categorical on the 'big issues' such as parliamentary reform, abolition of the slave trade, abolition of political restrictions based on religious beliefs, and so on. His political pronouncements were so woolly that, after his death, his heirs could trace arguments for and against all the above issues to him. 19th century Liberals and Conservatives both traced their ancestry to Pitt, and both were in some degree right to do so.

Part of the problem is the lack of primary evidence. Some of this is due to Pitt himself. He was a notoriously bad correspondent. His friends despaired of him. 'I called [at Downing Street] in hopes of seeing you, for you are so bad a correspondent that nothing can be made of you by Letter,' one wrote in 1796.[3] Pitt's own mother complained she had to hear about him from mutual friends.[4]

But there is more to it than Pitt's laziness. He certainly left a lot more behind him than now exists. One of his executors was his old friend and former Cambridge tutor George Pretyman-Tomline, Bishop of Lincoln, who later also wrote a (dreadful) biography of Pitt.

Pitt was barely cold in the grave before Tomline went through his papers and 'indulged in an orgy of devastation which ensured that nothing of the slightest personal significance ... remained to posterity'.[5] This is Reason Number 1, and there are more, why Tomline's portrait will always be at the centre of my dartboard.

Tomline was not alone; several of Pitt's friends, for example Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth, destroyed material in their possession as well. Quite why is hard to say as the material obviously no longer exists, but it means that much of Pitt's private life and public opinions have to be guessed at from the little that remains.

It's really, really annoying for historians, but a perfect boon for novelists. I am surprised so few novelists have taken up the challenge of filling in the blanks. (No, I'm not the first, and I hope I won't be the last either!)

He is relevant

A historical character can be interesting, but in my opinion they only become important historically when what they achieved resonates across the centuries. Pitt, I think, definitely qualifies.

If you will pardon the cliché, Pitt lived in turbulent times. He entered Parliament at the end of the war with revolutionary America, when only a quarter of a million adult males had the vote and the movement for Parliamentary Reform was in full swing. He was later prime minister when reform returned to the fore of the agenda in the shadow of the French Revolution.

Pitt initially supported reform. He introduced three private reform bills in the early 1780s, one as prime minister. All failed. By the time the French Revolution broke out he'd changed his mind and argued that wartime was not the opportunity for reform. He had never been anything but a cautious reformer and clamped down hard on radicalism. For this reason he is mostly remembered as an enemy of the reform movement.

His quashing of popular reform movements in the 1790s in particular earned him a fearsome reputation in some 20th century historiographical circles. Some historians still talk about 'Pitt's Terror', and a book was recently published drawing parallels between Pitt's anti-reform measures and post-9/11 American and British intrusions into personal privacy.[6]

This does not make him any the less influential. The fact that his political acts in the 1790s still resonate today suggests the opposite. And in any case Pitt made a more lasting mark in other areas. He was the friend of William Wilberforce, and helped him galvanise the movement for abolishing the slave trade.

Abolition was not achieved until after Pitt's death, and for a variety of reasons he was not able to make it an official government measure. It was he, however, who first suggested Wilberforce take up the cause in Parliament, and it was Pitt himself who first moved it on Wilberforce's behalf. He continued to support it throughout his life.

Others of Pitt's measures were of great practical importance. For better or for worse, the Act of Union with Ireland in 1801-- passed by Pitt's government-- changed the political complexion of the British Isles completely. We are still (... just about!) the United Kingdom today, so it's safe to say Pitt's policy-making had a lasting impact.

I have no intention of going into the political complexities of the above-mentioned issues here. Reams have been written on the subject. What I want to say is that Pitt was a leading figure in a time of profound change and his actions mattered. He will always be interesting. Like him or not, I trust you will at least concede his importance.

And finally...So there you have it: six reasons why Pitt the Younger is worth your time of day. I hope that my enthusiasm has been catchy, and that any of you who began reading these entries with questions about who Pitt was, or why he is interesting, have now had those questions answered.

I hope, too, that I have whetted your appetite for more. Should you choose to expand your knowledge I would advise you to consult any or all of the following:

John Derry, William Pitt (B.T. Batsford, 1962)
Michael Duffy, Pitt the Younger (Longmans, 2000)
John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt, 3 vols (Constable, 1969-96)
William Hague, William Pitt, the Younger (Harper Collins, 2004)
Robin Reilly, Pitt the Younger (Cassell, 1978)
J. H. Rose, William Pitt and National Revival and William Pitt and the Great War
Lord RoseberyPitt (1891) 
Earl StanhopeLife of William Pitt, 4 vols (J. Murray, 1861-2) 
Michael J. Turner, Pitt the Younger: A Life (Hambledon and London, 2003) 

[1] Stanhope II, Appendix xv-xvi
[2] Ehrman I, 58
[3] Lord Mulgrave to Pitt, 14 May 1796, Cambridge University Library Pitt MSS f 1961
[4] Holland Rose,
[5] Robin Reilly, Pitt the Younger
[6] Kenneth R. Johnson, Unusual Suspects: Pitt's reign of alarm and the lost generation of the 1790s (OUP 2013)

An EHFA Editor's Choice, originally published December 11, 2013.

Jacqueline Reiter has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She blogs at and you can follow her on Facebook ( or Twitter ( Her first book, The Late Lord: the Life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, was published by Pen & Sword Books in January 2017.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Editors Weekly Round-up, August 13, 2017

by the EHFA Editors

Enjoy this week's articles from the blog.

by Mimi Matthews

by Lauren Gilbert
(Editor's Choice from the Archives)

by Maria Grace

by Susan Appleyard

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Organised Crime in the 14th Century

By Susan Appleyard

When a propertied man died, he usually left the whole kit and kaboodle to his eldest son. Sir John Folville was a respected member of the gentry who had seven sons. The eldest, also Sir John, inherited the property and took little part in his brothers’ nefarious activities. The younger ones had to fend for themselves. There were options, a career in the church being the most popular and one of the brothers, the unlucky Richard, became a member of the clergy. A man who knew how to use a sword – and most of them did – could hire it out; there was always a war going on somewhere in Europe. Another option was outlawry. Like many others of good birth, that was the route to infamy and riches chosen by Eustace Folville and his five brothers.

The church at Teigh were Richard Folville was murdered
The gang’s organisation was not dissimilar to any other business. There was a hierarchy headed by the top man, Eustace, division of labour, recruitment program, maintainers, and laws. Some of the brothers held public office. Richard was the rector of Teigh and the only one to suffer for the gang’s crimes. A local justice of the peace and his officers entered the church, dragged him into the churchyard and beheaded him. Pope Clement ordered the guilty parties to do penance for killing a priest, which involved a whipping at the major churches in the area.

The Folville cross marks the place where
Roger Bellers was murdered
When they were not committing crimes on their own behalf the Folvilles were often hired by other men of rank to commit robbery, extortion and murder. They appear to have been hired by members of Sempringham Priory and Haverholm Abbey. One of their most notable crimes was the murder of the corrupt Roger Bellers, a Baron of the Exchequer, who was said to be a henchman of the infamous Hugh Despenser. Arrest warrants were issued naming, among others, four of the brothers.

Some of the fugitives, including Eustace, fled to France where they joined Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer. When the Queen led an invasion to rid the kingdom of Hugh Despenser, it’s likely the Folvilles returned with her.

The return of Isabella to England
King Edward II issued a general pardon to all who would fight for him, with the sole exceptions of Mortimer and the Folville gang. The invasion was an overwhelming success. Despenser and his father were executed and the King fell into the hands of his wife.  The Folvilles were pardoned by the new regime.

Within a few years of their return, they were up to their old tricks and indictments were issued against them. They did not appear in court to answer the charges but made off to Derbyshire where they rode openly with the Cotterel brothers.

Such reprobates were bound to come to a bad end. Right? Well, no. To start with, they really weren’t all that bad. The ones they killed were considered worse than their killers, so the common people regarded them with approval and would not bear witness against them in court, nor help the authorities to apprehend them. Eustace was seen as a hero, an enforcer of God’s law against corrupt government officials, a kind of Robin Hood.

And no, they did not come to a bad end. None of them (excluding the unlucky Richard) ever stood trial for their crimes. They were given a pardon by King Edward III in return for military service. Eustace Folville was knighted for exemplary service. He served on commissions and one of his brothers became a member of Parliament. At the end of his life, Eustace was a member of the Abbott of Croyland’s Council. A very upright citizen.

Like the Folvilles, the outlaw Cotterel gang held responsible posts at both shire and national levels, as well as attracting influential supporters. James Cotterel managed to obtain the wardship of a rich widow. Nicholas Cotterel was the bailiff of Philippa, Edward III’s queen. A notable supporter of the gang was none other than the Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Robert Ingram. High born gentry often hired the gang to do their dirty work.

They ignored summonses to court and rampaged through the Royal Forest of the Peak. Gradually, however, Crown officers caught members of the gang until the brothers were reduced to wandering through the forest with about 20 followers. Neither of them stood trial. Nicholas was selected to lead 60 men to fight in Scotland, but he absconded with their pay and was never seen again. James, who had some kind of association with Lincoln Cathedral became a Crown administrator!

And they say crime doesn’t pay!

It’s interesting to note that these gangs and others, were most active during the latter part of the reign of Edward II, a time of unrest when the king was hugely unpopular, his greedy and unscrupulous favourite Hugh Despenser virtually ruling the country and universally hated, and fighting between barons and King was rampant. There was little justice to be had at such times and the poor people suffered.

Why did they, and other gangs, manage to stay at large for so long – and in some cases, for the rest of their life – when they were well-known offenders. Why were such reprobates given pardons, even though they were credited with five murders? One of the reasons is that they undoubtedly had far-reaching influence. There is a suggestion that the Folvilles were supporters of Roger Mortimer and benefited from his protection.

It wasn’t only a few of the mighty who protected them. Justices of the Peace and other law enforcement officers were dependent on local information and assistance in their operations. Given the powerful hold which the Folvilles held on Leicestershire, and the Cotterels in Derbyshire, it’s not surprising that many people wouldn’t inform on them for fear of retribution. But there was more to it than that.

The Folvilles are mentioned by William Langland in Piers Plowman, written at least forty years later and containing the first allusion to Robin Hood.

‘..and fechen it for false men
 with Folvyles law…’

‘and fix it for false men
with Folvilles law…’

The Folvilles may have been the basis for the Robin Hood legend. They certainly won the approval of the commons. The murder of Bellers, for instance, would have been cheered because he was corrupt and oppressed the poor. In many complaints against the outlaws are suggestions that they were aided and abetted by the local people. They may well have lined their own pockets and perhaps committed crimes of retribution, but it seems they also dispensed vigilante justice.

In a time of lawlessness and mayhem, it was perhaps the only form of justice the common people were able to obtain.


Susan Appleyard is the author of :

Queen of Trial and Sorrow,  This Sun of York, The Remorseless Queen, The First Plantagenet, In a Gilded Cage, Dark Spirit, and The Forsaken Queen, which is available for pre-order now.

Find her on her Amazon author page
On her Blog
On Twitter
and on Goodreads

Friday, August 11, 2017

Inheriting an Estate

by Maria Grace

For most, land ownership came about as the privilege (or right depending on how you looked at it) of being the eldest son (or otherwise designated heir) and inheriting the family holdings. Since, during the era, social standing and power was all about land, those who possessed it enjoyed considerable perks as a result. But there were commensurate responsibilities that went along with those advantages


The law of primogeniture guided most estate inheritance of the era. In short, the law required that a family’s eldest surviving son would inherit the family’s estate in its entirety. Only in the case of a family with no sons, would the estate pass to a daughter or daughters. If there was more than one daughter, the estate would pass to all of them equally, not just the eldest. Since, if any of these daughters married, their share would then belong to their husbands, the ownership of the estate could become very complicated very quickly. So when multiple daughters inherited, the estate was often sold and the money divided equally among the sisters.

What about widows and younger children?

Widows did not inherit estates. Instead, marriage settlements would establish a jointure—an allowance normally based on one tenth of the dowry she brought into the marriage—to be paid by the estate annually for the remainder of their lifetime. These arrangements would have been made at the time of the marriage and might or might not permit her to maintain the lifestyle to which she had been accustomed during her married life.

Primogeniture did not require any inheritance be passed to younger children. When a man wanted to provide something for his younger children, the total legacy allowable was based on the amount his estate could support without harm to its capital value. In England this sum was calculated customarily by estimating the amount available at twelve and a half per cent of the capital value of the estate. (Copeland, 2006) This total amount could be divided among all the younger children, equally or not, according to the father’s wishes. This amount would usually be separate from the money for daughter’s dowries, which would have been established in the marriage articles.

Merchant families were not bound by the constraints of primogeniture and typically left fortunes to all their children, including their daughters.

Strict Settlement and Entailment

Since females inheriting estates generally mean the loss of estate to the family line, many—estimates place it at half or more during the eighteenth century—used strict settlement entailment to ensure an estate would pass down a family’s male line, usually for three generations.

A strict settlement could be done in two ways, each featured in Jane Austen’s writing: a fee tail and a left estate. Sense and Sensibility featured a life estate. The senior Mr. Dashwood inherited the use of Norland estate during his life time, not the actual ownership of the estate. After Mr. Dashwood’s death, the estate would go to the individual designated in the original will, in this case, his son by his first marriage.

In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen featured a fee tail estate. In the simplest of terms, a fee tail meant that a man would leave his estate not to his heir but to his heir’s heir. The man’s heir would receive a ‘limited life tenancy’ to the estate, after which the estate would pass to the life tenant’s heir. The inheritance could be further limited to male heirs or ‘male heirs of the body’ which would ensure patrilineal inheritance, keeping the estate in the family for two more generation.

When a landowner suffered a failure of issue—that is, he failed to produce sons—a paternal nephew would normally be made the sole heir. If he were somehow unavailable, then a descendent would be determined according to ancient heirship rules. (Designations other than ‘male heirs of the body’ could be made. Wills could designate a daughter or daughters as life tenant with the fee tail held for the first (legitimate) male heir produced among them.)

A strict settlement of either variety gave the life tenant limited use of the estate during his lifetime. He might enjoy the income of the estate and the responsible use of its facilities. However, he could not dispose of the estate or any part of it. Moreover, he was often limited in the ways he could use the resources of the estate. A life tenant might be prevented from selling timber from the land because it was considered as belonging to fee tail holder of the estate and would deplete the capital value of the estate. Similarly, he might not be able to mine resources on the estate and even if he could, he might not be able to raise the money to do the mining because he could not obtain a mortgage on the land.

All of this meant that the life tenant had limited access to capital to repair or improve the estate, leading to estates falling into severe disrepair. To avoid this problem, in many cases, a small portion of the estate was granted outright to the current owner to give him some flexibility to deal with unexpected problems. (Shapard, 2010)

Even with all these difficulties, entailments could continue for many generations through the process of resettlement. Typically, this would occur when the heir or eldest son reached the age of twenty one, or at the time of his marriage. Essentially, the life tenant would offer the fee tail heir—usually a father offering this son—a lump sum of money or an annuity from the estate. In order to acquire the money, they further agreed to end the current entail, fund the amount from the estate, and create a new settlement whereby the land would go to the father for his life, to the heir for his life and then in fee tail to the heir's heir. Thus a new entail would be created, but the estate would now be depleted by the lump sum or encumbered by the annuity pair to the original fee tail heir.

So, if the Dashwood family had done this, when Mr. John Dashwood reached twenty one (or married Fanny) he and his father, Henry Dashwood, would have sat down together and decided how much Henry would have to offer John to see the entail continued. Next, they would visit the solicitor to have the original entailment barred (discontinued). A trip to the banker would follow to juggle the finances in whatever way necessary to provide John’s money. The process would end with another visit to the solicitor to redraft a new entail, naming John’s (not yet born) heir as the fee tail heir of Norland. John would have money to fund his lifestyle, Henry would know the estate would be preserved in the family for two more generations, and the heir to be of John Dashwood would have to deal with an estate, now depleted of a possibly significant portion of its capital. The estate might be impoverished, but it would remain in the family, which was after all, the most important thing.

This system of inheritance flourished between the mid-seventeenth century to the later part of the nineteenth century, when an act of parliament gave the life tenant greater powers to dispose of the estate.


Adkins, Roy, and Lesley Adkins. Jane Austen's England. Viking, 2013.
Austen, Jane, and David M. Shapard. The Annotated Pride and Prejudice. New York: Anchor Books, 2003.
Austen, Jane, and David M. Shapard. The Annotated Sense and Sensibility. New York: Anchor Books, 2011.
Austen, Jane, and Edward Copeland. The Cambridge Edition of Sense and Sensibility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Bennetts, M.M., “At the heart of a great estate is… .“ M.M.Bennetts. April 11, 2012. Accessed May 20, 2014.
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Davidoff, Leonore, and Catherine Hall. Family fortunes: men and women of the English middle class, 1780-1850. London: Routledge, 2002.
Day, Malcom. Voices from the World of Jane Austen. David and Charles, 2006.
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Seven Trees Farm, “Norfolk four course.” Seven Trees Farm. April 30, 2012. Accessed May 29, 2017.
Sullivan, Margaret C., and Kathryn Rathke. The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2007.
Swift, Deborah. “Law & Order - Duties of the Constable in 17th Century England.” English Historical Fiction Authors. May 24, 2017. Accessed May 29, 2017.
Trevelyan, George Macaulay. Illustrated English Social History. New York: D. McKay, 1949.
Vickery, Amanda. The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998.
Watkins, Susan. Jane Austen's Town and Country Style. New York: Rizzoli, 1990.
Wilson, Ben. The Making of Victorian Values: Decency and Dissent in Britain, 1789-1837. New York: Penguin Press, 2007.


Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. 

After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

Click 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, or follow on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cheltenham Spa

by Lauren Gilbert

The location is excellent.   On the edge of the Cotswolds, in a valley with good arable land and water, it is surrounded by defensible hills.  Originally an agricultural settlement, the area has been occupied for hundreds of years, with the original settlement taken over by Romans, subsequently Saxon, Norman, etc.  Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the town was awarded a market charter in 1226 and was a royal gift for centuries. The excellence of the site was enhanced by the number of roads that went through the area. However, the town remained a fairly small town occupied by and visited by farmers and local gentry for markets and fairs.

Salt springs were discovered 1716. People drank the waters for health, found them good, and more came. After a while, the waters were sold. The original site was enclosed in 1721. Then Captain Henry Skillicone, owner of the spring, turned the spring into a well with an avenue of trees leading to the well, a pump room, and assembly rooms between  1738-1742. This is the beginning of the development of Cheltenham as a health center and the growth of the town to a thriving medical and social center.

In 1740 a book was written about the healthful qualities of the waters by a Doctor Short. More new spas were built in the area. Gradually the spas were visited by more upper crust and celebrities. Handel and Samuel Johnson visited. However, a visit by George III and the royal family for a month in the summer of 1788 put the town on the map and allowed the appellation “Royal Cheltenham Spa”.

Constitutional Club-satire shows
George III with a jug of Cheltenham Water,
Constitutional Restorer 

The Prince of Wales (later George IV) visited in 1806. He gave a ball attended by leading nobility and gentry, one of the largest and most elaborate gatherings. He visited again as George IV in 1821.  Other royalty visited. The Duke and Duchess of Angouleme (daughter and son-in-law of late King Louis XVI) visited in 1811 and 1813; Louis XVIII visited in 1813. Visits by aristocracy and royalty continued well into the Victorian era.

Education was always a major focus. The city’s motto is “Salubritas et Eruditio” (Health and Education). The Free Grammar School was established in 1574 by Richard Pates and endowed by Queen Elizabeth.

Richard Pate, later in
life by an unknown artist
Wikimedia Commons

Sunday School was established in 1787 at the parish church only 7 years after the first of the nation was established in Gloucester. The Duke of Wellington made donations to the National School and School of Industry during his visit in 1816.

During the Georgian/Regency era, the baths were the major draw.  The waters were supposedly good for skin ailments and scurvy.  The baths included salt baths and hot and cold baths. In 1803, a sulphur spring was discovered by Dr. Thomas Jameson and was supposedly good for jaundice and diseases of the liver, dyspepsia, and conditions resulting from living in a hot climate. The Duke of Wellington took the waters during his visits, and Jane Austen visited Cheltenham Spa for 2 weeks in 1816 with her sister Cassandra. Nearby spas included Montpellier Spa (about ½ mile away) and the Imperial Spa which opened in 1818.  Dr. Jenner (of vaccination fame) was a local practitioner for some years.

The inside of the rotunda
of Montpellier Spa
Wikimedia Commons

Of course, while taking the water people expected to be entertained, especially gentry, aristocracy, and royalty. Although never attaining the status of Bath for its social season, Cheltenham Spa certainly provided entertainment. There was a circulating library: Mr. Harward proprietor of a subscription service also let harpsichords, piano-forte’s, and other instruments and provided people to tune them. The social bustle became significant enough that there were elected masters of ceremonies to regulate amusements. The first one was Simon Moreau, Esq. who greeted George III at his visit and held the position until his death in 1810. He wrote the first guide to Cheltenham.

There were assembly rooms used for balls, card parties, and other entertainments.  The Long Room was the original and smallest of the rooms. The Upper and Lower Rooms opened in 1791. The Assembly Rooms were opened July 29, 1816, by the Duke and Duchess of Wellington with a ball attended by 1400 of the aristocracy.

There is a long history of drama in Cheltenham. The Manor Rolls contain an entry in 1612 regarding the production of a play at the Sign of the Crown. Cheltenham saw performances by Mrs. Siddons, Kemble, Kean, and others.  Dramas and tragedies seem to have been especially popular in Cheltenham, particularly works of Shakespeare.  The original theatre in the early 18th century was located in Coffee House Yard.

George III and his family attended the Cheltenham Theatre in 1788, and he constituted it a Theatre Royal by letters patent. Mrs. Jordan performed in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” during the King’s visit. Lord Byron also patronized the Cheltenham Theatre. Nightly performances were held. The professional troupe of actors was considered extremely proficient. Regular amateur performances also held. Could over-wrought amateur performances, especially if in plays or readings of works by local residents be the origin of the use of “a Cheltenham tragedy”?  The Sadler’s Wells Puppet Theatre was established in 1795 by Samuel Seward, who made automaton figures and marionettes.

Horse racing became established in 1815 with the first organized Flat race held on Notthingham Hill.  In 1818, races were held at Cleeve Hill, and the Gold Cup was established.  (Racing was extremely popular for the next ten years, until religious objections to the evils of horse racing resulted in the grandstand being burned to the ground, and the racecourse was relocated in 1831.)  Other events also were celebrated, such as a balloon ascension in 1813.

Cheltenham was known for its elegant buildings and the wide range and quality of its accommodations. Georgian crescents, houses, villas etc. were constructed. (It is today considered a Regency town). Royal Crescent was built between 1806-1810, and the Promenade (a tree-lined walk that was then developed) in 1818. In 1786, the Paving Commissioners were established to pave and light the streets and keep them clean. The Commissioners’ Act of 1786 allowed 120 oil lamps to be established in the streets. In 1818, gas lamps were put in to light the streets. Hotels and inns were constructed to accommodate increasing number of visitors (up to 15,000 during the season).

Cheltenham maintained its popularity as a spa well into the Victorian era supported by the growth of the railroad. The popularity of horseracing at the nearby track continued, and a music festival was established in 1902. Visitors continue to have a major impact on the town, thanks to the popularity of the music festival and racetrack.

[This post is an Editors' Choice and was originally published on this blog on 29th September, 2014]

British History On LineA Topographical Dictionary of England, Samuel Lewis, ed. Published 1848. Pages 562-569.

Internet ArchiveNorman's History of Cheltenham (with Eighty Illustrations) by John Goding.  1863. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green.  Cheltenham: Norman.

Medical Humanities website.  “Jane Austen’s lifelong health problems and Final Illness: New Evidence points to a fatal Hodgkin’s disease and excludes the widely accepted Addisons.”  By A. Upfal.  March 1, 2005.

Political cartoon from Wikimedia Commons

Images from the Library of Congress PD 1923
Files generated with WMUK equipmentContent media by years - Supported by Wikimedia UK - 2014

Picture of Richard Pate Wikimedia Commons


Lauren Gilbert is the author of HEYERWOOD: A Novel. She lives in Florida with her husband, and is working on another novel which is coming out soon.Visit her website HERE.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Vulnerable Victorian Governess

by Mimi Matthews

The Governess by Richard Redgrave, 1844.

A governess occupied a unique position in a Victorian household. She was neither servant, nor family member. She existed in a sort of in-between world which often left her feeling isolated and alone. To combat this, the young governess was advised to cultivate a tolerance for solitude. Author Susan Ridout addresses this in her somewhat depressing nineteenth century book of advice, Letters to a Young Governess on the Principles of Education and Other Subjects Connected with Her Duties (1840):
“Consider therefore, before you enter a family, how far you are able to support the solitude into which you must be thrown, in such a situation. It is not now a separation merely from friends and relations to which you are called; it is a seclusion from society altogether, at least from any which sympathizes with you.”
Seclusion from society not only left a Victorian governess isolated and alone, it also left her vulnerable to the unwelcome advances of men, both in and out of the household. To that end, Ridout instructs the young governess to be gentle, modest, reserved, and dignified, stating that:
“If there are young men in the family where you reside, remember that your carriage will generally govern theirs; they will not presume, if you are discreet and unpretending.”
On occasion, modesty and dignified reserve did not provide enough of a deterrent to gentlemen who were determined to take liberties with an unprotected female. Cases abound of governesses who were kissed, groped, and otherwise assaulted in the course of their employment. On these unfortunate occasions, there was little incentive for the governess to complain to her employer, since, as Ridout implies, gentlemanly presumptions were generally marked down to some lapse in decorum on the part of the governess. If she brought them to the attention of the mistress or master of the household, she risked being let go without a reference.

Fortunately, the courts were not always as indifferent to the plight of governesses as the rest of society. Below are just a few instances of advances made toward young governesses, some of which were ultimately dealt with in a Victorian court of law.

Proposals, Elopements, and Bigamy

In some cases, the overtures of a gentleman of the household could lead to a marriage proposal. This happened with enough regularity—both in reality and in popular fiction—that the young governess could be forgiven for dreaming that she might, too, meet a wealthy Mr. Rochester during the course of her employment. In reality, however, the man of the house was usually more of a middle-aged fellow in a marital rut than a single, charismatic hero.

Arrival of a New Governess in a Merchant's House by Vasily Perov 1866.

The 18 November 1893 edition of the Yorkshire Gazette reports the case of Mr. Hearn, a wealthy, fifty-four year old father who had engaged Miss Crosswell, a governess, to instruct his daughters on the pianoforte. He subsequently fell in love with Miss Crosswell and made her an offer of marriage. Miss Crosswell eagerly accepted, but when Mr. Hearn’s daughters protested the engagement, he broke it off. Miss Crosswell pleaded with Mr. Hearn to stand by her. When he refused, she promptly sued him for breach of promise. According to the Yorkshire Gazette, the jury awarded her £475, a sum which they considered to be “an approximate pecuniary equivalent to her pain and loss.”

Often, the master of the house developed a tendre for the governess while still married to his wife. This caused quite a bit of tension in the household. The 17 September 1892 edition of the Dundee Evening Telegraph reports the case of a wealthy farmer who eloped with the family governess while still married. As the newspaper explains:
“His wife had occasion to remonstrate concerning his marked attentions to the attractive young lady who had for a considerable period acted as governess in the family.”
When confronted, the governess agreed to find another situation and asked for a leave of absence in order to do so. The husband left the family home at the same time, ostensibly on a business trip. The following day, the pair was spotted “at a junction in England,” after which they were never seen again.

A governess and her male employer in 1901 were not so lucky. The Sheffield Independent states that, after ten years of marriage, Leopold Moulton and his wife, Lucy, hired a governess named Miss Robson to teach their children. Less than two years later, Mr. Moulton and Miss Robson departed the family home, intending to elope together to Australia. The pair was “caught together at Marseilles,” at which point they made a full confession. Mrs. Moulton subsequently sued her husband for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and adultery and was granted a dissolution of marriage.


Far more common than marriage proposals and elopements, were the everyday instances of physical encroachments perpetrated against the vulnerable young governess. If committed by a member of the household, these insults were difficult to defend against. However, if an assault was perpetrated by a man outside of the home, a governess sometimes had recourse in the courts—especially if that assault was witnessed by others.

The Governess by Rebecca Solomon, 1851.

In 1874, while out walking in a field with her three young charges, governess Lydia Jackson crossed paths with Mr. John Bickley, a young gentleman of the neighbourhood who was heir to a great fortune. Mr. Bickley was driving by in a cart when he saw Miss Jackson gathering violets. He made disparaging remarks about the children and, when Miss Jackson did not reply, the 20 May 1874 edition of the Norwich Mercury states that Mr. Bickley “did something to his trowsers; and subsequently tying his horse up, he came towards plaintiff in that position.”

Miss Jackson ran. Mr. Bickley followed and soon overtook her, grabbing hold of her jacket. Miss Jackson was able to get free and, along with the children, ran to the cottage of a neighbour. When later confronted in court, Mr. Bickley denied he had ever even seen or spoken to Miss Jackson. He claimed she was either lying or that it was a case of mistaken identity. Fortunately, the children and the neighbour were all able to verify Mr. Bickley’s presence in the field of violets that afternoon. The Norwich Mercury reports that:
“The jury almost immediately returned a verdict for the plaintiff for the full amount claimed, namely £50, the usual costs following. His Honour, addressing the jury, said that if it was any satisfaction to them to know it, he quite concurred in the decision at which they had arrived.”
In a similar case from 1881, a governess by the name of Jane Hutton was out walking when Christopher Henderson, a railway worker, grabbed her by the wrist, pulled her close to him, and attempted to kiss her. Miss Hutton ran away, but, as the Dundee Courier relates:
“He ran after her and overtook her, and again seized hold of her by the wrist and arm, dragged her on to the embankment, pulled her on to his knee, and placed his arm round her waist.”
What happened next is not entirely clear from the reports, but whatever transpired, it was enough to result in Mr. Henderson being sentenced to thirty days' imprisonment.


Cases of governess murdered by their employer are not as numerous as those involving assault, but they do exist and are, in my opinion, some of the most tragic. Victorian governesses were often alone in the world, without friends or family to inquire after them if they should happen to disappear. With no one to ask questions, a governess’s murder could go undiscovered for years. For example, in 1843, a governess by the name of Miss Crossland was employed by Mr. and Mrs. Clarke at Firth Wood Farm. The 19 August 1893 edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post reports that:
“Clark became enamoured of her and got rid his wife, to whom he allowed £60 a year, while he retained Miss Crossland as housekeeper.”
Mr. Clarke was a big man who had been known to participate in prize fights. When Miss Crossland later disappeared, the locals assumed she had either “died in giving birth to a child” or met with foul play.

The New Governess by Thomas Ballard, (1836-1908).

Her ultimate fate was destined to remain a mystery until, forty years later, railway workers excavating a field near Firth Wood found “the remains of a young woman” buried in a shallow grave. The newspaper reports that “the skull was crushed on to the chest, and both jaws wore broken, as well as several ribs.” By this point, Mr. Clarke had long since died himself and, though the remains were widely believed to be those of Miss Crossland, the Coroner in the case declined to hold an inquest.

In Conclusion

Not every position held by a Victorian governess was fraught with physical danger. There were many families who were genuinely decent and respectable, allowing the governess to go about her duties without fear of being importuned by the gentlemen of the household. With that being said, it is important to remember just how vulnerable a governess was during the nineteenth century and just how precarious her situation could become if an unscrupulous man should decide to embark on a seduction.
Dundee Courier (Angus, Scotland), 26 November 1881.
Norwich Mercury (Norfolk, England), 20 May 1874.
Ridout, Susan. Letters to a Young Governess on the Principles of Education and Other Subjects     Connected with her Duties. London: Edmund Fry, 1840.
Sheffield Independent (South Yorkshire, England), 05 February 1901.
Yorkshire Evening Post (West Yorkshire, England), 19 August 1893.
Yorkshire Gazette (North Yorkshire, England), 18 November 1893.

Mimi Matthews writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. She is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (November 2017) and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty (July 2018).

Her debut Victorian romance novel The Lost Letter will be released on September 19 and is currently available for pre-order.

In her other life, Mimi is an attorney with both a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Battle of Otterburn, 5th August 1388

by Annie Whitehead

It fell about the Lammas tide,
When the muir-men win their hay,
The doughty Earl of Douglas rode
Into England, to catch a prey.*

On this day, in 1388 (according to the Scots) the Battle of Otterburn took place, between the forces of the English, led by Harry Hotspur and his brother Sir Ralph Percy, and the Scots, led by James, 2nd Earl of Douglas.


The battle was a famous victory for the Scots in an ongoing series of border disputes and skirmishes. But it had wider implications for Scotland, causing long-lasting political ripples.

The king of Scotland at the time of the battle was Robert II. He was fifty-five when he unexpectedly became king, and his rule was undermined by the fact that, like John Balliol before him, he was considered by the Scottish nobles to be only their equal, not their superior.

Robert, though, was courageous and ambitious. The expectation was that he would take up the honorary title of High Steward of Scotland, but in 1326 a parliamentary act of succession named him as heir behind prince David and thus the most important magnate in Scotland.

When Edward III of England threatened war, Robert, aged just sixteen in 1333, led an army against him at the Battle of Halidon Hill. Then in 1334 he narrowly escaped capture when his lands were overrun by Anglo-Balliol enemies. David was taken into exile, but Robert stayed to fight, and gained many followers. Thus, when David returned to rule, he could never completely shake off the powerful Robert. When David died unexpectedly in 1371 he was succeeded, as per the arrangement, by Robert.

England still controlled a large area of Lothian and the border country, so it made sense for Robert to allow his southern earls to agitate to regain their lost territories. He also halted trade with England and renewed treaties with France. By 1384, the Scots had retaken most of occupied lands, but when the English and French began to talk of peace, Robert was reluctant to commit to all-out war and obtained Scottish inclusion in the peace treaty. This peace strategy was a factor in a virtual coup in 1384, when Robert lost control, first to his eldest son, John, earl of Carrick, and then from 1388 onwards, John’s younger brother, Robert, earl of Fife.

In a council at Holyrood in November 1384 is was recorded that “because our lord the king, for certain causes, is not able to attend himself personally to the execution of justice and the law of the kingdom, he has willed…that his first-born son and heir…is to administer the common-law everywhere throughout the kingdom."

Carrick’s rule brought control of foreign policy to a coalition of powerful magnates headed by James, 2nd earl of Douglas. Robert’s refusal to initiate war led to his removal from power altogether. Carrick, Douglas, and the king’s third son, Robert Stewart, earl of Fife, joined the French on campaign in 1385. The Scots and French quarrelled, the English burned Lothian, including Edinburgh, and the Scots had no choice but to accept truce until 1388. For Robert II, back in his lands in the west, this had little import, but Carrick began to struggle with lawlessness in the north, particularly with the ambition of Alexander Stewart.

What has this to do with the battle of Otterburn?

The 'modern' Otterburn Castle

On 5th August, or the 19th, depending on which sources you opt to believe, Douglas decided to lead a raid into England. The earl of Northumberland sent his two sons to engage with Douglas while he himself stayed at Alnwick

According to the chronicler Froissart,** the first fighting included a meeting of the earl of Douglas and Henry Percy in hand-to-hand combat, in which Percy's pennon was captured.
Froissart ~  There were many proper feats of arms done and achieved: there was fighting hand to hand : among other there fought hand to hand the earl Douglas and sir Henry Percy, and by force of arms the earl Douglas won the pennon of sir Henry Percy's, wherewith he was sore displeased and so were all the Englishmen. And the earl Douglas said to sir Henry Percy: ‘Sir, I shall bear this token of your prowess into Scotland and shall set it on high on my castle of Dalkeith, that it may be seen far off.'

Douglas then destroyed the castle at Ponteland and besieged Otterburn Castle (now Otterburn Tower).
Froissart ~ from thence the Scots went to the town and castle of Otterburn, an eight English mile from Newcastle*** and there lodged. That day they made none assault, but the next morning they blew their horns and made ready to assail the castle, which was strong, for it stood in the marish. 
Percy attacked Douglas's encampment with a surprise attack in the late afternoon:
Froissart ~ It was shewed to sir Henry Percy and to his brother and to the other knights and squires that were there, by such as had followed the Scots from Newcastle and had well advised their doing, who said to sir Henry and to sir Ralph : ' Sirs, we have followed the Scots privily and have dis- covered all the country. The Scots be at Pontland and have taken sir Edmund Alphel in his own castle, and from thence they be gone to Otterburn and there they lay this night. What they will do to- morrow we know not : they are ordained to abide there : and, sirs, surely their great host is not with them, for in all they pass not there a three thousand men.' When sir Henry heard that, he was joyful and said : ‘Sirs, let us leap on our horses, for by the faith I owe to God and to my lord my father I will go seek for my pennon and dislodge them this same night.'
During the battle, Douglas led the left wing, while John Dunbar, earl of Moray, commanded the right. Hotspur’s men, having ridden up from Newcastle, were tired and disorganised as they made their way onto the field. Hotspur was so overly confident that he attacked the Scots while the rest of his force was still marching up through Otterburn.

The banner of Douglas
Despite Percy's force being around three times the size of the Scottish force, Froissart said that 1040 English were captured and 1860 killed, against the Scottish losses of  200 Scots captured and 100 killed. The Westminster Chronicle estimated the Scottish casualties at around 500. When the bishop of Durham advanced from Newcastle with 10,000 men, he was apparently so impressed by the ordered appearance of the Scottish force, the 'din they set up with their horns', and their seemingly unassailable position, that he declined to attack.
Froissart ~ The same evening the bishop of Durham came thither with a good company, for he heard at Durham how the Scots were before Newcastle and how that the lord Percy's sons with other lords and knights should fight with the Scots : therefore the bishop of Durham to come to the rescue had assembled up all the country and so was coming to Newcastle. But sir Henry Percy would not abide his coming, for he had with him six hundred spears, knights and squires, and an eight thousand foot- men. They thought that sufficient number to fight with the Scots, if they were not but three hundred spears and three thousand of other.

the battle site)

During the battle on a 'moonlit night', Douglas was killed. His death made no difference to the outcome of the battle and was not noticed until much later. It was a victory for the Scots; the Percys were both captured, with the remaining English force retreating to Newcastle.

 (the monument at the battle site - made from a lintel taken from the kitchens at Otterburn Castle (the second picture shows the iron hooks where cooking pots were hung)

The death of James caused the Douglas inheritance to fall into dispute, Carrick became isolated, and another coup was inevitable. On 1 December Carrick was forced to sign the lieutenancy over to his brother Robert, earl of Fife. Fife vowed to deal harshly with Alexander Stewart in the north, and Robert II was once more under the control of one of his own sons, called upon to appear at council only to confirm grants to Fife and his followers. Robert died in 1387.

His reputation has been sullied, by chroniclers who either support David before 1371 or who favoured Carrick and Fife in the later years of the reign. In 1521 John Mair wrote that he could not hold Robert ‘to have been a skilful warrior or wise in counsel.'

From the Ballad of Otterburn 

** Froissart claimed to have spoken to eye-witnesses:
It was shewed me by such as had been at the same battle, as well by knights and squires of England as of Scotland, at the house of the earl of Foix, — for anon after this battle was done I met at Orthez two squires of England called John of Chateau- neuf and John of Cantiron 
***The distance is much greater – about 30 miles.

[all illustrations - public domain images. Photographs by and copyright of the author]


Annie Whitehead is an author and historian, and a member of the Royal Historical Society. Her first two novels are set in tenth-century Mercia, chronicling the lives of Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, who ruled a country in all but name, and Earl Alvar who served King Edgar and his son Æthelred the Unready who were both embroiled in murderous scandals. Her third novel, also set in Mercia, is scheduled for release later this year, and she is currently working on a history of Mercia for Amberley Publishing, to be released in 2018.
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