Friday, September 30, 2011

Grace Dalrymple Elliott: A Very High Flyer Indeed!

by Lauren Gilbert

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Gainsborough

Grace Dalrymple Elliott was a courtesan, and a very famous (or should I say, notorious?) one. Intelligent, educated, and witty as well as beautiful, Grace was known for making her own choices and living her life on her own terms, or at least as much her own as a woman of her time was able. Documentation about her is spotty: her marriage record, divorce records, daughter's christening record, an obituary, a death certificate and a will all exist. However they tell us little of the woman herself. She is mentioned in a few letters, gossip columns in The Rambler, Town and Country Magazine, Matrimonial Magazine, and similar "tabloid" type journals, but (again) the real woman eludes us. Even her own memoirs, Journal of My Life During the French Revolution, were altered. No letters to or from Grace herself, no account books, no diary have yet surfaced. However, what we do know about Grace is fascinating...

Grace Dalrymple was born about 1754 to Hew (Hugh) Dalrymple and his wife Grizel (Scottish variation of Grace) in Scotland. Her father was of respectable family, possibly connected to Scottish aristocracy. Her parents were separated before she was born. She was sent to a convent boarding school in either France or Flanders at approximately age 11, when her mother died. She remained there for about five years before joining her father in London. His profession and finances at that point are not clear; however, he was working on establishing himself. Grace was tall for her time (possibly as tall as 5'7'), slender with excellent posture, a heart-shaped face and brown hair (worn powdered, per her time). Two portraits by Gainesborough, and a miniature, possibly by Cosway, show a very attractive woman. She attracted Dr. John Eliot, a Scottish-born physician, who was short, unattractive and about 14 years older than she. He was successful, having come under the patronage of Sir William Duncan, who attended King George III. Dr. Eliot attended many members of the ton, including the Prince of Wales, and was constantly working on improving his practice and earning more money. He spent time and made friends with people in high society. He would have been considered an excellent match. They were married in October of 1772 by special license.

The doctor was very busy, working in his practice, becoming known for his bed-side manner (especially with his women patients), leaving Grace to socialize on her own. Apparently, they were quite different persons: she was very young and enjoyed society, while he was much older and preferred to stay home when not occupied with his work or his own pursuits. Grace socialized with Dr. Eliot's friends, who in turn introduced her to other people. A young wife was generally not chaperoned, so you have a very young woman on her own in a very fast crowd. Gossip columns of the day suggest Grace had multiple lovers, but her affair with the married rake Arthur Annesley, eighth Viscount Valentia, made her notorious. It is unclear when the affair began, but Grace and Valentia made the gossip columns in 1774 and 1775. At the same time, her marriage to Dr. Eliot degenerated to the point that they couldn't stand each other. Dr. Eliot had servants and paid informants spy on her. Grace was stubborn, reckless and didn't understand that her middle-class background required a level of discretion that the higher born members of Society didn't have to attain. Grace and her husband stopped sharing a room, and she was apparently sent off to the country for nine months to be sure she was not pregnant with a child of questionable paternity. Dr. Eliot filed divorce papers in 1774. After going through ecclesiastical court for the legal separation, and civil court for the damages for criminal conversation, the final bill for divorce was presented to the House of Lords in Parliament in 1776, and King George III signed off on it. Dr. Eliot got the right to remarry and damages; Grace got an annuity of 200 pounds per year. Interestingly, years later, bequests in his will to his illegitimate children by multiple women indicate that Dr. Eliot was quite the womanizer himself! Dr. Eliot became Sir John Eliot in 1776, but (thanks to the divorce) Grace was never Lady Eliot.

This is the first point at which Grace could have sunk without a trace. Disgraced, homeless (her father was dead, her sister basically disowned her), Grace was in a difficult situation. However, amongst all the gossip, there is no hint that Grace ever walked the street or was associated with a brothel. She acquired "protectors," weighed her options, and generally traded up. Grace was linked with a number of men, and her relationships frequently seemed to overlap. We will consider three of her most advantageous.

In January of 1776, her relationship with George James Cholmondley, Earl of Cholmondeley, Marquess of Cholmondeley, an extremely wealthy and powerful of the Prince of Wales' set, became public. Lord Cholmondeley was tall and good looking. He was nicknamed "Lord Tallboy," while Grace was known as "Dally the Tall." They were apparently a handsome couple, well suited personally as well as physically. There is every indication that they sincerely loved each other, and that Grace hoped to marry him. Rumors about a possible marriage between them surfaced in 1776 and in 1778, but nothing happened. Grace chose to go to France about May of 1779. She and Cholmondeley were reunited as lovers 1781-1784, but their relationship had changed. Ultimately, in 1795, Cholmondley married Charlotte Bertie (an heiress from an old, powerful, distinguished family).

From 1779-1781, Grace was in France, again in high society, and her name was associated with several court figures, including the Comte d'Artois and Philippe, Duc d'Chartres (later Duc d'Orleans). However, in 1781, Cholmondley made a visit to Paris with another woman. Grace returned to England, following Cholmondley in early June, and they reunited briefly.

During the summer of 1781, possible in June, Grace had a brief affair with the Prince of Wales. Over in a short time, possibly a matter of weeks, this affair was important because Grace became pregnant. Her daughter was born March 30, 1782, and Grace stated that the father was the Prince of Wales. The child was christened Georgiana Augusta Frederica Elliott for the prince, and the christening record (which still exists) shows the prince as her father. Although the Prince of Wales didn't deny the child, he did not acknowledge her either. However the christening record was left intact, and the prince paid Grace an annuity from at least 1800 until her death. (The annuity may have started earlier-the prince's accounts are not complete.)

Multiple candidates for the child's paternity arose. However, Lord Cholmondley was a prime consideration. He was involved with Grace at the right time. Georgiana was placed with him and his family; he raised her and took responsibility for her. While this might have been a matter of tidying up the situation for the Prince of Wales (always a good move), it could have been achieved with much less personal involvement. Georgiana became known as Georgiana Seymour, made a most advantageous marriage, and continued as a member of Cholmondley's family. Grace and Cholmondley maintained contact, and he helped her with money periodically. He also paid for her funeral. One way or another, they remained connected for almost fifty years, until her death.

Grace left England for France in the late summer of 1784 with Philippe, Comte d'Chartre, who became Duc d'Orleans. Philippe was charming, generous, very rich and married; he provided Grace with her house in Paris and a cottage in the country. She was sincerely attached to him, as he was to her, but he was serially unfaithful. She remained in France during the prelude to the revolution and during the Terror. This was the period of her life described in her memoirs, written in 1803. During this horrifying and exciting time, she supposedly carried messages on behalf of Marie Antoinette to various loyalist groups in France and to the Austrian government in Brussels in 1790, saw the royal family returned to Paris after their attempted escape in 1791, saw various atrocities, was questioned, and imprisoned in various prisons under great hardship with other well-known figures, including Josephine de Beauharnais. She was finally released from prison, possibly in 1794. There are indications that, during this time in France, she also provided information to British officials, possibly spying for her country. There are many questions about the accuracy of her Journal, as there is little supporting documentation and there are noticeable discrepancy. However, there is no doubt that she was present and involved.

Available information indicates that Grace went back and forth between France and England from this point until she finally returned to France in 1814. Georgiana, her daughter, married very well, had a daughter Georgina, and died in 1813. The annuity from the Prince of Wales started in 1800 (if not before), and it is possible that her residing outside of England was a condition. After Grace returned to France in 1814, there is no further record of her until the end of her life. The last two years of her life, she was a paying lodger in the home of M. Dupuis, the mayor of Ville d'Avray. There are indications that she suffered debilitating health problems, possibly stemming from her time in prison, that resulted in a slow death. S he received last rights from a Catholic priest. Although she died alone, there is no indication she was poor-she had two annuities, and left a will. She was approximately 69 years old, and living in retirement at the time of her death. However, Grace had lived an exciting life, in the thick of the highest society and stirring world events, determined by her own choices. She showed herself to be a strong and courageous person, who chose her path and stayed with it.

Her granddaughter, Georgina Cavendish-Bentinck (Georgiana's daughter), had Grace's manuscript of Journal of My Life During the French Revolution published by Richard Bentley in 1859. She (or someone) provided him with anecdotal information (sources unknown), which he included. He wrote a prologue and epilogue, containing a number of his own opinions and inaccuracy, divided the work into chapters and made other alterations, resulting in serious errors. Unfortunately, since the original manuscript has disappeared there is no way to sort out his changes and errors from what Grace wrote herself. No one knows how Georgina came by the manuscript.

Manning, Jo. MY LADY SCANDALOUS. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.)

Drake, Sylvia. "Grace Dalrymple Elliott's Journal de ma vie: Originally a pro-revolution memoir?" Jan. 29, 2010, Under The Sign of Sylvia Blog. (Article includes the Oxford Dictionary of National Biorgraphy article about Grace by Martin Levy in its entirety.)


Great Scotswomen Blog. "Grace Dalrymple Elliott."

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 17 article by John Goldsworth Alger about Grace Dalrymple Elliot (shown in entirety at,_Grace_Dalrymple_(DNB00)).

Lauren is the author of HEYERWOOD: a Novel.
Lauren's Website
Lauren's Blog

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


The following post was kindly written by Elizabeth Marshall for this blog. She temporarily posted it on Goodreads, where it went viral. She received many comments from people everywhere. I'm pleased to publish it again.

In memory of Private James Stafford DCM
9260, 4th Bn., The King’s Liverpool Regiment transf. To (Lce. Cpl. 405902), Labour Corps who died aged 44 on 17th October 1918.
Cousin of Mrs. A. Brough of 1 Grape St. Macclesfield.
Awarded Cross of St. George 4th Class (Russia).

The great British Empire, stretching, at times from the American colonies and Canada to Australia and New Zealand, India, and to massive areas of Africa, including South Africa, Egypt, and Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe), is what created the seemingly endless need for Victorian soldiers.

The establishment of colonies, the protection of trading posts and the fight against rivals such as the Dutch and Spanish fuelled the need for continued growth in numbers of men to serve their country.

By 1914 Britain ruled an empire that covered nearly a quarter of the World's land surface.

Living conditions at home were for most challenging. Millions were classified by economists as the ‘doomed class’, one-sixth of people received some form of welfare assistance and for most this was a deprived and degrading experience.

New laws in 1834 legislated that every citizen had a right to welfare. However this welfare was not the all encompassing woollen blanket that would save the majority of the population from their mostly miserable, short and difficult lives. Dickens’ highlighted the dire conditions of this ‘doomed class’; in his novel ‘Oliver Twist’ and explored the previously hidden reality of life for those in receipt of welfare.

Through loss of liberty and deep social humiliation the workhouses became poorhouses, housing mainly those unable to work. Those able to work were likely to attempt to do so, however, jobs were scare and competition for them was fierce. For many men, a life in Queen Victoria’s army was their only way to avoid starvation and deprivation. But life as a soldier of Queen Victoria’s army was not an easy one either and effectively, enlistment was for life - however short that may be.

British soldiers were brave and tough men often recruited from backgrounds where violence and survival had gone hand in hand, because of this, they were distrusted by ‘upper class’ civilians and classified as ‘a bad lot’, but accepted as marginally more acceptable than those who inhabited the workhouses.

Pay was minimal, living conditions often draughty and scant and soldier’s lives dangerous and mostly short. What they did have however was personal pride, dignity and a community of friends with whom they trusted their lives.

Few soldiers were allowed to marry and those who did shared barracks with the unmarried soldiers. A linen sheet or blanket was strung over a line in the barracks to provide minimal privacy for married couples and children. Not all wives and children were allowed to follow their husbands to their posts and many families were permanently split when Queen Victoria’s soldiers were deployed overseas to expand or defend the Empire.

The prosperity and economic growth that upper class Britain experienced during the reign of Queen Victoria was as a direct result of the Victorian army. Sadly the men who fought and died for this prosperity benefited little themselves. The under classes in Britain remained and the gap between the upper and lower classes widened. Many soldiers of Queen Victoria’s army went on to serve Britain in the First World War.

My own great grandfather was one of them. Having already served his time and survived as a Victorian solider he re-enlisted in the army in his early forty’s to fight the First World War. Sadly the records of his service time prior to the First World War were destroyed in a Second World War bombing raid on London, however I do have full copies of his original First World War records along with the citation report of his ‘Distinguished Conduct Medal’, which he was awarded:- ‘for conspicuous bravery; he was wounded after volunteering for patrol and sniping duties. He also displayed great coolness and gallantry in carrying messages to and from the trenches when the telephone had been cut: Further to this, he was awarded the Cross of St. George 4th Class (Russia). Sadly, after a lifetime of service he died on the 17th October 1918 from war wounds, aged only 44 and never having been permitted to marry the mother of his son.

Photo courtesy of 
Please visit Elizabeth Marshall's Website.
Her book, When Fate Dictates, is available on Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


by Grace Elliot (author of 'A Dead Man's Debt.')

‘Smuggling, though a real offence, is owing to the laws themselves, for the higher the duites, the greater the advantage and consequently the temptation.’
1768 Treatise on Crimes and Punishment, Beccaria.

I’m currently researching my WIP (work in progress) which involves smuggling along the south coast of England in the 18th century. Imagine my surprise when my husband, produced an old, beige-coloured book with linen covered boards from our very own bookshelves, on the very subject of smuggling!
This book, ‘The Smugglers of Christchurch, Bourne Heath and the New Forest’, by E Russell Oakley, published in 1924, turned out to be a wonderful glimpse into the history, not just of smuggling, but of the 1920’s.
In the book Mr Oakley writes about a talk on smuggling he gave on BBC radio, in January 1924. He recounts the true story of a fast sailing boat with a cargo of contraband tea which, in 1748, was chased by Revenue cutters. In danger of being overhauled and captured, the smugglers jumped overboard in shallow water just off Bourne Heath and swam ashore to escape. In his radio broadcast Mr Oakley bemoans:
“It is curious that contemporary records give us so much detail, yet the name of the boat and her home port are not stated.”
Preventatives men bursting in on smugglers.

And it’s this next bit that I love as a reflection of history-within-history. In his book, Mr Oakley recounts that a week after the program he received a letter which read:
“Last week I purchased a wireless set. [Don’t you just love it? Owning a radio was so unusual the writer mentioned it in his letter!] Last Saturday night I listened in for the first time and you were the first speaker I have heard on the air.”
The letter goes onto say:
“I am going to tell you something you don’t know. That boat belonged to a relative of our family and the loss of it broke his heart and he died soon afterwards. The name of the boat was ‘Charles’ and she was…an oyster dredger and fishing boat.”
How wonderful, that the new-technology of the ‘wireless set’ provided an answer to a question nearly two centuries old! 
Smugglers landing goods in a sheltered cove.

Another fascinating glimpse into the past is the mention of what were then hamlets and villages, - Shirley – a hamlet four miles away (now a sprawling suburb of Southampton, and anything less idyllic or hamlet-like it’s difficult to imagine.) And of course there is the Bourne Heath of the books title – which it transpires is the forerunner of the well-known seaside resort and popular retirement town of Bournemouth. In Victorian and Edwardian times the transformation from sleepy Bourne Heath, to bustling Bournemouth was underway, as E Russell Oakley writes in 1924:

“Many places in the coastal belt….have entirely disappeared, submerged under a titanic tide of bricks, cement, reinforced concrete and Trinidad asphalt.”
Aerial view of modern day Bournemouth.
About the author:
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day, and author of historical romance by night. Her debut novel, 'A Dead Man's Debt' is available from Amazon
If you would like to know more about Grace Elliot and her work please visit: – Grace’s blog is a blend of historical trivia, romance and cats!
Or Grace's website at: 

Lady Hester Stanhope: Regency England's Eccentric Expatriate

Lady Hester Stanhope was born into a family of wealth and privilege in 1776. Her father, the third Earl of Stanhope was fascinated with progressive mechanics and philosophy, while her mother was from one of the great political families of the day.  Hester's mother passed away when Hester was quite young, and the Stanhope children were sent to live with their maternal grandmother and uncle, the English Prime Minister, William Pitt. 

Although her father was both wealthy and successful, genius was the only inheritance Hester received from him. William Pitt held vast philosophical differences from those of Hester's father—differences that eventually created a breach between himself and his children. Stanhope championed the improvement of social institutions, and hailed the French revolution as the beginning of a necessary change in societal norms. He urged his children to educate themselves so they might earn a living by some honest calling. When they adhered to the more elitist principles held by their uncle, Lord Stanhope renounced them, saying, “that, as they had chosen to be saddled on the public purse, they must suffer the consequences.”

Lady Hester later went on to play political hostess for her uncle and served as his secretary once he retired from office. Upon his death, the only provision he could make for his niece, was to recommend her to the favor of his king and country, who acknowledged their obligation to him by bestowing upon her a pension of twelve hundred pounds, annually.

Soon after the death of her uncle, Hester left England, and spent many years visiting the chief cities of continental Europe. Her rank, beauty, and fortune attracted crowds of suitors; but all were all rejected. After satisfying her curiosity in Europe, she, with a large retinue and a great deal of private property in tow, embarked for Constantinople with the intent of making a long sojourn in the East. A storm overtook the vessel near the Isle of Rhodes, driving the vessel against the rocks. The ship sank, and Lady Hester’s jewels and other property were lost to the sea. The lady herself, however, miraculously escaped. The piece of the wreck on which she had taken refuge was cast on the shore of a small, desert island, where she remained twenty-four hours, without help or food of any kind before being rescued by some local fisherman who bore her safely to Rhodes.

Undaunted by this disaster. She returned to England, collected the remains of her fortune, and, after investing a portion of it in the English funds, embarked once more for the East, taking with her articles for presents, and whatever else might be of service in the countries she planned to visit. This time, her voyage was prosperous, and she landed near Tripoli and Alexandretta, on the coast of Syria.

Here she settled temporarily as she began preparing for the rigors of her intended journey into the most inaccessible parts of Arabia, Mesopotamia, and the desert. She strengthened her body by diet and exercise, studied the Arab language and familiarized herself with the local culture by interacting with the various natives of the country.

Once prepared, she organized a large caravan, loaded her camels with rich presents for the Arabs, and embarked on her travels. She visited every place worthy of note in Syria. At Palmyra, hordes of wandering Arabs assembled round her tent, and, charmed by her beauty, grace, and splendor, proclaimed her queen of that once imperial city. They agreed that every European under her protection might proceed in perfect safety through the desert, by paying the tribesmen a certain fixed tribute.

However, despite these tributes, Hester narrowly escaped being carried off by a tribe hostile to those of that region. Fortunately, she received warning and—thanks to the swiftness of her horses, and a marathon journey of speed and endurance lasting twenty-four hours—managed to place herself and her caravan beyond the enemy's reach. 
Lady Hester eventually settled on one of the mountains of Lebanon. Her adopted home rose from a barren valley into a flat summit covered with a beautiful green vegetation. A white wall surrounded her verdant enclave and marked the habitation of the “Sittee Inglis,” or “English lady.” Here, within the ruins of an abandoned monastery, she created a desert paradise—gardens containing bowers of fragrant vines, kiosks embellished with sculpture and paintings, fountains of marble; and arches formed of orange, fig, and lemon-trees.

She resided there for many years in Eastern magnificence, surrounded by her English retinue, a host of servants, both black and white, and a large number of young females. At this point, she was quite friendly with the Sublime Porte, various pachas, and the local tribal chieftains. In fact, such was the state in which she lived, and the influence which she exerted, that she might well have imagined herself “Queen of the Desert.”

But the splendor of her reign was soon dimmed. Her wealth was not substantial enough to bear the brunt of her luxurious lifestyle. Her Arab friends affections were dependent upon a stream of gifts, and the friendly relations cooled somewhat when her gifts to them became less lavish and less frequent. Eventually, her English retinue died or deserted her, and she devolved into a reclusive life of near poverty.

However, some sources of influence still remained to her. Astrology—a science long devalued in Europe—still held sway in the East. The people of her adopted homeland came to believe that Lady Hester could read the stars—a belief which she exploited, thereby procuring the respect of the commoners, and, to a certain extent, the personal security which had formerly been purchased with shawls of Cashmere, and a rich silver-mounted pistols.

But while practicing these arts upon others, Hester herself became the victim of strange delusions—coming by degrees to the certainty that all was written in the stars, and that she therein had read the history of the world. In Hester's stable there resided two mares, both of which figured prominently in her delusions. She believed that the Messiah was soon to appear upon the earth, and that she, while mounted upon a milk-white mare of matchless beauty, was destined to be his bride and witness the conquest of Jerusalem, and the establishment of his kingdom on earth. Her companion was to ride on the second mare. This animal, in all other respects of beautiful proportions, had behind the shoulders a cavity large and deep, imitating so completely a Turkish saddle, that one might easily say that she was foaled complete with saddle. The second mare, so unique in her deformity, was watched with the greatest care by two grooms, one of whom was never to lose sight of her. No one had ever mounted her, and from her bearing one might have fancied that the creature was conscious of the admiration and respect which were entertained for her by all around, and felt the dignity of her future mission.

Though Lady Hester retained her power over the lower classes by means of their superstitious fears, the neighboring chiefs were not to be thus restrained, and some of them sought by robbery to indemnify themselves for the loss of the accustomed presents. Hoping to coerce her into a renewal of them, they harassed her by petty vexations; her camels were seized; and her servants were beaten. When she retaliated, an edict was procured, forbidding any Mussulman, on pain of death, to remain in her service, or to carry water to her house. This last prohibition was quite severe, since water for her house and garden had to be brought from a river three or four miles distant. Her appeal, however, to the Porte procured the withdrawal of the edict, and saved her gardens.

In 1837, a new source of vexation arose. The British government appropriated Lady Hester's pension to pay her creditors. Her ladyship, rallied the Duke of Wellington and other opponents of the Whig administration to her aid, but 'twas to no avail. Failing in these efforts, she appealed to the queen herself—with no better success. Lady Hester did not long survive this new source of mortification. She died on the 23d of June, 1839.

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

Smiles and Good Reading,
Teresa Thomas Bohannon
Author of the Old-Fashioned Regency Romance Novel
A Very Merry Chase
Teresa's Regency Blog
MyLadyWeb Women's History & Women Authors
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Teresa on Twitter

Monday, September 26, 2011

Giveaway: Darcy and Fitzwilliam

A signed copy of Darcy and Fitzwilliam is being offered by author Karen Wasylowski. You can read about the book HERE, and then return to this post to leave a comment with your contact information to enter the drawing.

This contest ended at midnight Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, EST.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Plots, beliefs and Omens in the Great Fire of 1666

By Richard Denning
The 17th century is the age of Newton and Harvey and other scientists that discovered many of the scientific truths we know today. YET it was still a time where people believed in magic, witchcraft and omens. It could be a paranoid time. It was also a moment when the average Londoner had reason to distrust foreigners and to be afraid of home brewed plots and conspiracies,  Today I look at some of those beliefs, fears and distrusts and how as a result they suggested to me that the Fire was a perfect moment for the setting of a historical fantasy.
Witchcraft and Magic

Put simply in this time period, despite the growth of science, people believed in Magic and in witchcraft. It  was during the reign of Elizabeth I that campaigns to catch and try witches began – around 1563 - and these were further developed during the reign of James I. The estimate of the number of persons hanged as witches in England  in the  century or so of active trials was about 1,000. The first person hanged for witchcraft was Agnes Waterhouse at Chelmsford in 1566, the last was Alice Molland at Exeter in 1684.
If you were a women who was old, ugly, had warts you were at possible risk of accusation. If you fell out with a neighbour they might just call you a witch. Then the search would begin for “evidence” such a calf being still born in the area or milk turning sour.

Prince Rupert’s demon poodle
As an example of how much credence people might sometimes give to tales of magic and demons, in the civil war the Parliamentarians spread a rumour that Boy – Prince Rupert’s dog (prince Rupert was nephew to King Charles I) – was a demon in disguise. Pamphlets circulated claiming that he had the power to predict the future, find treasure, alter his shape and was invulnerable to bullets. Alas if he did have this power, it failed him at the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, because Boy died at that battle.
The mid 17th century was a time of great superstition and people attributed significance to omens that they saw about them. There were Solar eclipses in the southern hemisphere in 1666. Comets had been seen in the skies in 1664. There were also lunar eclipses. People seemed willing to believe that any apparently natural occurrence had deeper meaning. For example in 1666 it was widely reported that a hen’s egg had been laid in Poland with the mark of the cross on it.
All of these – and many other occurrences  - were believed by many to imply that some great catastrophe was looming.

There was even a prediction made by  William Lilly, the best known astrologer of his day, who predicted the plague of 1665 and the  Great Fire of London (1666) in 1652. Of course the year 1666 would be likely to attract such predictions due to its signifiacnce (see below) and there were many predictions that DID NOT come true that are not reported but many people suggested after the fire that his (and other) predictions were to blame.
The End of the World
Every few years people predict that the world will end. Many people believed that 1666 was the end of the world!! In the Book of Revelations there is this passage that says that the number of the beast – of the devil is 666.  In 1666 many people thought they were living in the year the world would end (because of that 666 bit.) In the New Almanack and Prognostication of 1666 astrologer John Booker who was quite well known, pointed out the significance of the date. There were other articles in advance of the year - for example a priest pointed out that if you arranged all the Roman numerals in order (MDCLXVI ) it became 1666 and that must mean something surely! Then there was the "interpretation" - a mathematical/theological work that analysed 666 and 1666 and purported to show how these were magic numbers. This book was a best seller in 1666 - even the diarist Samuel Pepys bought one.

Home brewed Fears
In 1666 King Charles II had only been king 6 years. There were many who did not fully trust the king and a good number who opposed his restoration and believed in a republic. Some would go as far as armed rebellion or attempts at assassination. There were at least half a dozen plots against the King in those first 6 years. Charles responded by introducing a robust organisation of spies and informers. Because of these attempts to overthrow the king there was great fear of more Catholic “papist plots” like the Gunpowder plot of 1605 and the more recent attempts on the king's life.

Foreign Enemies
Mistrust was not just confined to home spun plots and enemies. In 1666 England was at war with both Holland and France over domination of the seas and of world trade and everyone was paranoid about foreign spies. As a result all foreigners were viewed with suspicion and stories abounded about atrocities inflicted by these other nations.

When I was researching the start of the fire, I started thinking that given the superstitions of that time period in which many people did believe in supernatural explanations for much of what they saw around them, it was only a small jump to a plot focused around a fantastical basis for the fire.

The Last Seal

This, then, was the spark of an idea that became The Last Seal. So we have the real world of 1666 with its cramped London of tenements and warehouses, celebrities and historical buildings, its markets and its thieves. Blended amongst it we have the spies working for the King, secret societies, sorcery and a demon.
The Last Seal is, I hope, fast moving, exciting and at times frightening, but I have strived to make it a good recreation of the period. 

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A Journey to the Brontë family at Haworth

by Stephanie Cowell

I first visited the Brontë parsonage in Haworth in my early twenties. Haworth is a little town in Yorkshire set on a steep hill and was much less touristy then. I remember trying to cross a bridge and having to wait for a bunch of sheep to cross before me. I was surprised at how small were the parsonage rooms: how did they have space for all those passionate personalities? There is a passage in one of the letters describing how Emily, Charlotte and Anne paced the small parlor at night. I could not understand how they managed in their long dresses.

I kept thinking, “I am here, I am here.” I saw Charlotte’s nightgown on display and the curator explained how they washed these old things. “Very carefully in mild soap.” I gazed at Charlotte’s tiny wedding cap. She was so very small! Everything seemed to creak. There were not many tourists. Some of the small stone houses on the steep street had handwritten notices posted in the windows that they served tea and pot pie. A woman sat me alone at her kitchen table and served me beef and kidney pie. I picked doubtfully at the kidneys.

To my great fortune, I met a Yorkshire woman and her daughter who invited me to their home which had been a 14th century weaver’s cottage. They also took me walking on the moors and to the ruin of what is thought to be the inspiration for the house in Wuthering Heights. How lonely it was, how isolated. We keep bumping into wild sheep who stared at us. My little blue heeled shoes were ruined in the mud. The wind blew and blew. I lost touch with these lovely people, alas!

It was not until I returned with my husband many years later and stayed in a neighboring farmhouse that I heard the wind really wuthering in the chimneys. It was truly remarkable.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Castles, Mansions, Banquets and Balls!

Castles, mansions, banquets and balls! What a life we see glorified in books and movies today, and what enjoyment it affords us. Dungeons, armies, peasants and kings. The history of England is a fascinating source of fodder for stories.

Here we are bringing together some of the modern day authors of historical England and the British Empire. We here, the authors of this blog, are working on your next books, the delight of your leisure evenings, and we are more than eager to share them with you. We want to stop our work for now, though, and take the time to meet you, to talk with you and to savor Olde England, our passion, with you.

Hadrian's Wall, shown with Chester's Bridge Abutment, above, is some of early Roman England. It is the greatest tourist attraction in Northern England today. I can only imagine standing, looking at it and trying to realize the time that passed since workmen were putting those stones together. Since then, in all those centuries, I imagine the travelers that passed near them, the children that climbed over them- all of them quickly grown up, grown old, grown silent and long forgotten.

Through all those centuries, named eras came and went. Each era had its rulers, its heroes, its ladies and its unfortunate poor. Each came to be known for its recovered facts, its legends and the questions it has raised. Its left-behind structures stand, or fall. Its art, music and dances have passed down to us, and with those, we imitate their lives.

What pretty stories we can create once we have done the research and become acquainted with the times, for there were common lives, extraordinary lives and for some, even royal lives. As time went on, a class system developed structure, structure which was widely, if resignedly, accepted by even those who suffered because of it. The lowest suffered for their "inferiority", which meant working hard and doing without. The highest suffered for marriage rules that destroyed their love lives and broke their hearts. Their positions pitted family members against each other for power or precedence and sometimes even took their lives. These are sad realities, but with much of it in the past, we can dream of people who might have lived in those confines. We can use those rules and that structure as an aid to make fascinating tales about these dreamed up people. The settings are grand; there are medieval forest hideouts, majestic but cold stone fortresses and gilt palaces. What appeals to you?

The authors of this blog will share some of the incredible things we've learned- perhaps you might be interested in the Great Fire of London in 1666 or learning about an eccentric lady of centuries past. You might want to know more about the practice of medicine in Victorian London or simply what an everyday Georgian working class man did with his spare change. How about an article on a particular castle? We will have a new post daily, something sure to keep ablaze your ancient English fancies and give you something to get your own imagination in gear. Perhaps you will want to be one of our "Reader-writers" and give us a short short story or a post? Please do! You may want to leave us a question about England for one of our experts to answer, or just come to play on our games page. We want this blog to become Anglophile Central, a place to learn about England, past and present, and have some fun. You may want to bring your tea.

We also want to introduce you to us, your authors, and our very English works. You can read about each one on the About Us page and even traipse off to our websites and blogs. Be sure to come back the next day, though, for a new and intriguing post!

Today, during our Grand Launch Weekend, we are having a huge Giveaway Event with a Kindle Grand Prize and numerous others! Please take a look at the following post to see what we have to offer, and choose your favorites.

Hadrian's Wall photo by Mike Quinn, shared by Creative Commons
Belton House photo owned by Richard Thomas, shared by Creative Commons

Grand Launch Super Giveaway Event!

English Historical Fiction Authors are happy to offer a Giveaway Event for our Grand Launch festivities. We are giving away a Kindle, three Amazon Gift Certificates and several books. Please go to our Giveaways page to see what we have to offer. Then return to this post to let us know what your first, second and third book choices are, if you should be a book winner. (Sorry, there is no comment option on the Giveaway page.) Please be sure to leave us contact information so that you will be able to receive your prize. Return each week for another book giveaway. And come back every day to find out what our authors have to say in our daily posts. England is a fascinating place!

Photo of Dryburgh Abbey Ruins thanks to Walter Baxter.


The Grand Prize Kindle winner from the Super Launch Weekend is: Robin Haseltine! Congratulations, Robin! Robin says she downloads about six Kindle books per week, but has to read them on her computer. So the Kindle is going to someone who will really use it. She says she plans to read all our books on it.

Second Prize: Heather (Lolarific)
Third Prize: Prue Batten (Mesmered)
Fourth Prize: Lisa Richards

Recipients of the above prizes have been contacted and must claim their prizes by Sat. Oct. 1, 2011, by 10PM PST or the prizes will be awarded to another contestant.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Welcome to English Period Readers, Authors and Anglophiles Everywhere!

Please join us September 23rd through 25th, 2011, to set off some serious "fireworks" right here. We will be launching this new blog, perfect for Anglophiles everywhere. The festivities will include games and drawings for a Kindle or Amazon Gift Certificate. Other prizes in the drawing will include copies of over a dozen books. You will have the opportunity to get acquainted with numerous authors of British History and Historical Fiction, learn about our books and meet some of our readers.

Following the launch weekend, there will be fascinating daily posts about the history and culture of Britain and the Empire. There will also be a weekly book giveaway. You will be able to follow updates by the authors as they publish their work. Please follow this blog, or subscribe, to receive the information in a timely way.