Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Princess's Life is Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

by Regina Jeffers

With the marriage of Kate Middleton to her Prince William, the public’s view of life in the Royal Court became more idealized. However, those of us who study the Royals of the Regency Period know that being a princess does not necessarily mean someone lives “happily ever after.” Meet The Princess Royal, Charlotte Augusta Matilda, the eldest daughter of George III of England.

George III and Queen Charlotte beget a total of 15 children: nine sons and six daughters. Life in the royal household was anything but ideal. Reportedly, the boys were often beaten for the least infraction, but they also had their “freedom.” So, despite George III’s “whip hand,” the king’s sons were given money and their own residences, some receiving these liberties as early as age eleven. The King’s daughters, however, were kept at home under the watchful eye of both parents. The diarist, Fanny Burney, wrote, “Never in tale or fable were there six sister Princesses more lovely.” However, late marriages and spinsterhood plagued all six.

One of the issues that kept the daughters out of the marriage ring was their parents’ insistence that the girls marry men whose politics aligned with the King and Queen’s. Therefore, the princesses were rarely out in Society. Obviously, the girls could not be seen dancing with someone of the Whigs party. Only the daughters of loyal Tories were ever invited to Windsor. Queen Charlotte remained quite adamant in that matter.

Most experts agree that Queen Charlotte’s allegiance to her husband doomed the girls. Although King George III loved his daughters, he did not want them to marry. Repots say that before he went mad in 1788 that the King apologized to his daughters for not finding them appropriate husbands. The King’s madness and the French Revolution kept the girls at home under their mother’s watchful eye. Queen Charlotte feared her husband’s illness may have passed to her children, and she watched them carefully for early signs of the disease.

Several hopefuls applied for the girls, but each was turned away. Charlotte Augusta Matilda, the oldest of the daughters and known as the Princess Royal to distinguish her from her mother, was two and twenty when her father displayed signs of his madness in 1788. No talk of marriage was possible during these trying times. However, when the King took a turn for the better in 1789, the royal court received new offers of marriage. Denmark, Brunswick, Wurttemberg, and Orange sent inquiries, but the King continued to turn down all offers.

The Prince of Wales attempted to arrange a marriage for the Princess Royal to the heir to the Duke of Oldenburg, but those plans were thwarted. Finally, at the age of nine and twenty, the Hereditary Prince of Wurttemberg approached her father about a possible match. Immensely fat, the Prince was no great prize. He was forty when they married. He had been married previously, and after bearing an illegitimate child in Russia, his wife had died under “suspicious” circumstances. The former Princess had been George III’s niece, daughter to his sister Augusta, Duchess of Brunswick. Therefore, King George insisted on clearing the Prince’s name before he would allow his daughter to marry the man.

On 18 May 1797 (after the Prince had been cleared), the Princess Royal, age 30, and her groom, Prince Frederick, who had turned forty, were finally permitted to marry. Princess Charlotte left England, never to see her dear father again. Charlotte was happy in her new home, and although her only child was stillborn, she happily became stepmother to her husband’s children. Prince Frederick succeeded his father as the reigning Duke of Wurttemberg on 22 December 1797. Charlotte courageously faced the ravages of the European continent during the Napoleonic era. Having previously fled the French several times, she received the conquering Napoleon with dignity when he marched into Wurttemberg in 1805. Duke Frederick ceded Montbeliard to France before assuming the titled of Elector of Wurttemberg, but Napoleon named Frederick King of Wurttemberg on 26 December 1805. Electress Charlotte became Queen on 1 January 1806. The action further alienated the former Princess Royal from her English family. Wurttemberg had joined Napoleon’s short-lived Confederation of the Rhine, which made the country an enemy of England and George III.

To reciprocate, the new Queen arranged a match between her stepdaughter Catherine and Napoleon’s brother Jerome, which made Catherine Queen of the new Kingdom of Westphalia. In 1813, with Napoleon’s losses, Wurttemberg changed sides in the continuing conflict. In 1814, George IV invited his sister Charlotte to England for the victory celebrations, but Frederick refused to permit her to go. He remained affronted by his wife’s family abandonment. Charlotte pretended an illness rather than to embarrass all involved with her refusal to attend.

When Frederick died in 1816, Charlotte maintained that she had been happy with the man. To honor her marriage vows, she wore black for the rest of her days. The Dowager Queen of Wurttemberg lived out her days in Stuttgart. Occasionally, she hosted visits from her brothers, the Duke of Kent, the Duke of Sussex, and the Duke of Cambridge, as well as Princess Augusta Sophia. By proxy, she was godmother to her niece, Princess Victoria of Kent, the future Queen Victoria. The year before she died in 1828, she returned to England for surgery for dropsy. Unfortunately, for her sisters, Charlotte’s successful marriage did nothing for their own prospects. The King and Queen used the dangers in which Charlotte found herself during the Napoleonic era as reason not to permit her sisters of making an appropriate match.

To enjoy the rest of the Princess Series, please visit my blog

The Dissapearance of Georgiana Darcy
A Pride and Prejudice Mystery

By Regina Jeffers
(Released April 10, 2012)
A thrilling novel of malicious villains, dramatic revelations, and heroic gestures that stays true to Austen’s style

Darcy and Elizabeth have faced many challenges, but none as dire as the disappearance of Darcy’s beloved sister, Georgiana. After leaving for the family home in Scotland to be reunited with her new husband, Edward, she has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving official word that Georgiana is presumed dead, Darcy and Elizabeth travel to the infamous Merrick Moor to launch a search for his sister in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish countryside. Suspects abound, from the dastardly Wickham to the mysterious MacBethan family. Darcy has always protected his little sister, but how can he keep her safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? Written in the language of the Regency era and including Austen’s romantic entanglements and sardonic humor, this suspense-packed sequel to Pride and Prejudice recasts Darcy and Elizabeth as a husband-and-wife detective team hunting for truth amid the dark moors of Scotland.

Sir Sidney Smith and the Siege of Acre - 1799

by M.M. Bennetts

One of the perennial features of British history from Tudor times onwards is the rivalry with France for maritime power and influence and colonial possessions.

This had already proved an economically crippling policy for France during much of the 18th century--it had spurred the Seven Years War during which France lost both her North American colonies and her navy, and it prompted the financing of the American Rebellion against Great Britain, which had ultimately bankrupted France and brought on the Revolution of 1789. Still, the French strategy of the day seems to be, why abandon a losing game?

In 1798, the young General Bonaparte convinced the Directory that conquering Egypt was the just the ticket to curb Britain's overseas expansion. It would give them a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean and they could wallow in their lust for ancient Oriental splendour and knowledge. What could be better? The Egyptian government was weak, disorganised and corrupt and therefore easy to topple, and their overlords, the Ottomans, weren't paying much attention anyway. Right?

Plus, with a charismatic leader like Napoleon, they could forge on up through the countries of the Middle East and seize Constantinople, thus bringing liberty, fraternity and all those good things to the enslaved peoples of the Ottoman Empire. And from there, press on in the footsteps of Alexander the Great all the way to India and challenge British influence there.

Yes, it would be the biggest land-grab in history, but what of that?

The Directory were delighted with the prospect of removing young Bonaparte from Paris (let him go off and be someone else's headache for a while)--he was getting too popular and he had the support of the army too. So they sanctioned the expedition.

There was of course the now-famous chase around the Mediterranean by Nelson and the Fleet which ended with the Battle of the Nile, during which Nelson destroyed the French fleet, thus marooning the French army in Egypt. For which victory Lord Nelson became the ultimate national hero. But I don't want to talk about that.

The person I want to talk about is Captain Sir William Sidney Smith (1764-1840), an Englishman of extra-ordinary cunning and intelligence. He was said to be "of middling stature, good-looking, with tremendous moustachios, a pair of penetrating black eyes, an intelligent countenance, with a gentlemanly air, expressive of good nature and kindness of heart."

He was a naval officer, yes, of great daring and flamboyance--his raids on the French coast are the stuff of legend. (He and Nelson were rivals.) But he was also a fine intelligence agent and in 1798, he was incarcerated in the high-security Temple Prison in Paris (running his spy ring from his cell there) at exactly the time Napoleon was gaining permission from the Directory for his Egyptian expedition.

On a panel of wood in his cell, Smith inscribed this, by Rousseau: "Fortune's wheel makes strange revolutions, it must be confessed; but for the term revolution to be applicable, the turn of the wheel must be complete. You are today as high as you can be. Very well. I envy not your good fortune, for mine is better still. I am as low in the career of ambition as a man can well descend; so that, let this capricious dame, fortune, turn her wheel ever so little--I must necessarily mount, for the same reason you must descend."

But Smith then made it personal for Bonaparte, and wrote: "I make not this remark to cause you any uneasiness, but rather to bring you that consolation which I shall feel when you are arrived at the same point where I now am--yes! at the same point where I now am. You will inhabit this same prison--why not as well as I? I no more thought of such a thing, than you do at present, before I was actually shut up in it."

On 24 April 1798, Smith escaped, courtesy of a daring raid by French Royalists.

Once free, he returned to Britain, and was dispatched to Constantinople in October 1798 (his brother was ambassador there), given command of the 80 gun battleship, Tigre, and full powers to command the effort against Napoleon in the Levant. Sultan Selim, in response to the incursion into his territory, had declared war on France. He also admired Smith very much and put him in charge of the sea and land forces being assembled for the purpose of driving the French out of the Levant.

So, fast-forward to January 1799.

Bonaparte and his French troops have conquered, so to speak, Egypt. He has set up a government to suit himself. He has robbed the place of as many antiquities and treasures as he can manage. He's ordered the slaughter of the Al-Azhar mosque and neighbourhood in response to their insurrection against him. The place is under martial law. His troops have been decimated by disease and dehydration. He has no transport to get his men back home. Clearly it's now time to swing into action up the east coast of the Mediterranean to take Constantinople and/or open up an overland route to India. Preferably both.

Up the coast the 13,000 French troops march, across the Sinai desert with little food and less water.

First stop Jaffa. Which they storm and take in an orgy of slaughter, killing civilians and soldiers alike, at the beginning of March. Once in control, the French provision themselves, but they also come into contact with bubonic plague (again).

Nevertheless, from there, they march up around the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, arriving at Haifa on 17 March from which the citadel of Acre--long fought over during the Crusades--is visible by telescope. And across that stretch of blue water, Napoleon sees something he had not planned on: British battleships and Turkish gunboats in the harbour. (Their total control of the sea-lanes also means his transport ships carrying all his heavy siege guns were also seized and he was wholly deprived of news from home or from base-camp in Egypt.)

Yet still, determined to fulfill his destiny as the new Alexander (yes, he really did believe that!), Napoleon presses on and on the 18 March, the French take up their position before the walls of Acre.

The citadel at Acre is built on a promontory, with only one side facing land--the rest surrounded by water--and possessing a very neat little harbour.

Now the Governor of Acre had for the past 25 years been Pasha el-Djezzar. (Djezzar translates as either Butcher or Cutter--a soubriquet more than earned by his treatment of his enemies.) He had certainly talked big, and threatened all manner of savagery against the French when they were in Egypt, but he was rather inclined to abandon Acre once the chips were down. Smith talked him into staying on.

With one of the Royalist spies who had rescued him from the Temple--an engineer who had shared a desk with Napoleon at school, Louis-Edmond Phelippeaux--Smith and Djezzar had reinforced the walls and land-facing towers.

Still, under the constant battery of guns, the French dug their trenches and opened siege on 28 March with their field guns. They also sent an army officer under a flag of truce to demand surrender, but Djezzar threw him into prison.

When a breach was opened in the walls of one of the towers, the French were not only repulsed but also ran into a dry moat and found their scaling ladders were too short, hence they retreated under fire. Within days, they were running out of ammunition, so Napoleon offered rewards for cannonballs.

Djezzar offered a bounty for enemy heads.

By early April, the French had launched another assault which had failed, but more worryingly, the sappers had dug their trenches almost to the walls and were attempting to mine one of the towers.

A sortie by the British drove them off, but by mid-April they were back driving the mine under the tower. On the 24th, the mine was blown, but they'd miscalculated the position and only the front wall of the tower's lower storey had collapsed. French troops stormed the breach, but again were driven back.

Meanwhile, the Turks were sending reinforcements both by land and sea and Napoleon had to dash off to scatter the reinforcements in a series of skirmishes and battles, most notably the Battle of Mount Tabor. There is no doubt that here, the French fought bravely against overwhelming (but rather disorganised) odds.

Another mine had now been dug under the same tower (which they called the Cursed Tower). Yet again, the tower only partially collapsed and the storming French troops were pelted with rocks and grenades and finally repelled with powder kegs filled with burning mixtures of gunpowder and sulpher--they're known as stink pots, these missiles, for the clouds of acrid smoke they give off.

At last, the replacement siege guns which Napoleon had requested sent overland arrived at the end of the month. Though it took them six days to set them up, Smith was expecting defeat and wrote to tell the Admiralty so.

On the 7th May the newly installed French siege guns began pounding away and it seemed an end was inevitable.

But again, British seapower came to the rescue and that evening, ships carrying supplies and reinforcements arrived.

Napoleon, seeing this, and never a patient man, stepped up the bombardment and French troops finally occupied the the second storey of the Cursed Tower. But not for long.

In the morning, Smith himself led a party of Marine reinforcements and took back the breach, holding it until more reinforcements arrived. (This act of heroism shamed Pasha Djezzar and he ordered his own troops to stand and fight, which they did with rather frightening gusto.)

Meanwhile, Napoleon had been busy spreading propaganda--he was a master of it. And he'd had printed two sets of pamphlets, one for Christians and one for Muslims. For the benefit of the Christians, he claimed he was the natural successor of those great men, the Crusaders, and a defender of Christian faith. To the Muslims, he declared that he had already destroyed the power of the pope in Rome and the Knights of St. John in Malta and that he was the true defender of Islam.

Smith got hold of these. And ordered them distributed amongst the opposite factions of those for whom they were intended. Local goodwill dried up to parching.

He also had bundles of leaflets dropped into the French trenches offering on behalf of the Sultan a free passage out of Syria for any soldiers wise enough to lay down their arms.

Napoleon was incandescent, and wrote, "Smith is a crazy young man..."

Having survived the latest assaults and secure in the knowledge that the garrison was reinforced and supplied, Smith sat back (if you can call it that) and watched with enjoyment as the effects of his propaganda war took hold. The French position was now untenable.

Still, Napoleon was determined to have one more go--he'd never been defeated before...And on the 10th May, in the full glare of a sweltering Middle Eastern sun, the final French assault was launched. Though Napoleon wanted to lead it himself, he was persuaded not to. General Kleber led the assault, while Smith led the defence.

The French were beaten to a standstill and Kleber ordered a retreat.

And Smith, cheeky as ever, wrote to Napoleon: "General, I am acquainted with the dispositions that for some days past you have been making to raise the siege; the preparations in hand to carry off your wounded, and to leave none behind you, do you great credit. This last word ought not to escape my mouth--I, who ought not to love you, to say nothing more: but the circumstances remind me to wish that you would reflect on the instability of human affairs. In fact, could you have thought that a poor prisoner in the cell of the Temple prison--that an unfortunate for whom you refused, for a single moment, to give yourself any concern, being at the same time able to render him a signal service, since you were then all-powerful--could you have thought, I say, that this same man would have become your antagonist, and have compelled you, in the midst of the sands of Syria, to raise the siege of a miserable, almost defenceless town? Such events, you must admit, exceed all human calculations. Believe me, general, adopt sentiments more moderate, and that man will not be your enemy, who shall tell you that Asia is not a theatre made for your glory. This letter is a little revenge that I give myself."

Napoleon was beaten.

He cut his losses and on 20 May began the retreat to Egypt with his exhausted and ill troops, over a third of his original force either dead or disabled. Although he claimed victory when he returned to Cairo, by the end of August, he had abandoned his troops in Egypt, hurried back to France alone, proclaiming his venture a success, taking charge of the army, and before long, the nation.

In 1808, he ordered the demolition of the Temple prison--he said, because it had become a place of Royalst pilgrimage as both Louis XVI and Louis XVII had been held there. Others maintained it was so that Smith's prophecy could never come true and he would never be incarcerated there.

M.M. Bennetts is a specialist in early 19th century British and European history and the Napoleonic wars and is the author of two novels, May 1812 and Of Honest Fame set during the period.  A third novel, Or Fear of Peace, is due out in 2014.

For further information, please visit the website and historical blog at

Monday, February 27, 2012

Richard III v Henry VII Naughty or Nice?

I have always been intrigued by the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. Most people are aware that, on the sudden death of their father Edward IV, the two boys were ensconced in the Tower, as was tradition, to await the coronation of the eldest boy as Edward V. But, although preparations for his coronation were underway, it was suddenly claimed that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville had been bigamous and, therefore, all their children illegitimate.

Since illegitimacy barred the young Edward from the throne, his uncle, Richard III, was, by a statute known as the Titulus Regius, proclaimed as the rightful king and crowned in his stead.

After his coronation in 1483 accounts of the boys’ whereabouts begin to dwindle from the historical record and many believe they never left the Tower alive but were murdered there; suffocated in their sleep with a pillow.

Richard reigned until August 1485 when Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven to claim the throne for himself. After the Battle of Bosworth, Henry Tudor (and his subsequent heirs) did their best to damage Richard’s reputation and since that date it has been widely believed that Richard III was responsible for the boys’ deaths. Thomas More was the first to blacken his name and William Shakespeare, also writing for a Tudor monarch, twisted Richard’s character further. Consequently many later histories are based on a literary play rather on historical record. Most historians now agree that many of the heinous crimes attributed to Richard were, in fact, committed by others.

Tudor propaganda ensured that the surviving accounts of the years surrounding Bosworth are murky to say the least. Early in his reign Henry Tudor ordered all copies of the Titular Regius to be ‘utterly destroyed’ for reasons which may, or may not, appear obvious. You have to dig deep to find unbiased accounts but they do exist and there are several other candidates that fit the ‘murderer’ tag just as well as Richard.

Richard was crowned king in 1483 and would have been aware that his nephews provided a potential target for those wishing to supplant him. A prudent king would have removed them from the picture. Richard was by all accounts a religious man and killing his nephews would have been sinful, even in those days. It would also be disloyal to his brother to whom Richard had been devoted in life. The act would also be a Godsend to any enemy that wished to turn the kingdom against him and, therefore, foolish. Chronicles prove that Richard was neither imprudent, sinful or foolish. So why, when rumours of the death began circulating, did he not just produce the boys? A lot has been read into this and it does seem to suggest that he could not produce them but that doesn’t necessarily mean they were already dead, they could have been sent out of harm’s way.

Many believe Richard ordered that the boys be removed to safety but there are now so many conflicting accounts and theories as to where they may have been moved to, that it is difficult to sift the good from the bad. During Richard’s reign there was a royal nursery at his castle at Sheriff Hutton where his brother George of Clarence’s children, Margaret, and Edward of Warwick, resided, along with Richard’s legitimate son, also named Edward, and his two illegitimate children, John and Catherine. On Henry’s accession to the throne one of his first acts was to secure the persons of the children therein.

IF the boys were found there then, when you consider Henry’s treatment of other surviving Yorkists, then their fate seems sealed. Richard’s legitimate son, Edward died of natural causes during his father’s reign but the other children were still living at the time of Bosworth. Richard’s illegitimate daughter, Catherine, was no longer surviving as early as Elizabeth of York’s coronation in 1487 and her brother John’s fate is less clear but records show that a ‘base sone’ of Richard’s was executed by Henry in 1491. Clarence’s children were also both executed by Tudor monarchs, Warwick was immediately incarcerated in the tower where he remained until accused of plotting with Perkin Warbeck. He was executed in 1499, an act made worse by the fact that the boy appears to have suffered from learning difficulties. His sister Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, managed to survive Henry VII’s rule but under Henry VIII, at the age of approximately sixty-eight, she was executed. But I digress. I will leave that story for another day.

True or not, I like the idea that the princes escaped, not least because of the wonderful array of ‘survival’ theories that it has provoked. Such imaginings are a real gift to historical novelists whichever way they care to play it.

Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne was tenuous to say the least, based upon his descent from Edward III, but through his mother's illegitimate Beaufort line. His title was Lancastrian and the House of Lancaster had long been regarded as usurpers and the direct line extinguished. He could never have won the victory nor ascended to the throne as heir of the House of Lancaster if his promise to marry Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV, had not won him the support of a few disaffected Yorkists.

It was imperative that Elizabeth’s illegitimacy was reversed in order to bolster Henry’s position but in legitimising her, Henry also legitimised her brothers, thus placing them before himself in the line of succession. So, IF the boys were still living at this time, they would have been much more of an obstruction to Henry than they ever were to Richard, who already legitimately held the position of king. This, in my view, provides a motive.

Of course, it’s a big IF. In my opinion, a study of the characters of Richard and Henry, make the latter more likely to resort to infanticide. Not that he would have wielded the axe himself, or in this particular case, the pillow.

Far from being the personification of evil as depicted by Shakespeare, Richard did have some qualities that Henry lacked. While Richard, having fought on numerous battlefields since his teens, was an undisputed warrior, Henry was not. At Bosworth he waited on the sidelines and let others do his dirty work for him. While Richard’s life is, with the exception of the puzzling execution of William Hastings, full of loyalty and honour, Henry’s is not. If Richard had wanted the boys killed he would probably have done the deed openly, or wielded the ‘pillow’ himself. Underhanded infanticide does not seem to have been his style.

Henry’s character was far more secretive and underhand. Henry never felt secure on his stolen throne and his court is famous for its intrigue and spies and I believe his reign suffered more uprisings than any other. People just didn’t like Henry and it’s easy to see why.

The first vengeance that Henry Tudor took as monarch was upon the body of the late King. After the battle, in an unprecedented act, the body of Richard III, an anointed king, was slung naked over a horse, arms and legs dangling, a halter was tossed around his neck in symbolism of his defeat. In this indignity, he was taken to the Franciscan Priory church of the Greyfriars at Leicester where, for two days, his body was exhibited for all to see. He was buried at the friary with no ceremony. The church does not exist today – like so many others, when Henry's son ordered the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530’s, the building was destroyed and, rumour has it, Richard's grave was opened and the remains thrown out.

Henry’s next act as King was to date his reign from the day before Bosworth thus rendering as traitors all those who had loyally fought for King Richard, so that they could then be attainted for treason.

England lost much of its nobility during the battle, including men of great wealth like John Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. Henry appropriated their lands and kept the revenue for the crown. Some he executed for treason, among them William Bracher, Sir John Buck of Harthill and William Catesby of Ashby St Legers. Some, like Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, he imprisoned in the tower.

Those of Richard’s supporters that did survive the battle were attainted and their estates confiscated; this effectively disarmed them and kept them from raising arms against the king. Henry then forbid all nobles to retain their own armies to prevent them from being more powerful than himself and also to deter them from rebelling against him. It was an effective policy and, although Henry did not manage to subdue all opposition, it is a fact that the English nobility, already in decline during the Wars of the Roses, fell rapidly from influence under the Tudors. By the reign of Queen Elizabeth I England had just one remaining duke, that of Norfolk, and, after plotting to marry Mary Queen of Scots and restore Catholicism to England, he too was executed for treason in 1572.

It was not just the nobility that Henry targeted, indeed they seem to have been lower down on his list than those descended directly from the bloodline of Plantagenet. During the next three reigns the heirs of York were systematically wiped out.

I have tried to be objective in this brief overview but I guess I have failed. I cannot help it. Every time I consider this argument it seems to me that Richard was the guy with the nobler tendencies. While Henry spent his youth skulking around Europe, living off others, emptying gaols in order to come and steal a crown to which he had no right, Richard was aiding his brother, King Edward and proving almost unbelievably loyal despite disagreeing with his policies. In the short years that Richard was king he showed promise of becoming a just ruler, championing the rights of the poor against the rich (imagine that) and inspiring the loyalty in his subjects in the north, who knew him well. He may have been a violent man by our standards but he lived in violent times. Killing on the battlefield was honourable, off the field it was not. He abhorred disloyalty, as is made apparent by his reaction to Hastings’ betrayal, and, given the chance, I believe he would have made a better king than Henry who exploited rich and poor alike to bolster his own bulging coffers.

Throughout his life Henry resorted to devious methods. He lied and cheated his way to the throne and even once he had won it, his insecurities continued to dog him and his unscrupulous practices continued.

The Tudor regime may have put an end to the tumultuous years of the Wars of the Roses but the dying didn’t stop. In Henry VIII’s reign alone it has been estimated that 72,000 people were executed. In 1485 the honourable ferocity of the Plantagenets was replaced by the deceit of the Tudors who, although they brought security and wealth to Britain, did so dishonourably.

You can probably tell which banner I fight under but the subject is just as fascinating from the other side. The years surrounding The Battle of Bosworth have got to be the most intriguing in British History. If my rather biased view of the issues have inspired you to read more, there are countless books on the subject and you will find that historians just cannot remain impartial. There is something about the Wars of the Roses that, even today, forces you to take sides.

You can read more about the Vengeance of the Tudors on my webpage:

Pictures: White rose of York, Red Rose of Lancaster.

Right hand picture: Richard III

Left hand Picture: Henry VII

Giveaway: Margaret's Rematch by Farida Mestek

This week Farida Mestek is giving away a copy (e-book) of her traditional Regency-set novel "Margaret's Rematch". To see some information about the book, please click HERE. Don't forget to leave your e-mail address!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Unrequited Love: Jane Austen and America

by Lauren Gilbert

Jane Austen had little to say about America, and that little was not good. In her letter to Martha Lloyd of 9/2/1814, she did not reflect a positive view of America (as in the new United States), saying “…I place my hope of better things on a claim to the protection of Heaven, as a Religious Nation, a Nation inspite of much Evil improving in Religion, which I cannot believe the Americans to possess.” The ideals of democracy espoused by America, and later in the French Revolution, were a more direct and positive influence on earlier authors with whom Jane was familiar, such as Edmund Burke and Charlotte Turner Smith, but suffered an eclipse when, in France, the Terror erupted and the King and Queen were executed. Park Honan wrote that, in THE LOITERER, Jane’s brother James printed a story reflecting the Tory view of France and America, in which a Scottish soldier fighting against Washington becomes a democratic fool, loses his values , marries a rich vicious mean-born widow, and becomes miserable, ruined by the American Revolution. There is a strong probability that Jane would have read the story.

Austen’s novels reflect a more prudent, Tory approach to advancement than the Scottish soldier in question pursued: her heroines who made advantageous marriages and the men who advanced clearly have worth of their own in terms of character, but also of birth. In PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Elizabeth Bennet was a “gentleman’s daughter”, so her marriage to Mr. Darcy was not totally inappropriate. In MANSFIELD PARK, Fanny and William Price’s mother was Lady Bertram’s sister, so there was good blood there (however diluted) to supplement their individual merits. In spite of Emma’s improvements, Harriet (born, as we come to discover, the illegitimate daughter of a tradesman) was matched appropriately with the farmer Mr. Martin, and her friendship with Emma evolved into a more suitable relationship. The War of 1812 (the circumstance under discussion in the letter previously cited) would have been a concern but does not make an appearance in her novels (as with so many other politically-charged events of her time). It seems clear that America was a negative influence in the world, in Austen’s view. She tended to uphold the more traditional values and structures currently in place in England, even while she makes her concerns about women’s role and place in those structures apparent.

In considering the West Indies as part of the Americas, the situation and viewpoint are somewhat different but not more favorable. The combination of the West Indies and trade led directly to slavery. Her aunt Leigh-Perrot brought a plantation in Barbados with her when she married Jane’s uncle. Austen’s father, George Austen, was a trustee for a plantation owned by James Nibbs, a former classmate. Austen’s brother Charles’ naval career included five years in the North American Station, searching ships and interfering with trade between France and the United States. Charles married Fanny Palmer, the daughter of an official in Bermuda while stationed in the West Indies. The issues of slavery and income mentioned in MANSFIELD PARK would have had a great deal of immediacy for her family, as discussions of plantation business matters, including slavery, would have been fairly common. Austen’s disgust for slavery were made apparent, however discreetly, by the references in MANSFIELD PARK, previously mentioned, as well as in EMMA. In EMMA, Austen’s character Jane Fairfax referred to her role as a governess as a form of slavery of the mind, if not the body, and was extremely reluctant to embark on her career. Even the reference to Mrs. Elton's family in Bristol with wealth coming from trade has a dark connotation, due to Bristol having been a significant port involved with the slave trade. (The slave trade was outlawed in 1807 but slave ownership in the British Empire was still legal, during Austen's life.)

I was unable to find any positive references to the Americas in Jane Austen’s letters or novels. Even though Austen’s novels carry a subtle undertone of the injustices to women in the current English system, the democratic ideals that lead to the American and French revolutions clearly did not resonate with her. There is no indication she espoused the radical transformation of her society. While bearing in mind that the letters remaining are a fraction of what she had written, available information indicates that Austen viewed the Americas as a dangerously radical, unreligious place where people of low birth and poor character could be advanced socially and materially, in spite of their unworthiness. Given the fairly recent loss of the colonies and subsequent revolution and Terror in France, a jaundiced view of America by Austen and her contemporaries would not be unreasonable or surprising. One can only hope that subsequent developments would have found favor with her, especially in view of the continuing popularity of her novels here.

Honan, Park. JANE AUSTEN Her Life. Ballantine Books Edition, New York, NY: May 1989.
LeFaye, Deirdre. JANE AUSTEN The World of Her Novels. Frances Lincoln Ltd, London, UK: 2002.
Le Faye, Deirdre, ed. JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS (Third Edition) Oxford University Press, Oxford UK, 1997.
MacDonagh, Oliver. JANE AUSTEN Real and Imagined Worlds. Bath Press, Avon, UK: 1991.
Mitton, G. E. JANE AUSTEN and Her Times, 1775-1817. (Originally published 1905) Barnes & Noble, Inc., New York, NY: 2007 (reprint).
Ray, Joan Kilingel, PhD. JANE AUSTEN FOR DUMMIES. Wiley Publishing, Inc., Hoboken, N.J. 2006.
Tomalin, Claire. JANE AUSTEN A Life. First Vintage Books Edition, division of Random House, New York, NY: May 1999.
On-Line Reading:
PERSUASIONS ON-LINE : Numerous articles read, including: Vol. 25, No. 1 Sheehan, Colleen A. “To Govern the Winds: Dangerous Acquaintances at Mansfield Park”. Vol.24, No. 1 Ellwood, Gracia Fay. “”Such a Dead Silence:” Cultural Evil, Challenge, Deliberate Evil and Metanoia in Mansfield Park”. Vol.24, No. 1 Ellwood, Gracia Fay. “”Such a Dead Silence:” Cultural Evil, Challenge, Deliberate Evil and Metanoia in Mansfield Park”.

BBC HISTORY: Belchem, Professor John. “Thomas Paine: Citizen of the World.” “Edmund Burke (1729-1797)”
The Literary Encyclopedia: “Charlotte Smith (1749-1806)”First Published June 23 2003. Citation: Antje Blank, University of Glasgow.
Other: Hubback, J. H. and Edith C. JANE AUSTEN’S SAILOR BROTHERS (Chapter 7)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lady Jane Grey: Royal Tragedy - Royal Pawn Part II

Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England for nine days, and paid for the privilege with her life.  Continued from Lady Jane Grey:Royal Tragedy-Royal Pawn begun on February 7, 2012.

Princess Mary was in the country when she received news of her brother's death and Northumberland's treasonous coup. The Princess was many years older than her cousin Jane, and of a much sterner disposition--not at all the type to sit quietly by and allow her throne to be snatched from beneath her very nose! In a masterstroke of political maneuvering, she sent representatives all over the countryside, rallying people to her rightful cause--building an army of outraged constituents. As the story of the two Queens was trumpeted about, nearly everyone in England felt that Mary's cause was just under English law, and that Northumberland had circumvented English justice.  Soon, even the people in London began to riot, loudly and joyfully proclaiming Mary as the rightful Queen, and abandoning any romantic notions about Lady Jane's tenuous claim.

Northumberland, realizing--if not regretting--his foolishness, hastened to abandon poor little Jane, removing her from her position of State in the Tower, and sending her back to exile at Sion House while remaining in London himself, to proclaim Mary as the true Queen.

Mary triumphantly entered London, and went straight to the Tower, where her first official act was to hold her brother's funeral. Once that little detail was taken care of, she began to address her enemies. Northumberland was quickly imprisoned, and shortly thereafter beheaded along with several of his co-conspirators since Mary knew exactly who lay behind her young cousin's preemptive claim to the crown.  Although, Lady Jane and her husband were quickly returned to the Tower as prisoners; they were allowed to walk in the gardens, and were well treated for Mary, at this time, seemed to believe them innocent--a mere boy and girl forced to play their roles by conniving fathers.

Perhaps they would have stayed in captivity for many years but for Mary herself. Queen Mary--quite stern of both face and manner--quickly became hated. Shortly after she was crowned--people rose up in rebellion, proclaiming that Lady Jane should have been Queen instead. Lady Jane's fate was sealed by those who sought to elevate her. News reached Queen Mary that Sir Thomas Wyatt had collected a large army with the intention of attacking Whitehall Palace and abducting Mary, forcing her to abdicate in favor of Lady Jane.

Wyatt's army arrived, securing St. James's Park and surrounding Whitehall Palace. Fighting commenced between the Queen's troops and Wyatt's rebels, and Queen Marry watched from the Holbein Gate. With all her faults she was very brave, and was said to show no sign of fear even when she saw her own guards driven in and dispersed. When a gentleman rushed up to her, and, falling on his knees, said, 'All is lost,' and begged her to get into a barge on the river and fly to the Tower, where she would be safer, Mary refused to go, and said all was not lost, and by her bravery and her words she so inspired the men that they fought again, and succeeded in beating off the rebel forces who proceeded to fight their way toward the city.  The battle ended when Wyatt was taken prisoner on Ludgate Hill, not far from St. Paul's Cathedral.

Mary knew that she was safe, but she also feared that the danger might again rear its ugly head, and so to prevent this, she ordered Lady Jane Grey and her husband to be beheaded, for so long as they lived there would always be the fear that other men would rise as Wyatt had done, and try to make Jane Queen. On the following morning, Mary rode down to the city to thank her nobles and knights for fighting so bravely and defending her, knowing that before the day was ended she would have signed the death-warrant of Lady Jane.

Lady Jane was in the Tower when the news was brought to her. She had been a prisoner six months. It is said that when the priest came to tell Jane the news, she received it quite calmly and without a shudder. But when he tried to make her turn Roman Catholic, she told him she could never do that. The priest hurried back to Queen Mary, and said if the execution could be put off three days he might make Lady Jane a Roman Catholic, so Queen Mary consented to a short delay. During those three days she was asked if she would see her husband--who was to die first--to say good-bye; but she said it was better not, for the parting might be too heartrending, and make them both break down.

When the morning of the executions came, the guards led Guildford past Lady Jane's window. The execution of Guildford did not take long. Presently a low rumble of cart-wheels over the stones told Lady Jane that they were bringing back his dead body, and then she knew her turn must come.

One can only imagine the young woman's horror that morning; but she was very brave, and when they came for her, she is said to have neither fainted nor screamed, but rose up, and, calmly walked to her death. When she arrived at the place of execution she made a little speech, saying that she ought never to have allowed anyone to persuade her to be queen; but that she was young—she had not known what was right. And then, without any show of fear, she laid her head on the block, and was beheaded with a single blow.

And so ended the tragic tale of Lady Jane Grey—a young girl who loved her books, and would have lived a quiet life had she not been made a pawn in her father and father-in-law's ambitious games.

To read the beginning of  Lady Jane Grey: Royal Tragedy - Royal Pawn Part see the February 7, 2012 post.

Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

Teresa Thomas Bohannon,
MyLadyWeb, Women's History, Women Authors
Regency Romance A Very Merry Chase
Historical Fantasy Shadows In A Timeless Myth.

The Isle of Anglesey

by John Wheatley

Anglesey, with its beautiful landscape, and its long and dramatic history of settlement and conflict, is the setting of John Wheatley`s three novels: A Golden Mist, Flowers of Vitriol and The Weeping Sands.

The isle of Anglesey stands in the Irish Sea, separated from the Welsh mainland by the beautiful Menai Strait, once described - with its treacherous tides and unpredictable currents - as the most dangerous waterway in the world.

Wherever you go on Anglesey, you find stories.

When the Romans were fastening their iron grip on Britain, two legions under Suetonius Paulinus crossed the strait to Insula Mona to destroy the Anglesey stronghold of Druid culture, and by all accounts the bloodiest of slaughters took place. In ensuing centuries, as the emergent kingdom of Wales defended its freedom against powerful enemies, Anglesey was the retreat of the Princes, and a royal household was established at Aberffraw. Ancient historical and cultural ties with neighbouring Ireland were consolidated when, after the Act of Union, 1800, Holyhead, on Anglesey was chosen as the final stage of the mail route to Dublin, and it was this which led to the building of the Menai Bridge, completed in 1826.

My first Anglesey novel, A Golden Mist, was inspired by the story of the loss of the Royal Charter. Returning, in 1859, from Melbourne, with a company of 500 men, women, children, and
crew, and laden with bullion from the Australian gold fields, the Royal Charter was only thirty miles from her destination, the port of Liverpool when she was wrecked, in hurricane conditions, on rocks close to Moelfre, a fishing village on Anglesey`s north west coast. Only forty people survived. The sad evidence of the Royal Charter disaster is still to be found in remote and scattered churchyards along that stretch of coast, and it is said that many of the drowned, reluctant to lose the fortune they had gained on the far side of the world, went to their death weighed down with pockets full of gold. Many stories, too, told of villagers from Moelfre who grew mysteriously rich in the aftermath of the disaster! In A Golden Mist, Saffy Williams, visiting the UK from South Africa, finds evidence that one of her ancestors lived in Moelfre at the time. Through her quest, and two fictional contemporary narratives, the diary of Sophia Davis on board the Royal Charter and the memoir of Richard Williams, a young man living in Moelfre in 1859, I tell the story of the lost treasure ship and the lives and passions of people associated with it.

In 1770, `the great discovery` on Parys Mountain, near Amlwch, on Anglesey`s north coast, was the uncovering of rich copper deposits, and it was to lead to a furious mining operation, lasting fifty years, which turned Amlwch from a tiny coastal village into a busy and tawdry industrial town – the copper capital of the world. My second Anglesey novel, Flowers of Vitriol, is a moody story of love, betrayal, jealousy and vengeance set during this early chapter of Britain`s industrial revolution.

Baron Hill, the fabulous neo-Palladian mansion set on the hillside, above Beaumaris, and overlooking the celebrated castle - one in the chain of fortifications by which Edward 1st attempted to subjugate the Welsh - represents the wealth and influence of the Bulkeley family, who provided statesmen in the courts of Elizabeth 1st and James 1st, and who played a vital role in Anglesey politics from the Civil War to modern times. When I found, in my research of Baron Hill, a true story of love and adultery leading to an almost Oresteian tragedy of family vengeance and self-destruction, I chose this as the subject for my third Anglesey novel, The Weeping Sands. Over the centuries, Baron Hill played host to many distinguished guests, including royalty, but the Bulkeley family quit the mansion in 1926. Troops were billeted there during the second world war, and after substantial fire damage, the house was finally abandoned. It now stands, a derelict and awe-inspiring ruin, camouflaged by trees, on the hillside above Beaumaris.


John Wheatley`s novels are available through AMAZON.




John Wheatley lives in the North West of England and is a Lecturer at Stockport College. Cheshire. He was educated at William Hulme`s Grammar School, Manchester, and Leeds University where he graduated in English Literature. John has spent most of his working life teaching English and Drama, but is also qualified as a plumber and heating engineer. He spent holidays in Wales and on Anglesey as a child, and in 2009 published his first Anglesey historical novel, A GOLDEN MIST. This was followed in 2010 by FLOWERS OF VITRIOL, and in 2011 by THE WEEPING SANDS. His fourth Anglesey novel, THE PAPERS OF MATTHEW LOCKE is due to be published in the spring of 2012.

Visit John Wheatley`s Blog


Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Geud Man of Ballangigh

by David Wilkin

As noted before and elsewhere, I have spent some time teaching the dances that have been done in the Regency Era. I have spent the time doing this because I found tremendous enjoyment performing them as well as guiding others through them. The advent of devices like the iPod and now our iPhones have allowed me to store some of these tunes on the device and other technology has allowed my favorite tunes to become my morning radio show. The other day whilst driving in the dark to work in the morning, Gued Man of Ballangigh cycled through and it brought a smile to my face. I then thought that this would indeed be a good number to translate for my article. As I dedicate my most recent book, Jane Austen and Ghosts to those who dragged me to Regency Dancing as well, I found this thought to be further reinforced.

Here at English Historical Fiction Authors we often write about the history from the eras of our books are written in, so this is not an event, or a biography of some famous person. This is an activity that was done, dancing, at balls, parties, and on the spur of the moment. We know that these country dances made their way into formal society over a few hundred years. Before the country dance made it’s way into the ballroom we might find the minuet and gavotte being done by the aristocracy and upper classes in their halls and manors. In the Regency though, we do find these dances that started on the village green now the centerpieces of social gatherings where dance was the focus.

I hope that you will find this dance as enjoyable as I do. And that the directions below are those you can practice at your leisure. You can purchase a copy of the music on iTunes. There is a rendition by Jeremy Barlow and the Broadside Band that I have owned for a number of years available there. Another that you may find is by the Gadsby’s Tavern Musicians. (That may be harder to come by.)

Notes about the Geud Man of Ballangigh:
This is linked to James V of Scotland. The dance is traced to 1696, 150 years after the death of James V. Caroline Bingham in her biography of James V found references to James wandering the countryside and when meeting people identified himself as the “gudeman of Ballengiech” which means a tenant in the hollow of Stirling Castle. These tales may have come to us from Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter helped to invent many “authentic” Scottish Traditions when he arranged for George IV (Prinny) to visit Scotland in 1822. William H. Murray then developed the story into a play, Cramond Brig; or the Gudeman O’Ballangeich.

The Call:
A longways dance for as many as well. It is a duple minor.
1) A Couple lead down between B Couple and cast up to place. Two men lead out between two women and cast back to place.
2) B Couple lead up between A Couple and cast down to place. Two women lead out between two men and cast back to place.
3)A man sets towards B woman. Turns single back to place. A woman sets to B man and turns single back to place.
4)All circle four hands half way and fall back in lines, (Improper and progressed.) Partners set forward, and change places by right.

Longways-Couples line up facing each other and form a long line. Men on the left, women on the right. The first couple is that closest to the music, and the line becomes perpendicular to where the musicians are, for instance the stage.

Duple minor-The dance is performed in sets of two couples.

Lead Down-A couple walks away from the music. The man holds his hand palm up so that the lady may place her hand upon it gently. (No playing touchy feely here). Using about four steps to walk down between the other couple, the other couple who is not moving will actually part enough to ensure that the active couple can walk between them. In Gued Man, as the music is sprightly, the active couple move quickly (though there is no skipping in the Regency. Many other dance teachers will say there is. I contend that most will not have worn what we men wear in the Regency and find how tight our clothes have been made. That does not allow for much in the way of skipping.)

Cast-Once the active couple is on the other side of the non active couple, they must get back to place. We call this casting and it does not mean turning around and going directly back to place. We drop the hands of our partners and turn away from them and walk around that inactive person we just passed to return to our spot that we started from.

Setting-This is the step that the men can show off their footwork and calves in the Regency. The ladies legs are generally hidden so if we are lucky we might see a toe poke out from under the hem of their dress. I show off my setting when I can but it took me months to go beyond the basic pattern of shifting my weight, and years to master. For the purpose of simple instruction, you would hop very lightly or shift your weight to your right foot. Bring your left foot over to close together on just the ball of your left foot. Then your left foot back and bring the ball of your right foot to close. In Geud Man of Ballangigh this step is done while slightly advancing towards the the person diagonally across the set (not your partner, but the person of the other sex in the set who is not your partner.)

Turn Single-Here the dancer will take four steps to turn around in place. The dancer turns around to his right. In Geud Man of Ballangigh one turns while also returning along the diagonal so you get back to place.

Circle four Hands-Often called as four hands round, though all four people and all eight of their hands (two each) are used. Everyone joins hands in the square, making a circle. The circle now advances a certain number of places, in Geud Man of Ballangigh, it is two, or half way around the circle.

Fall Back in lines-Joining only inside hands with the person of the same sex in your set, you break the circle and are once more in a long line. (Men are now on the Womens side and Women are on the Mens) We take steps backwards (two.)

Improper-This would be the Men on the Women’s side of the line and Women on the Men’s side.

Progressed-Mentioned below (see A giant note bullet point) we discuss how every other time through, there is a couple out at each end, and that they will wait one time through before coming back in as the type of couple they were not before. Progression is how we keep moving down the line, or up the line to dance with new couples. So the first time through, the Smith’s are dancing with their B Couple, the Bakers. Behind them is the next set and that has the Jones and the Farmers. At Progression, right before the dance phrase is over and getting ready to start anew, the Bakers are the top of the couple, followed by the Smiths, who are still A Couples. Then the Farmers, followed by the Jones’. When everything starts again, the Smiths will be dancing with the Farmers.

Change Places-This last part of the dance, when we have been in our long line that fell back is so that men get back to their side of the dance line and women to theirs. This is just a walking step where you cross your partner by right shoulders and then turn back into the set by your right shoulder as well.

Figures spelled out:
What I find that is so fun is how quickly this moves. The first two parts are continuous and flowing. The first couple is moving and as they return to place the A man does not stop but immediately grabs the hand of the B man and they are moving towards the ladies. The pattern continues with the B Man grasping his partners hand so that they then can pass through the A couple and cast back to place...

*We first form the long line of dancers. The men are on the left of the their partner were they to hold hands and face the head of the hall (generally the stage, or where the musicians sit and play) Thus the man’s right hand grasps the ladies left. Then facing across the set, so you now look at your partner, from the very first couple, who are the A couple, they are dancing in the beginning with the next couple, a B couple. The 3rd couple is once again an A couple and the 4th, a B Couple, and so on.

*A giant note, that every other rendition, couples become out. (If you start with 10 couples, you have 5 active sets. The first time through.) Then on the 2nd time through, a couple at the top and one at the bottom, are out for one rendition. The couple at the top nearest the musicians had been Bs the first time through. When the come back in, the third time through, they will be As. At the bottom of the set, they had been As and will return as Bs.

*After lining up in the long lines, you grasp your partners hand across the set and from the first couple down, they grasp the hand of the couple next to them. The couple closest to the stage is the A Couple, the next is the B. Then we have an entire new set of As and Bs. And then a third set, etc.

*The first half of the dance, leading through and casting.

*This part never stops.
*A Couple
*B Couple
*The group mentioned in the list above join inside hands and proceed across their set of four people to split the other two and cast around them back to place where one of these two are still active and grasps the hand of the next person in the grouping to proceed across the set again.
*A Man is thus active first with A Woman. He remains active and grasps B Man’s hand and splits the women with B Man who is now active. In the next phrase B Man grasps his partners hand, which will lead to B Woman grasping A Woman’s hand to split the men and complete the first phrase of the dance.

*The second phrase is setting, circle and progression
*The A couple is active, while the B couple is passive
*A Man sets to B Woman advancing towards her on the diagonal, then turns single back to place.
*Most regency dances have a symmetry and here we have the A Woman setting to B Man and then turning single back to place.
*Now we are at the last part of the dance, that leads into Progression.
*All join hands even as we start to walk in a circle (Don’t join hands and then start walking the circle, start walking as you reach for the other dancers hands.) Only advance two places along the circle, so you will be standing diagonally from where you started in your set.
*We now have the As below the Bs in the line and everyone on the wrong side. Dropping the hand of our partner we keep holding the hand of the dancer who is the same sex as we and fall back two paces in a line.
*We now advance toward our partner with a setting step and then as we near our partner we can stop and walk to our place on the correct side of the set. We pass our partner by right shoulders and then turn right into our place on the line.

*We are now ready to dance again.

At the Regency Assembly Press pages there is one page devoted to Regency Dancing, as you would find at the time and that is recreated today.

Kate Van Winkle Keller and Genevieve Shimer The Playford Ball, 1994

Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence. His most recent work is the humorous spoof; Jane Austen and Ghosts.

His work can be found for sale at: David’s Books, and at various Internet and realworld bookstores including the iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords.
He is published by Regency Assembly Press
And he maintains his own blog called The Things That Catch My Eye
You also may follow Mr. Wilkin on Twitter at @DWWilkin

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lancastrian Yorkists - The Pilkingtons of Pilkington in the 15th Century

by Brian Wainwright

'Pilkington' as a place name no longer exists, but it was formerly a part of what is now the Metropolitan Borough of Bury in Greater Manchester (Or Lancashire if you are a traditionalist) and included a very large park for the hunting of game. The manor house was at a place called Stand, the highest part of the lordship. It is said that the name 'Stand' originated from the one-time existence of a stand from which the ladies of the family could watch their menfolk as they chased deer around the park that spread out to the south. The Pilkingtons of Pilkington were the senior branch of their name, and had acquired considerable lands in Lancashire, where they were long established, and elsewhere in England. (There was, as usual in such families, a distinct tendency to marry heiresses, and much property was added by this method.) In the fifteenth century Sir Thomas Pilkington even obtained permission to build a small castle in the town of Bury, four or five miles to the north of Pilkington. Scanty remains of this structure survive, following excavation works some years ago.

Sir Thomas, who was born about 1425, was high in the favour of the (Yorkist) King Edward IV and was High Sheriff of Lancashire on no less than fourteen occasions between 1463 and 1484. He was created a Knight Banneret at the siege of Berwick in 1482. (To avoid confusion, this was a higher grade of knighthood, but is by no means to be confused with a Baronetcy, a title not introduced until the 17th Century.) In 1467 he was granted the right to hold two fairs and a market at Bury, and in 1483 received an annuity of 100 marks (66 and two thirds pounds) out of the revenues of Lancashire.

Unlike many other Yorkists, Sir Thomas transferred his allegiance seamlessly to Richard III. Sir Thomas was of course a northerner, and it is safe to assume that he knew Richard (as Duke of Gloucester) far more intimately than did most of the gentlemen of southern England.

Sources vary as to whether Sir Thomas fought at Bosworth or was merely on his way to the battlefield, but he was certainly treated as if he had fought, and he was attainted by Henry VII and forfeited almost all his very substantial lands. Those in Lancashire were given to Thomas Stanley (now Earl of Derby) Henry Tudor's stepfather, and were never recovered. Some of the other lands which Sir Thomas had thoughtfully transferred to his son some years before were retained in the family, though in one case at least the manor was improperly seized and King Henry had to be persuaded to give it back.

Sir Thomas remained Yorkist in sympathy, and fought at the Battle of Stoke (1487) on the side of Lambert Simnel (whoever he was). He was perhaps lucky to survive what was a very bloody battle, but the cost this time was his lands in the Midlands, an inheritance from his grandmother, Margaret Verdon, in some of which he had only a lifetime interest.

Little is known about Sir Thomas after this time. If he was not actually in prison he probably lived with his son, Roger Pilkington of Clipstone Notts and Bressingham, Norfolk. However he certainly survived, for in August 1508 Henry VII granted him a pardon, absolving him of all offences, but not restoring his lands.

Sir Thomas died about 1509, to be succeeded by his son, Roger. However when Roger died in 1525 the senior line of the Pilkingtons died with him in the male line, the remaining lands being divided between Roger's daughters.

Other branches of the Pilkington family survived, including the one that founded the famous glass making firm. It's interesting to note that in the grounds of what was the Stanley's principal home, Lathom House, destroyed in the Civil War, the present day Pilkington concern has a laboratory complex.

The main home of the Pilkingtons (known locally as Stand Old Hall) remained in place, albeit derelict and partially demolished, until relatively recent times. It is now completely demolished, and all that remains are a few pieces of timberwork that are displayed above the bookshelves of Whitefield Library.

The main source for this article was History of the Pilkington Family by Lt. Col. John Pilkington. (1912)

Brian Wainwright is the author of Within the Fetterlock a novel about the life of Constance of York, the cousin of Richard II and Henry IV and The Adventures of Alianore Audley a light-hearted novel about a Yorkist intelligence agent which is really a parody of the genre. The Open Fetterlock, published in Kindle format only, is not a novel as such but contains extracts from several abandoned or indefinitely postponed manuscripts. He is currently working (very slowly) on a number of projects.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Giveaway: Stephanie Cowell's Claude and Camille

Please visit HERE to read about the way Stephanie had her first book picked up by a major publisher! You will be prompted to return here to enter the drawing by commenting. Please be sure to leave contact information.

Victorian Era - the Birthplace of Modern Advertising

    By Karen V. Wasylowski



    A beautiful painting done for advertising Schweppes, early 1900s.

    I have become inordinately fond of Victorian Advertising; the colors, the artwork, the images are so lovely that they often make you blink your eyes in wonder. The fact is that Advertising Agencies were a Victorian innovation, created in a time of rapidly expanding brand names, marketing and promotional techniques.

    The promotional posters I favor feature a typical Victorian wife and mother, and what her life was like, what her worries were (or perhaps, like modern times, it was what advertisers believed her worries should be, in order to best sell their products)  However, the loveliest ads feature the children of the era.  I don't think I've ever seen a modern ad that could touch this type of innocent beauty.

     I love these three, however what they are up to is anyone's guess.

    Of course, Victorian advertising did not only feature sweet children, pets and mama.  The activities of the industry reflected the Victorian passion for outlandish stunts and would make the basis of a fascinating TV drama series along the lines of Mad Men.  Consider the Monkey Brand and Brooke's soap.

    This poor fellow is subjected to all sorts of indignities for the sake of sales, from leaping over bars of his soap to dressing up in costume, circus performing, being adopted by John Bull, or sadly skinned and used by a child as a substitute horse.  The advertising message on the first picture is priceless:

    "We're a Capital Couple, the Moon and I,
    I Polish the Earth, She Brightens the Sky,
    And we Both Declare, as Half the World Knows,
    Though a Capital Couple, WE WON'T WASH CLOTHES!"

    Karen V. Wasylowski is the author of the Pride and Prejudice sequel, "Darcy and Fitzwilliam" a continuing tale of the friendship between Mr. Darcy of Pemberley and his charismatic older cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam - the Regency Era's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

    Check out my blog, The League of British Artists, too.