Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Shocking Catalogue of Human Depravity: Patrick Colquhoun and cataloging of 18th-century London Crime

For the bulk of English history, organized and centralized law enforcement was conspicuously lacking, even in London, a city hardly free from crime. Even as the population of the city in the mid-18th century grew to over a half-million souls, policing was a scatter-shot and limited affair due to various cultural factors, including the English population’s inherent distrust of the concept of centralized and organized police forces. As Mary Simsonsen covered in the EFHA blog last month, the latter half of the 18th century and the 19th century finally saw the rise of centralized and organized police forces.

In the social, legal, and cultural struggles that led to the rise of these forces, those who wanted more organized police forces first had to persuade the populace, and those in positions of influence, that such groups were even needed. One key player in that task was Patrick Colquhoun.

Colquhoun was, among other things, a former Lord Provost of Glasgow, businessman, and trader. Toward the end of the 18th century, he became particularly interested in the issue of crime and became a magistrate in London. During this time he explored the links between crime and socioeconomic factors. One of his chief concerns was the idea of preventive policing. He felt that the mere presence of more professional police, particularly in areas and around people associated with crime, would contribute to a reduction in crime. While many, if not all modern police forces, make heavy use of this concept, at the time it was considered a bit more radical in England.

It’s not necessarily that the English didn’t believe in the idea of preventative policing or think it couldn’t work, but more that they were very concerned the cost to personal liberty would not be worth it. The English of the time distrusted the idea of centralized and organized police almost as much as they did large standing armies. The French had such a system, which also included heavy spying on the public, something that did little to raise the esteem of the concept among the English public.

Colquhoun's studies led him to write several works on the subject, the most influential of which was his Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis. In this work he strongly argued for the need for centralized police authorities. While that concept was not unique at the time or pioneered by Colquhoun, his book was unusual in that it attempted to bolster his argument by giving detailed statistics on the state of crime of London. Indeed, he referred to the Treatise as a “shocking catalogue of human depravity” and hoped that his data would show that police reform wasn’t just a good idea but a necessity to save a city sliding into immoral decay.

The Treatise didn’t just give simple numbers of criminals. It broke down crimes into specific categories to let the full range of criminality be known. For example:

“1. Professed Thieves, Burglars, Highway Robbers, Pick-Pockets and River Pirates, who are completely corrupted; —many of whom have finished their education in the Hulks, and some at Botany Bay: N.B. There will be an increase of this class on the return of Peace, now estimated at about: 2000.”

Hulks, incidentally, were prison ships. Botany Bay was the name of an Australian penal colony (even though the actual colony ended up being located elsewhere).

Everything from gambling foreigners to gin-drinkers were included. Some categories are a bit uncomfortable for modern readers in that they may be more reflective the prejudices of the time necessarily than objective presentations of criminality, such as counts of “itinerant Jews … holding out temptations to pilfer and steal." Of course, the world’s oldest profession was included:

“20. Unfortunate Females of all descriptions, who support themselves chiefly or wholly by prostitution: 50,000.”

In total, he came up with a total of 115,000 people who were “supposed to support themselves in and near the metropolis by pursuits either criminal — illegal — or immoral.” The population of London at that the time was a little over 950,000. He also included detailed information on the estimated losses to the public from theft, fraud, robbery, et cetera. For example, he claimed that Thames-related thefts alone totaled over 500,000 pounds a year, which, depending on what estimate of inflation one uses, would be between 40-400 million in today’s pounds.

The numbers, both crimes and monetary losses, shocked the public. Many people dismissed them and claimed Colquhoun was exaggerating. It’s hard for us to judge the accuracy of the figures. He was attempting to do a systematic analysis, but various modern tools, such as advanced statistical sampling and population error analysis, weren’t available to him.

Colquhoun based his numbers mostly on sampling from his time as a magistrate. He even went so far to suggest that his numbers were actually low-ball estimates as he excluded certain classes of “delinquency” that might still account for a significant number of people.

Whether or not Colquhoun’s numbers were completely accurate, they had a tremendous impact. Many people began to see more of a need for police. That being said, the culture was still very much against centralized policing. A strong and centralized police force, it was feared, would run rough-shod over the rights and freedoms of the citizens. Although various additional social factors, government bureaucracy, and Napoleon pulled attention away and effort away from the idea of strengthening, organizing, and centralizing police by the government, merchants worried about river thefts took notice.

Colquhoun, with the aid of influential utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham and John Harriot, a Justice of the Peace and mariner, secured funding in 1797 to form a professional Thames River Police force to help curtail the rampant cargo theft afflicting the Thames and merchants.

While it might seem odd on first brush that a philosopher was involved in the formation of the police force, it’s important to note that utilitarian ideas concerning cost-benefit analysis of moral and ethical issues, along with its emphasis on careful analysis, were very influential on Colquhoun’s approach to criminology. Bentham himself was considerably interested in social reform, and the reform of crime and punishment was part of that.

The River Police were based heavily on the ideas of preventive policing. Although this police force met with extreme resistance and even violence on occasion, they were successful enough that the government would eventually take control of them and make them into a public policing entity by 1800. The influence of the Treatise itself would be cited in later decades as more generalized centralized organized public police forces were formed.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Two Men, One Crown

by Paula Lofting

On a cold January day in 1066, King Edward lay dying in his chamber, surrounded by his closest advisors, Earl Harold, his kinsman, Robert FitzWymarch and Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury. His dutiful wife, Edith Godwinsdottor sat at the bottom of his bed, warming his feet as was her wont throughout most of their married life.  They were waiting with baited breath, as those who were gathered in the Great Hall of the palace of Westminster no doubt were, to hear who their dying sovereign would finally appoint as his successor. They had been waiting for many years for Edward to confer upon them who he would nominate. He had been dangling the crown in front of various faces for roughly 16 years, first Swein of Denmark, although he was no relation to Edward but a nephew of Cnut, then William of Normandy, perhaps his favourite Tostig, and also his great nephew Edgar, the last of surviving line of Edmund Ironside, the only one amongst them who was ever referred to as the Atheling.  Edward, it seemed, had a penchant for using his need for an heir in order to gain men’s support.

By the time his uncle was laying close to death in his newly built palace next to his life’s work, the new minster of St Peter, Edgar was still only a young lad of roughly 14 or 15, not too young to wear a crown, however he was not heavily supported by any earldoms or lands and lacked the leadership experience one would have looked for in a potential king. He may have been undergoing some military and administrative grooming perhaps, being educated at court with his mother Agatha and two sisters, Christina and Margaret, but his vulnerability and lack of resources would not have made him a favourable choice from the nobles’ point of view. He had the best claim through lineage but most likely it wasn’t enough for Edgar to secure their support.

Seeing that there were others hoping to gain the crown for themselves, men like William of Normandy and Harald Hardrada, it stands to reason that the English would have preferred a strong man like Earl Harold Godwinson of Wessex to lead them against these enemies. To most of the English, Harold was the man. Harold was crowned with unseeming haste, the next day in Westminster. Looks likely that the Witan had already decided that he would take the crown, Edward’s permission had just been a formality, it would appear, for in those times, in the days of the ‘Anglo-Saxons’* the king’s nominee would have to be approved by the Witan. Kings in pre-Conquest England were elected, in theory.

Across the Channel in the old Viking enclave of Normandy, William was told of the news that Harold had ‘usurped’ his throne when he was out hunting. He was said to have gone stony cold and remained silent for some time before he would speak again. When he did speak again he was to rage that Harold had promised to support his claim to the crown that Edward had offered to him years ago during a visit to England in the early 1050’s. How dare he betray his lord and ‘King’ in this way, breaking the oath that he had sworn to him in Normandy when the Duke had saved him from Guy de Ponthieu dungeons and treated him as an honoured guest in his palace with all the luxuries befitting a great noble. William was not a man to dismiss such a crime against his person. William plotted his retaliation. A full scale invasion to retrieve what was his was the only option. Harold Godwinson was a liar and an oathbreaker, a stealer of crowns. William vowed that he would wrest the crown from the usurper. He called a council and according to Poitiers there was a great debate as to whether or not an invasion was viable, given the extraordinary lengths to which he would have to go to organise such a feat. Boats would have to be built, bought or commandeered; horses gathered, men conscripted and trained; provisions stocked and plans agreed amongst the commanders of such an undertaking. Then there was the task of auctioning such a plan, waiting for a good wind for the ships to sail, the cost and practicalities of keeping a large force fed and content to sit the wait out. Would the men whose skills and support he was trying to harness be willing to risk their lives, their fortunes and their equipment for an expedition that might not work? What if it didn’t? There were many things that could go wrong. The boats might be wrecked in a storm. There might be a landing party waiting for them when they arrived, to slaughter them. What if they were defeated in some great battle, taken as prisoner and blinded as Harold’s father had done so to Prince Alfred, King Edward’s younger brother. There must have been many doubtful men attending the council that day. Still they agreed to follow him, landless knights, the youngest sons of fathers whose wealth might only extend to the first sons, lured by promises of land and wealth. William was going to conquer a far greater land than their little corner of France. There would be plenty for all those who would follow him and fight loyally by his side. Of course there would be those who already had their own baronies. Guy of Ponthieu, Odo, his brother, with the wealth of Bayeux, William Fitz Osborne, his closest advisor and a younger brother Robert, Count of Mortain and many more, their hearts full of desire for more wealth to add to their own. English lands, lush and prosperous, yielding a good and relatively safe living, away from the threats of the French King and the Angevins and the Bretons who closed in on them like vices, squeezing them inwards. And William, it was said, was received by the Pope and endowed with blessings and a Papal Banner. Divine right was on his side. What more could they ask for than approval from God’s advocate on earth? That’s if the story of him receiving a papal banner and the Pope’s approval was indeed true. Later the Pope would bestow penance upon those who fought at Hastings so maybe the approval came later when the Pope received Harold’s personal banner of the fighting man. There are some differing opinions on this.

And so, it began, William’s preparations for the invasion of England. If we study the scenes in the Bayeux Tapestry, we will see that ships were built, weapons honed and armour made for those who were to accompany him on his mission to win the crown, rightfully his, that the man he had once thought his friend had stolen from him.

The Rivals: Career

Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex and then King of England for only 10 months, was born the second son of Godwin Wulfnothson and his wife Gytha, a woman of noble Scandinavian blood. Godwin, as recent research has turned up, was able to trace his ancestry back to the earlier Kings of Wessex. Contemporary sources have not mentioned this fact and so there may be some doubt about it, however, it seems quite plausible given the evidence. In 1042, Harold and his older brother, the somewhat rebellious Swegn were given earldoms; Swegn was endowed with lands in the West Country and Harold was given charge of East Anglia. In 1051, the whole family was exiled and their sister Queen Edith put into a nunnery.  Within a year they forcibly restored themselves to their former glories. Swegn died in 1052 after a long career of insubordinate behaviour, abducting an Abbess and holding her hostage for a year, murdering his cousin Beorn and accusing his own mother of adultery with Cnut by stating that he was not the son of Godwin, but of the Danish King himself. Harold was thus able to take his place as head of the family when a short while later, Godwin also died, leaving him to step into his father’s shoes in Wessex. This was not necessarily an inherited accession but for practical reasons, these offices often went to the son of the predecessor. By 1058, his younger brothers Tostig, Gyrth and Leofwine were also Earls, making the Godwinsons the most powerful family in England with collective wealth that rivalled the King. In 1062/3, Harold’s actions in Wales brought him military success when the troublesome Welsh leader Gruffydd ap Llewelyn was murdered by his own men and his head brought to him. Harold’s actions had brought the beleaguered Marcher settlements some peace with the death of their greatest enemy, the man the Welsh revered as the Shield of the Britons. In 1064, Harold decides to make a journey to Normandy to seek the release of his kinsmen who had been held as hostages at Duke William’s court for some years. It is not entirely clear how or why the boys went to Normandy, but it is thought that Edward had agreed to them being sent there as a way of controlling Godwin’s behaviour in the years before Godwin’s death. For William, they were his surety, a down payment for the promised Kingdom. By going to Normandy to seek their release, Harold was about to play into William’s hands. Things did not quite go to plan for Harold. He returned with only one of the boys, Hakon, Swegn’s son, Wulfnoth remained, probably to be released when William was King. Harold also returned having being coerced to pledge an oath to support William upon Edward’s death, swearing on holy relics. Did he mean to do this? Many think not. He was simply put in a dangerous position by William who knew that he could not let him go without first vowing his allegiance to him. For Harold, this was probably his only way of going home.

Harold’s career ended with his life on the bloody field of Senlac, butchered by William’s henchmen and possibly even William himself. He was most likely not shot with an arrow in the eye as the BT shows, but what we do know is that he was cut down toward the end of the battle after the Normans had broken through the English shieldwall. He and those that died with him, lost their lives, courageously fighting for their lands and the right to choose their own King.

Duke William of Normandy’s career started when he was around 7 years old. His father was Duke Robert 1 of Normandy and his mother was a low born woman called Herleve, probably from a family who served in the Duke’s household. Being born out of wedlock didn’t necessarily mean that he was initially out of the running for the heirdom of Normandy, for previous dukes had also been illegitimate. In around 1034, Robert made all his followers swear fealty to his son before he left on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from which he never returned, dying on the way back in Nicea. Upon his father’s death, William was thrust into a cutthroat world of a military society where it was ‘dog eat dog’ attitude, not exactly a safe world for a 7 year old boy. Luckily for William, he was given support from his great uncle Robert, Archbishop of Rouen and the King of France, Henry I. Without their support I am sure that William would have encountered problems from relatives also in the descent from the earliest ruler Rollo. However in 1037, the death of his great uncle was to plunge Normandy into anarchy which would last until around 1054. During those years, the young William was given into custody of various guardians who protected him from those trying to gain control over him. Many of those guardians were killed including one who was slain whilst the young adolescent Duke slept in his chamber. His maternal uncle, Walter was supposed to have hidden William in peasant homes to keep him safe. Such a traumatic upbringing would have fashioned William into the man he was to become. One can imagine him vowing to himself that he would never forgive treachery lightly....And he didn’t.

Henry continued to support him and fought with him in his victorious campaign in 1046/7 when they returned triumphant from the Battle of Val-ès-Dunes. However, this was not indeed the end of his troubles and more wars ensued as William struggled to contain his nobles, with continuing crises tapering off until 1060. During this time William fell out with Henry who began to side with William’s enemies. William was struggling to fight pockets of rebellious barons within the Duchy, now, his one time friend and supporter had turned upon him and William found himself facing threats from Geoffrey Martel of Anjou also. It is hard to think of William as being anything but an extraordinary man who survived the worst kind of intimidation on all fronts. In 1057, Geoffrey and Henry led their forces against William when they tried to invade the duchy and were defeated by the Norman forces at Varaville. That was the last time William would have to fight off an invasion of Normandy in his lifetime. By 1060, the deaths of Henry and Martell was to see him stabilised in his duchy and at last William could think about Project England.

In 1064, a chance visit from Harold to Normandy gave William the opportunity to seal a deal with the man who he was sure would be his numero uno man  upon his ascent to the throne. He coerced Harold into allowing himself to be knighted which was a very clever move because as such, Harold, Duke of Wessex was now his vassal. William might have had some nerve doing this, for Harold was his equal, not someone he could make his vassal, but it was a very astute manoeuvre and Harold was now in a difficult position.

In 1066, William was to embark on a mission that would settle things for once and all. The Battle of Hastings victory over the English meant that the Normans were now running England.

This work is in conjunction with research I have done for my novel Sons of the Wolf which can be found here http://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk

If readers would like to know more about this very intriguing and exciting period in English history, visit my blogs at www.paulalofting-sonsofthewolf.blogspot.co.uk and www.threadstothepast.blogspot.co.uk


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Lloyds-- Lifeblood of British Commerce and Starbucks of its Day

by Linda Collison

Ships have always played a major role in the import and export of goods; even today, ninety percent of world trade travels by sea.[i]  Yet there are obvious risks to be assumed when deep water and Mother Nature, pirates and enemy ships are involved. 

HMS Lutine

The concept of maritime insurance is as old as civilization.  Thousands of years ago Chinese river traders minimized their risk by deliberately spreading their cargo throughout several ships.  The Babylonians practiced bottomry, an arrangement in which the ship master borrowed money upon the bottom of his vessel, and forfeited the ship itself to the creditor, if the money with interest was not paid upon the ship's safe return.

About 600 AD, Danish merchants began forming guilds to insure its members against losses at sea, and merchant cities such as Venice and Florence started using a form of mutual insurance recorded in documents.  The Lombards brought the concept of marine insurance to northern Europe and England in the 13th Century where the Hanseatic League further developed the means to protect their joint economic interests.

Permit me to fast-forward four hundred years to the 17th century; the rise of English merchants and the search for new markets abroad.  Let’s pop in to visit London, now an important trade center, and walk along the waterfront…

Lloyd’s of London began as a coffee shop on Tower Street, founded by Edward Lloyd in 1688.  His establishment, located near the waterfront, soon became a popular meeting place where ship owners and merchants could meet with financiers to discuss ways to match the risks they faced at sea with the capital needed to insure them.[iv]

Coffeehouses were then enjoying a great popularity in London and many other European cities.  By 1675 there were more than 3,000 of them throughout England.[v]  Coffeehouses were social places where men with similar interests met to exchange news and do business, while enjoying the stimulating brew.  Much like your corner Starbucks where friends surf for jobs on their laptops while sipping Frappuccino’s and interviews are conducted over Venti Iced Skinny Mochas, 17th century Londoners did business while getting buzzed on the bean.

Lloyds was never an insurance company, per se, but instead was a market – a regular gathering of people for the purchase and sale of provisions or other commodities.  At Lloyds coffeehouse merchants and shipmasters caught up on latest shipping news, bid on cargos of captured prizes, and obtained insurance for their ventures.  The underwriters, wealthy men referred to as “Names,” were the individuals who pledged their own money to insure a particular voyage.

In 1691 Edward Lloyd relocated his coffee house from Tower Street to Lombard Street, where a blue plaque hangs today.  The business carried on in this location until 1774 when the participating individuals moved to the Royal Exchange on Cornhill and called themselves the Society of Lloyds.  An Act of Parliament in 1871 gave the business a sound legal footing, incorporating it.  Although Ed Lloyd died in 1713, his name remains and is eponymous with the insurance of one-of-a-kind treasures, including Betty Grable’s legs and Bob Dylan’s vocal cords.

The present Lloyd’s building, designed by architect Richard Rogers, was completed in 1986 on the site of the old roman forum on Lime Street.  In the rostrum hangs the original Lutine Bell.  Back in the days of the coffee shop, one of the waiters would strike the bell when the fate of an overdue ship became known.  If the ship was safe, the bell would be rung twice and if it had gone down, the bell would be rung only once, to stop buying, or selling of “overdue” reinsurance on that vessel.  ( To see an early Hollywood recreation of Lloyds watch the 1936 movie, Lloyds of London, with Tyrone Power in his first starring role.)

In his book, The Romance of Lloyd’s, Commander Frank Worsley (of the Shackleton Expedition) sings the praises of Lloyds, crediting the association with various philanthropic efforts, including the development of the lifeboat service in Britain.  In 1802 Lloyds members voted a donation of one hundred guineas to Henry Greathead, the inventor of the first practical lifeboat and set aside two thousand pounds for the provision of lifeboats on English and Irish coasts.
Modern lifeboat in Howth, Ireland

Lloyds was also instrumental in the creation of a Patriotic Fund in 1803, granting bounties or annuities to wounded men and the dependents of those killed in battle. Lloyds headed the fund with twenty thousand pounds, although the record shows that laborers, servants, schooled children, soldiers and sailors, sent their pence and more.  Officers and men of the Army and Navy contributed sums ranging from one day’s pay to a whole month.  A provisional committee was appointed to manage the Fund, which became a national institution.”
Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying — Typhoon coming on 
The Slave Ship -- J.M.W. Turner artist

On a much darker note, Lloyds was heavily involved insuring ships in the slave trade as Britain became the chief trading power in the Atlantic.  Between 1688 and 1807, when slave-trading was abolished, British shipping carried more than 3.25 million people into slavery.[ix]  It may be argued that the individual men who underwrote slave ships acted within the laws of the time and reflected the values of the society in which they lived, yet descendants of black American slaves have accused the Lloyd’s of London insurance market (and two United States companies) of profiting from the slave trade in a lawsuit seeking billions of pounds in damages.[x]  The past can indeed come back to haunt us.

Lloyds has always worked closely with the Royal Navy to the benefit of both.  Historian Steven Maffeo relates how the insurance market and the British Post Office were important to the Navy’s intelligence gathering throughout the Napoleonic Wars, the news of the victory at Trafalgar being posted at Lloyd’s even before the London newspapers broke the story.  During the 18th century Lloyds developed a unique system of maritime intelligence of arrivals and departures which was sent immediately to the Admiralty, who in turn forwarded convoy and other useful information to Lloyds.
Bark Endeavour, a vessel similar to Canopus in Barbados Bound

Convoy, the practice of escorting groups of merchant ships by a naval warship, was common practice during the war years of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, to reduce the loss of ships and cargo to the Enemy.  At the beginning of my novel Barbados Bound the merchant ship Canopus is carrying gunpowder and traveling in convoy from England to Madeira during the Seven Years War.  From Madeira Canopus must strike out alone across the Atlantic to delivery the gunpowder on time – and of course Murphy’s Law intervenes.  Shipmaster Blake says that his ship’s guns are his insurance, though of course they would be no real match against a French privateer, hungry for prize.

Lloyds Register is filled with stories of profit -- and disaster.  The sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic in 1912 represented one of Lloyd’s biggest losses, along with other major catastrophes such as the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the attack on New York’s World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina, Asbestos damage claims, and the 2011 Tohuku earthquake and tsunami.[xii]  The history of Lloyds is a fascinating one, and still evolving.  Wherever there is risk and money to be made, you’ll find the name Lloyds. 

Linda Collison is the author of Barbados Bound and Surgeon's Mate; the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series (Fireship Press.)  Read more on her website, lindacollison.com.  Linda is one of the speakers at the 2012 Historical Novel Society Convention in London.

[ii][ii] ibid
[vii] Worsley, Frank and Griffith, Glyn.  The Romance of Lloyd’s; from coffee-house to palace.  New York; Hillman-Curl Inc., 1937; pp.16, 99.
[viii] Worsely, pp 164-166.
[xi] Maffeo, Steven.  Most Secret and Confidential; Intelligence in the Age of Nelson. London; Chatham, 2000, pp30-31.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Buried Treasure ...

by Anne O'Brien

A Pilgrim's Heart, a Much Loved Son, and a Forgotten Plantagenet Princess ...

St Mary's in Burford is a village church, isolated in its churchyard, surrounded by green fields and trees, all within a short distance of the dark and secretive River Teme in the Welsh Marches county of Shropshire.

Far away from any major towns - the nearest market town is Tenbury Wells - it is a beautiful and peaceful place to spend an hour or two.  The church is small, perfect in its rural setting, and visitors, I imagine, are few compared with the likes of Worcester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey, both fairly close.  Inside it is dark and full of history.  The chancel goes back to the 12th century, the nave and tower to the 14th.  Stepping inside, it give the impression that very few changes have been made over the centuries, even though we know that it was extensively restored in 1889.  The restoration has been very sympathetic.

But the most compelling reason for a visitor to leave the beaten track and go to Burford is to see the astonishing collection of tombs in this little church, the most important connected with the Cornewall family who were medieval Lords of Burford.

In the chancel there are three in particular not to be missed.

To the left of the altar, set in the wall under a carved arch is what looks like the base of an old brightly-painted altar.  Now it is the memorial to Sir Richard Cornewall.  He died in 1436, in the reign of Henry VI, in Cologne, possibly when returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  He left instructions for his body to be buried in Cologne, but his heart to be returned here to his home in Burford.  And here is Sir Richard's heart and this lovely memorial, its history written within the arch.

In the centre of the chancel, directly before the altar, is the fully painted, wooden effigy of Edmund Cornewall.  Wooden effigies are quite rare in this part of the world.  He died in 1508 at only 20 years of age.  He is shown in full plate armour with angels supporting his head and his feet resting on a splendid little dragon wearing a golden crown, crudely carved but with much charm.  There is nothing sophisticated or elegant about the carving of Edmund, but this life-sized portrayal of the young man resonates with a sense of tragic loss and grief.  His distraught parents must have felt his death keenly to place his tomb in the very centre of the chancel before the altar.  It take the eye, as it was intended.

And then, the most surprising tomb of all.  Set in the wall of the chancel is the life-sized figure and tomb of Elizabeth Plantagenet.  Younger daughter of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster, her governess was of course Katherine Swynford.  She is beautifully painted as she lies under the arch - the rich red and blue looks to me as if it was restored in the 1889 renovations - with angels at her head, her cloak lined with ermine.  Her face is young and serene in repose, even though she was about 61 years old when she died in 1426.  She looks truly royal.  Who would have expected such a Plantagenet treasure here, far from a major town? 

Elizabeth was buried here because her third husband was Sir John Cornewall, Lord of Burford.  Perhaps it was her choice to be brought here after death because she loved the place.  We will never know.  Interestingly her husband is not buried at Burford beside her, but in Ludgate in London.

And finally, the ceiling is not to be missed.   Above the tombs is a splendid late 19th century barrel vault, carved with angels with their wings outstretched, as if watching over the pilgrim, the much-mourned son and the Plantagenet princess.

Shropshire is a beautiful county to lure the tourist who wishes to enjoy rural seclusion, and this little church at Burford with its memorials (and there are others not even mentioned here!) is an unexpected jewel in its crown.

My recent novel The King's Concubine, a novel of Alice Perrers, is available internationally.
Visit my website:  www.anneobrienbooks.com

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Glimpse of York During the Regency Era

          York is an incredibly ancient city. Romans and Vikings established communities here.  (The Roman Ninth Legion set up camp and called it Eboracum; in 208 a.d., the Roman Empire was governed from York.)  A long Christian tradition carried on in York.  A great cathedral, York Minster, was built here, with construction beginning on the earliest incarnation of that monumental work in the 7th century.  York Minster was (and is) the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second most powerful churchman in Church of England.  The Normans built onto it.  Edward I, II and III held their parliaments there, and the Courts of Justice were held in York for seven years in the 13th century.  At the end of the Wars of the Roses, the City of York came in squarely on the side of Richard III, recording that “…King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason of the ducof Northfolk and many othere that turned ayenst hyme, with many othre lordes and nobilles of this north parties, was pitiously siane and murdred to the grete hevynesse of this citie, the names of whome foloweth hereafter…”  Clearly, York was an important and powerful city, in the thick of things for centuries.

          By the Georgian era, things had settled down quite a bit.  Although other parts of Yorkshire had industrialized, the city of York did not, possibly due to trade restrictions called the “freedom regulations.”  However, it remained the county seat and regional administrative center, and a center of church matters including an ecclesiastical court.  Natural waterways and canals made trade and travel easier.  The turnpike made it easier, and faster, to get to York from London and other cities.  It was a military town, having the Calvary Barracks, and became an important social center with assembly rooms, horse racing, theater, and other social amenities, attracting local gentry and nobility with seats in the county. These county families included those named Fairfax, Scrope, Bourchier, Carr and Fitzwilliam, some with illustrious titles. These, in turn, attracted friends from out of town.  The horse races attracted the Prince of Wales and his set.  Book stores, linen-drapers, mantua makers, milliners, boot makers, and other business provided the goods and services required by the fashionable.  During the Georgian era, some beautiful buildings were constructed, and Fairfax House, built for Viscount Fairfax, was just one of these buildings. Richard Boyle, third Earl of Burlington, was responsible for the elegant designs of the Mansion House and the Assembly Rooms in York. The city became known as a polite and elegant place to live and to visit, and was one of the fashionable escapes of the day. 

          During the Regency era, theatre, dancing and other entertainments continued to be very popular in York, as elsewhere, and there was an active social season.  Mrs. Jordan (mistress of the Duke of Clarence) performed in The Country Girl in 1811;  Edmund Keane performed at the Theatre Royal in 1819.  The Assembly Rooms (also known as the Burlington Rooms) had their balls, where country dances, quadrilles and cotillions were still popular, even as the waltz was coming into fashion.  If dancing wasn’t one’s preference, one could gamble in the Round Room.  In their way, the Assembly Rooms were the Almack’s of the north, as young people were there to see and be seen, to meet and mingle.  Madame Toussaud also appeared in York with her wax sculptures in a travelling exhibition during this era.  A beautiful tree-lined walk of approximately a mile along the River Ouse, called the New Walk, was a popular place to take the air.

           The York Races were especially popular.  Even though the Prince of Wales was no longer interested in horse racing by 1807, many of the nobility and gentry still came to York in May for races and the festivities surrounding them, including the Race Ball held in the Assembly Rooms.  Buying and selling of race horses, and gambling on the races themselves (and in the Round Room after the races), made the races an especially costly form of entertainment.
          Unfortunately, the lack of industry that made York such a polite and elegant city in which to live or visit resulted in a decline.  By  the 1820’s, the assemblies were down to six winter meetings and a few special event assemblies.  By the 1830’s, the races and theatres were in decline, and the city itself was no longer the important social center it had been.  The population declined somewhat, and the nobility and gentry that had patronized the racing and social scene were spending more time elsewhere.  It wasn’t until later in the 19th century that things improved again. 

Bebb, Prudence.  LIFE IN REGENCY YORK.  York, England: Sessions Book Trust, 1992.

Heap, R. Grundy.  GEORGIAN YORK A Sketch of Life in Hanoverian England.  London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1937.
Lang, W. Andrews and Elsie M.  OLD ENGLISH TOWNS.  London:  Bracken Books, 1965.  (First published 1931 by T. Werner Laurie, Ltd., London.)
Fairfax House website.  http://www.fairfaxhouse.co.uk/?idno=4
History of York website.  http://www.historyofyork.org.uk/timeline
Rakehell blog.  Regency Horses, by Shannon Donnelly.  http://rakehell.net/article.php?id=152&Title=Regency-Horses
Society of Friends of King Richard III website.  http://www.silverboar.org/deathentry.htm
Victoria County History.  Modern York Social Life1800-1839. Publication: A History of the County of York: the City of York, by P. M. Tillott, 1961.   http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=36358   

Lauren Gilbert

Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Carrying Away the Booty' - Drake's attack on the Spanish 'Silver Train'

by Jenny Barden

In April 1573 Francis Drake attacked the Spanish 'Silver Train' near Nombre de Dios in Panama; this was the mule train loaded with bullion from Peru en route to King Philip II's treasury in Spain. The attack was a success, a triumph after almost a year of failed attempts in an enterprise that had been beset by disease and misfortune, including the loss of Drake's two younger brothers and over a third of his crew. With the exception of the fatal wounding of Drake's ally, the Huguenot Captain Le Testu, Drake suffered very few casualties and the Spanish put up little resistance. Effectively they ran away, leaving Drake and his motley band of pirates, black runaway slaves (the Cimaroons), and French privateers in possession of the equivalent in gold and silver of about a fifth of Elizabeth I's annual revenue.(*1)

El Camino Real - the Royal Road 

But what to do with so much bullion? This is where the story of Drake's first great enterprise becomes particularly fascinating because he was left with so great a weight in treasure that he and his men could not carry it all away. Historians continue to debate over exactly how much was involved. In Sir Francis Drake Revived, the best English account of the raid (one which Drake presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1593), the weight of silver seized is stated to have been 'near thirty tons'. There were 190 mules in total each carrying the standard load of 300 pounds. But the mules were also carrying much more valuable gold which the Spanish, smarting from the humiliation of the raid and no doubt wishing to play down the loss, put at 'more than 100,000 pesos' including 18,363 pesos of fine gold from Popayan 'consigned to your majesty.'(*2) This weight in gold alone would have been close to half a ton and most of it would have been in the form of unminted gold discs or 'quoits'.

Spanish gold 'quoit'
Drake had fifteen men with him on the raid, including twenty French corsairs and maybe forty Cimaroons. They had attacked the Silver Train about two miles from Nombre de Dios along the Camino Real - the 'Royal Road' by which Spanish bullion was carried from the Pacific to the Caribbean - and their boats had been left 'seven leagues' away at the Rio Francisco (probably the modern-day Rio Cuango twelve miles to the east). Michael Turner of the Drake Exploration Society has done some excellent research in retracing the route they would probably have taken and calculates that the most they could have carried was sixty pounds each.(*3) So of the thirty tons of treasure, Drake's men could only have taken away just over two tons - and they had to march through a storm that night. Imagine what those men must have gone through, burdened with as much as they could possibly carry, sure that the Spanish soldiers from Nombre de Dios would be in hot pursuit, scrambling along a difficult trail, through thick rainforest known only to the Cimaroons, in the dark, lashed by a tropical storm and without any sleep. Then when they arrived back at the Rio Francisco they discovered that the boats which should have been waiting to take them to safety were nowhere to be seen.

San Blas island shore
With typical undaunted panache, Drake improvised a raft out of driftwood left by the storm, with a biscuit sack for a sail, and set off by sea for his ships moored at a hideout in the Cativas (the modern-day San Blas islands), only to come across the pinnaces intended for the getaway at the mainland point (Punta San Blas). The boats had been driven back by the storm, but that night they returned for the rest of Drake's men and the bulk of the booty. What happened to most of the silver which they had been unable to carry? In desperate haste, in the immediate aftermath of the raid, all the treasure that could not be carried had been buried under fallen trees, in the sand and gravel of the shallow islands of the Rio Nombre de Dios, and in the burrows of giant land crabs. A vast number of silver bars, each weighing between 35 and 40 pounds, were simply popped into crab holes. A few days later, a small party of Drake's men returned to the scene of the ambush intent on retrieving this treasure, but they only recovered thirteen bars of silver and a few quoits of gold. The Spanish had found and decapitated Captain Le Testu then tortured one of the two Frenchmen left with him into revealing where the bullion had been hidden. According to the Spanish, all the buried treasure was recovered, but plainly Drake's men were able to find some that they had missed. Perhaps there is more still waiting to be unearthed...

The story of Drake's first great enterprise forms the backdrop to Mistress of the Sea due to be released on 30 August in hardback with the paperback to follow

The book is available for pre-order here: http://amzn.to/PUavyS

'Beautifully written and researched, this tale of desire, revenge, piracy and valour is so evocative we can taste salt on our skin and hear the swoop of sails overhead as we're swept up into a high-stakes adventure unlike any we've read before.' - C.W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

*1 John Sugden Sir Francis Drake Pimlico (2006) Ch 6 p 73
*2 Report of the Royal Officials of Panama to the Crown 9 May 1573
*3 Michael Turner In Drake's Wake Paul Mould (2005) Ch5 p150

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nom nom nom ~ Regency style

by M.M. Bennetts

With much of the western world so indisputably in the grip of culinary multi-culturalism, it can be hard to imagine an age in which mealtimes weren't dominated by a need for ready-meals, speed-eating, 24-hour electrical supplies, ease of world transportation, or advertising.

But so it was in early 19th century Britain.

To begin with, there was no ready supply of electricity or gas to fuel either household lighting or a stove or open hearth for cooking and baking.  Instead there were candles, made of beeswax or tallow, oil lamps, wood and coal--all of which were immeasurably more expensive comparatively than our modern equivalents.

Hence the beginning of one's day, obviously depending on social class, came with the rising sun and daylight.  Within the prosperous middle class, the gentry and aristocracy this was probably somewhere between seven and eight.

The first meal of the day was generally taken at ten.  It lasted for about an hour and it was a good solid English breakfast.  'Morning' itself then lasted until dinner at perhaps three or four in the afternoon.  Dinner went on for about two hours.

And it's important to note that the hours at which these meals are served also provide for the greatest amount of natural light in the kitchen for the preparation of the food, and also, the least number of candles required, both upstairs and down.

London society of the Beau Monde dined at five o'clock, or even later, and generally had their tea or a light supper sometime late in the evening, after returning from the theatre or in the middle of a ball...But in the country, one kept 'country hours' and thus mealtime was dictated by the hours of light and also by the fact that travelling at night was often inconvenient and certainly hazardous even on a moonlit night.

Dinner, then...

First off, this is the moment to drop those preconceptions about how many courses served one after another--five or seven or nine--was a sign of wealth and breeding.  Because English service didn't have many courses, one served after another.

For the most part, there were two courses, often called removes, plus dessert.  And the servants didn't serve each individual from a tray onto their plate either.

Oh, and there was no allotted placement either, with the exception that the host would be the first into the room, escorting the 'senior' lady, and taking his place at the foot of the table, while the hostess sat at the upper end of the table and the guest(s) of honour sat near her.

When the family or family and guests walked into the dining room, the table would already be spread with an array of dishes of every kind of food--soup, fish, game, poultry, meat, pies, sauces, pickles, vegetables, puddings both sweet and savoury, jellies and custards.  Depending upon the occasion, there might be anything from five to twenty five different dishes, all arranged symmetrically around a centre dish.

Initially, it was the host who would supervise the serving of the soup and/or carve the joints of meat that might be brought in once the soup tureens were removed.  A kind of balance was also maintained with fish--usually with salmon at one end of the table and perhaps turbot at the other.

After the meat--saddle of mutton, haunch of venison, sirloin of beef--had been carved, the gentlemen at the table helped themselves from the nearest dishes and offered it to his neighbour, or else a servant was to fetch a dish from another part of the table.

It does sound like a great deal of food, yes.  But generally, one didn't eat one's way through everything.  It seems to have been more a case of choosing three or four things that one liked from amongst the array...

To wash it all down, ale, beer, wine as well as soda water would have been served, though some gentlemen are recorded as having preferred port, hock or sherry with their food.  And importantly--for dining was a very social element in their days--once the soup had been served, both ladies and gentlemen would start drinking everyone's health round the table--'taking wine' with each other as it's called.

Once the family and guests had eaten as much as they wished from that first selection, an intermediate course of cheese, salad, raw celery and suchlike might be brought round.  Then the table was cleared, and a second remove of an equal quantity of different dishes was brought in and arranged on the table, with, just as previously, both sweet and savoury dishes included.

Finally, the guests and family having eaten their full, the table would again be cleared and the cloth removed to reveal either the polished table surface or another cloth lying beneath and the dessert was laid out.  This dessert consisted of fruits and nuts, perhaps ice-cream or sweetmeats.  And this was usually accompanied by port or Madeira.

Once the company had sat over dessert for about a quarter of an hour, the ladies would leave the dining room and retire to the drawing room, where they would embroider, chat, play the fortepiano or read aloud for about an hour.  After which point they would order their tea and coffee to be brought in, and the gentlemen, having discussed the war, the government, the iniquitous price of wheat, their efforts at sheep-rearing and other such thrilling topics over their wine, would join them.

Louis Simond, a Franco-American with an English wife, visited England in 1810-11 and left this record:  "There are commonly two courses and a dessert.  I shall venture to give a sketch of a moderate dinner for ten or twelve persons--First course [included] Oyster sauce, Fish, Spinage, Fowls, Soup, Bacon, Vegetables, Roast or Boiled Beef, Vegetables.  Second course [included] Creams, Ragout a la Francaise, Pastry, Cream, Macaroni, Cauliflowers, Game, Pastry.  Dessert [included] Walnuts, Apples, Raisins and Almonds, Cakes, Raisins and Almonds, Pears, Oranges."

M.M. Bennetts is a specialist in early nineteenth-century British and European history, and the author of two historical novels set in the period - May 1812 and Of Honest Fame. Find out more at www.mmbennetts.com.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Give Us Back Our Eleven Days

by Katherine Pym

Last January I did a post on the Julian/Gregorian Calendars, and how in 1752, England went to the Gregorian almost two hundred years after Catholic Europe adopted it.  In my post, I explained how very difficult it must have been for an Englishman to travel on the Continent prior to this time.  If you were born to English parents in France (Gregorian) on July 8, 1660, but returning to England, your birthdate would actually be June 28 or 29, 1660 (Julian), depending on who is counting. 

If I were that child, I'd be confused. 

Then I explained in my post that when England had succumbed to the Gregorian in September 1752, England lost days.  How many, even the experts aren't certain.  It ranges from 10-12 days.

Well, now I've proof it was eleven days (or is it twelve?).  Glancing through my library the other day, I ran across a little booklet titled: Murders Myths and Monuments of North Staffordshire, by W.M. Jamieson.  This booklet is a compilation of stories based in the county.  He entitled a short piece: 'Give us back our eleven days'.  He should know, and so here it goes, the eleven (twleve?) missing days, and what a good Staffordshire fellow did about it:

"William Willett was born in the early seventeen hundreds and lived in Endon where, according to local mythology he was something of a character... always fond of a gag or wager. 

"During the year 1752, ...the Government ordered that the days September 3rd to September 13th would not exist and people going to bed on the evening of the 2nd would wake up on the morning of the 14th; the next day."  See below NOTE. 

"...this appeared to be a government trick to rob the people of eleven days of their life and there were demonstrations outside Parliament demanding that the people were given back their eleven days."

"William Willet of Endon saw the possibility of a great joke and a profitable one, and also a chance to leave his indelible mark on Endon's history. He wagered that he would dance nonstop for twleve days and twleve nights and eagerly took bets from many of the villagers. On the evening of September 2nd, 1752, William Willett started to jig around the village of Endon. Next morning, September 14th, he stopped dancing and started to claim his bets."

Good William Willet was pretty clever, don't you think?  Hopefully, he made lots of money.
BUT I'm still confused on the missing days.  Based on this story, England lost eleven days, when it seems to everyone, including W.M. Jamieson, that it was twelve days.  This will be my last post on the matter, since I don’t think this will ever be solved. 

You are at the below NOTE: Does anyone remember the musical 'Brigadoon'? The premise is this little hamlet disappears for quite awhile, more than 11-12 days.  Do you suppose the Calendar Act of 1750 wherein days were lost was the spark that fed this lovely musical?

To read more interesting historical facts of England, please see my historical novels: Viola, A Woeful Tale of Marriage, London 1660, TWINS, London 1661, and newly released Of Carrion Feathers, London 1662.

You can find them at wings-press.com, amazon.com, or the NOOK.