Sunday, September 30, 2012

Richard III and the Lost World of Greyfriars

By Nancy Bilyeau

Memorial detail, Greyfriars cemetery in Edinburgh
The discovery in a Leicester carpark of the remains of an adult male with a "cleaved skull" and "spinal abnormalities" prompted all sorts of impassioned debate until it was agreed that this indeed was the body of Richard III, the last Yorkist monarch, slain in the Battle of Bosworth on August 22, 1485, his corpse exposed to the public for all to see by orders of the victor, an obscure, exiled Lancastrian earl named Henry Tudor.

As argument rages anew over Richard III's role in the disappearance of the princes, or whether Sir Thomas More and William Shakespeare defamed Richard with their descriptions of deformity of body and spirit, the location of his burial—the church of a Franciscan friary—and the actions of those who bravely took custody of a battered and naked royal corpse have gone largely unremarked.

Richard III
Why has Richard rested there? Clearly the last Plantagenet ruler did not designate Greyfriars of Leicester for this honor. His dead queen, Anne, was buried at Westminster; his older brother, Edward IV, was entombed at Windsor. But then, Richard did not expect to die on the field of battle. With greater numbers and far more experience in combat, he was confident of victory. After the crown tumbled off his head—literally—in the immediate shock and chaos of Bosworth, no Yorkist ally or family member claimed the body.

It was a group of Franciscan friars that came forward.  The court historian of Henry VII, Polydor Vergil, wrote that Richard was "buried two days after without any pomp or solemn funeral in the abbey of monks Franciscan at Leicester." Ten years later, Henry VII assigned 50 pounds to the creation of a tomb. An inscription asked for prayers for Richard's soul "to atone my crimes and ease my pains below."

In the late 1530s, the victor's son, Henry VIII, brought about the destruction of the Catholic monasteries as he pushed through the laws creating himself supreme head of the Church of England. The friary in Leicester, like many other structures housing friars, monks or nuns, was stripped of its value and knocked down. The monument for Richard III was lost. At some point, the ground swallowed up the church where the friars prayed, sang and chanted.

An archaeologist at the friary site
Over the centuries there were rumors that Richard's body was moved, either soon after death or during the Dissolution, but the leading theory was that he never left Greyfriars. And this year, excavation workers funded by the Richard III Society, using historical maps, pinpointed where the friary was once located. Digging began.  To the amazement of the world, a body fitting Richard's description was located in the choir of the church, where someone of importance would have been buried.

In exposing the centuries' old church—as well as the chapter house and other rooms of the cloister—the archaeologists have revealed a lost world. To some, the Greyfriars themselves are no more than shadowy figures, extinct specters like the Knights Templar. But what a vital force the Franciscans were for the three centuries preceding the Dissolution, in not only the daily lives of the people but also the intimate lives of kings and queens. By the 16th century a branch of Franciscans had become so intertwined with the royal family that when Henry VIII crushed the monasteries, his behavior when dealing with these particular friars veered between inexplicable mercy and shocking savagery.

Saint Francis of Assisi
It all began in Italy, as so many things do, when a wealthy cloth merchant's son gone soldiering saw a series of visions that led to a life of poverty and repentance. Francis of Assisi gained the approval of Pope Innocent III to form a new order. The brotherhood spread incredibly fast; in 1224, nine friars landed at Dover, eager to open shop.

The Franciscans were called "Greyfriars" because of the color of their habits: gray, loose garments of coarse material reaching their ankles, girded with cords. All of their friaries were dubbed Greyfriars as well. Along with the Dominicans, the Franciscans were an important mendicant order in England. These were not monks, shut away to pray in seclusion. Their purpose was to go out and about. According to the 1887 book written by Walter Stanhope, Monastic London:
"They were, as it may be termed, the spiritual democrats; they were to mingle with the people, yet without being of the people; they were to take cognizance of all private and public affairs, of all those domestic concerns and sympathies, duties and pleasures, from which their vows put them off. They were to possess nothing they could call their own, either as a body or individually. They were to beg from their fellow Christians food and raiment--such at least was their original rule, a rule soon modified...Their creative vocation was to look after the stray sheep of the fold of Christ; to pray with those who wept, to preach glad tidings, to exhort to repentance, to rebuke sin and Satan; to advise the doubtful and comfort the weak without distinction of place or person."
Queen Marguerite
Greyfriars' churches sprang up across England, Scotland and Ireland:  in Canterbury, London, Oxford, Northampton, Norwich, York, Salisbury and, of course, Leicester. At the time of the Dissolution, there were 1,700 Franciscan friars in England.

The largest friary church was in London, on Ludgate Street. Queen Marguerite, the pious second wife of Edward I, sponsored a "spacious and handsome church" for the friars. It became a respected burial place for the nobility as well as for royalty, setting a precedent perhaps for the later interment of Richard III in Leicester. In fact, four queens rested in London's Greyfriars: Queen Marguerite herself; Queen Isabella, the wife of Edward II; Queen Joan, wife of Edward Bruce, king of Scotland; and Queen Isabella, titular queen of the Isle of Man. (After the dissolution, the friary church was transformed into one for the parish but all was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.)

A Greyfriar of England
The benefits' bestowed by the Franciscans are beyond question. They espoused the importance of fresh water and built conduits to their friaries, shared by citizens in half a dozen cities. In 1256, they intervened along with the Dominicans to protect a group of Jews who were accused of crucifying a Christian child. As a result, a chronicler said, Londoners gave the Franciscans less alms.

What is interesting is how often the Franciscans interjected themselves into politics. Simon de Montfort, the founder of Parliament and thorn in the side of Henry III, was advised by Franciscans. In a later reign, the friars based in Leicester got into even more serious trouble. They openly supported the deposed Richard II instead of the new king, Henry IV. When word got out, a group of nine were brought to London, tried, and executed. It would not be the last time the Franciscans paid a terrible price for being on the losing side.

But these episodes were nothing compared to what happened after the creation of the Observant Friars of Greenwich. A movement had sprung up in Europe calling for greater asceticism in the Franciscan Order.  King Edward IV, despite his devotion to wine, women and the latest fashions, approved, and  in 1480 Pope Sixtus IV sanctioned the foundation of a friary specifically for the Observants in Greenwich. "The proximity of the Observant Franciscans to what was a much-used royal palace gave them an influence and a prominence far beyond what might have been expected," wrote G.W. Bernard in The King's Reformation.

Henry VII
There is no record of what Richard III thought of the Franciscans, Observant or otherwise, but considering that they braved a ferocious political climate to give him Christian burial, the relationship could only have been good. His successor, Henry VII, rather surprisingly, held the friars of Greenwich in the high esteem as well. He confirmed their grant, arranged for the installment of stained glass in their church, and left them 200 pounds in his will as he "knew that they had been many times in peril of ruin for lack of food."

But perhaps the greatest sign of Henry VII's regard for the Observant Franciscans is that he chose to have his second son, the future Henry VIII, baptized in their chapel at Greenwich.

For a time, all was well in the new reign. Henry VIII arranged for the Observants to say two Masses daily for his father's soul. In 1513, he wrote to Pope Leo X saying he could not commend enough the Franciscans' strict adherence to poverty and sincerity, charity and devotion. His wife, the Spanish Catherine of Aragon, went even further. She was often accompanied by her Franciscan confessors and, in middle age, wore a habit under her royal robes.

All the players were in place, then, for one of the greatest clashes of the King's Divorce. When Henry VIII sought to have his marriage to Catherine annulled so that he could father a son with the young Anne Boleyn, the Observant friars opposed him, showing tremendous--if not suicidal--amounts of courage.

Depiction of the death of Ahab
After Catherine of Aragon had been banished from court, Franciscan Friar William Peto, in his Easter Sunday sermon in 1532, preached to a full church, with both Henry and Anne Boleyn in attendance, that if the king pursued his divorce, he would incur the same fate as Ahab and the dogs would lick his blood. After the sermon, Peto told the king to his face that divorce put his throne in jeopardy and that there were mutterings that Henry had slept with both Anne's sister and mother. There is no known record of greater defiance in the presence of the king. Yet Henry VIII did not strike back. Astonishingly, Friar Peto was not arrested; he was later allowed to leave England and go into exile. The following year, Henry VIII had his daughter with Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth, baptized in the same Greenwich friary church as he had been.

But the controversial executions of Sir Thomas More and Cardinal John Fisher for treason followed by the Pilgrimage of Grace, a religion-fueled rebellion against the king, made mercy harder to come by.  Another Observant Franciscan, Friar John Forest, a former confessor to Catherine of Aragon, bore the full brunt of Henry VIII's rage. He refused to swear to the authority of Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church of England. After several years of imprisonment, Forest, 67 years old, was taken to Smithfield on May 22, 1538, and burned to death. About 200 Franciscans are believed to have been imprisoned for refusing to swear loyalty to king over pope; perhaps 50 died in captivity.

Remains of Franciscan friary in Dunwich
Such violence over choice of faith leaves one shaken. But there is a quieter sorrow, too, that of the loss of the medieval friaries themselves.  The identity of Richard III may well be confirmed in coming weeks thanks to DNA advances, but the beauty of the Greyfriars church where he was bravely laid to rest cannot be re-created.

Most of the friars' homes and churches were destroyed utterly; in a few cases, as in Norwich, stone skeletons teeter, hinting at past glory. As Stanhope says in Monastic London:
"But even though it was necessary in Protestant England to confiscate and suppress the monasteries, why should the exquisitely wrought buildings have been overthrown? The ruins might at least have been preserved, and future generations been permitted to behold their funereal beauty."

UK cover
American cover
Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel, The Crown, told from the perspective of a Catholic novice in 1537, is on sale in North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Italy, and the Netherlands. To learn more, go to

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mortimer's Cross 1461: a day of signs, portents and wonders

by Anne O'Brien

Anyone driving through Mortimer's Cross in the Welsh Marches today, on the road between Hereford and Ludlow, would have no sense that this was the scene of one of the bloodiest and most important battles of the Wars of the Roses.  It is a quiet hamlet with a scattering of cottages, a local inn, a watermill on the River Lugg and a busy crossroads.  There is nothing to indicate that there was an historic battle here except for a less-than-eye-catching monument that was erected, but not until 1799.  It stands today outside the Monument Inn.  There are no 'signs and portents' today to remind us of the bloody deeds here.

The battle, between Yorkists and Lancastrians, was fought over the same fields that we can see today.  There has been no recent building and I doubt that this battle field will ever be lost to commercial development.  Herefordshire is, fortunately, far too isolated and rural.  It was a Yorkist victory where Edward, Earl of March, eldest son of Richard of York who had been killed at Wakefield, was victorious against Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, who was advancing his army from Wales.  

It was fought on a misty morning, 2nd February, Candlemas Day.  Edward, although barely nineteen years old, was already showing signs of his precocious gifts on the battlefield.  Taking local advice from his one time tutor Sir Richard Croft - Edward had been raised by him at Ludlow just to the north -  he made it impossible for the Lancastrians to avoid battle by blocking the road to Worcester in the east and to Hereford and Gloucester to the south.  After hours, Pembroke fled, leaving the remnants of his army to be slaughtered and his father Owen Tudor to be taken prisoner.  It is estimated that 9000 men fought in the battle.  The dead were counted as 4000, of which 3000 were Lancastrians.  This is the view from the Mortimer stronghold of Wigmore Castle, showing the level area over which the battle must have been fought.

This was the battle which was to give Edward his personal heraldic badge, the 'Sunne in Splendour.'  Just before the battle began, a parhelion was seen, three suns rising together, spread across the sky, a rare phenomenon caused by light refracted through ice crystals or through mist.  Sometimes they are called sun dogs.  It put, as we can imagine, fear into both armies, but Edward, declaiming to his troops, reassured them that it was undoubtedly an omen for his victory.

'Be of good comfort and dreadeth not.  This is a good sign for those three suns betoken the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and therefore let us have a good heart, and in the name of Almighty God go we against our enemies.'

Shakespeare described this miraculous sign in Henry VI part 3.  He recognised the importance of such a portent.

'Three glorious suns, each one a perfect sun;
Not separated with the racking clouds,
But sever'd in a pale clear-shining sky.
See, see! they join, embrace, and seem to kiss,
As if they vow'd some league inviolable:
Now are the but one lamp, one light, one sun.
In this the heaven figures some event.'

For Edward, it was indeed a sign of great change.  By March of that same year he had been crowned King Edward IV of England.

There is much remaining significant local interest for the visitor.  Sir Richard Croft, a tough marcher lord who gave Edward such valuable advice but was killed in the battle, has a magnificent tomb in the little church at Croft Castle, the family home, a handful of miles away.

Even more 'spine-tingling' is the little church at Kingsland, built by the Mortimers who owned all this land, where a chantry chapel, named the Volka chapel was added to the 13th century building.  We have no knowledge of the true reason for the building of the chapel, but one tradition says that it was for those who wished to offer prayers for the dead at Mortimer's Cross since the battle was fought in the Great West Field of the Kingsland parish.  It is still held sacred to the battle.  A ceremony of Eucharist is held there every year on the anniversary of the battle in memory of those slain on the battle field.  Whether the stone coffin had any connection with the battle we do not know.  When it was opened in the early 19th century, it was found to contain the skeletons of a woman and child.  I don't know what happened to these skeletons either ...  But the little chapel is a lovely place.

If you are ever passing through, and have no time to stop to see these remnants of a tragic loss of life and a magical moment as the three suns rose over the fields, perhaps you might stop at the Monument Inn, place a hand on the memorial, and raise a glass to those who died at Mortimer's Cross.

To keep up to date with my medieval novels and my historical blog, please visit:
My new novel, of high romance, betrayal, love and tragedy, The Forbidden Queen, the life of Katherine de Valois, will be released in 2013.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Taking to the Sky

by Laurie Alice Eakes

From at least as far back as the origins of the Greek myths, flight of man has fascinated man (and woman). Many tried and pretty much all failed--until the hot air balloon.

No one is quite sure who invented the idea of filling a bag with hot air and attaching a car AKA the basket for flight. As with many inventions, speculation and half-formed theories abound from the Chinese, to the people of the Nazca culture in Peru. Europeans, however, made ballooning a reality to the early modern world.

In 1783, two Frenchmen, de Rozier, along with Marquis François d'Arlandes, took to the sky in the first untethered flight. Before this, many men had sailed aloft while the balloon remained attached to the earth by ropes; therefore, the highest flight was only 80 feet and not precisely flying.

Flying is rather a misnomer with ballooning. In truth, all one can do in a balloon is drift. With favorable wind currents, you may even get where you want to go. Balloons, however, are not steerable. Many tried to find a way to do so, but none proved effective. Balloonists raised and lowered the level of the balloon through air flow, in order to find the most favorable wind currents.

In the early years, before propane tanks to fill the balloon with hot air, going far, even with favorable currents, was not particularly feasible for the simple fact that they needed to carry fuel and a great deal of it for two simple reasons. First of all, the air did not stay in the balloon due to the lack of air-tight fabric, and at the high elevations at which people flew, the air cooled off rather quickly and the balloon began to sink.

Some chemical compounds helped with the air seepage. These included rather combustible chemicals such as bird lime, which was an oily substance used by hunters to make birds stick to tree branches. When mixed and added to linseed oil, aeronauts cooked it to the right consistency as a sealant. It worked fairly well, but if it got near fire. . .Poof!

Balloonists also double-stitched the silk of the balloon fabric, which helped the seals. All that was still not good enough. The hot air needed constant replenishment.

Those men and women who took man into the skies went up in a wooden basket with live fire, straw, iron shavings, and acid.

A brazier held the fire, which the aeronaut fed regularly with straw to keep it going. If that fire extinguished, the air would cool, the balloon would sink, and the passengers would likely die in a crash. If the brazier spilled. . . Well, fire was a very real and too often deadly possibility.

Above the fire, the balloonist suspended a beaker filled with iron shavings and acid. When heated, this toxic combination formed hydrogen. That hydrogen rose from the beaker to the balloon through a wax-coated canvas tube. (At on October 8, 2012, I will discuss what happened to an Irish aeronaut when his tubing and balloon separated in flight.)

Ballooning is still not precisely a safe form of flight. Using a propane tank at tent thousand feet above the earth holds its risks, and balloons are still subject to whimsical and capricious wind currents. But propane seems positively foolproof compared to going aloft with live fire, and acid. Just the idea of going aloft with live fire creating hydrogen, a highly flammable element, makes me queasy. Yet the men and, yes, women who pioneered balloon flight considered the risk worth the experience and potential for navigation.

Sadly, especially for those who died in the trying, ballooning never became a viable form of transportation. With the need to carry live fire and fuel and being subject to the direction of the wind, no one could, for example, sail over enemy territory during a war. Balloons just did not have that kind of range. What the aeronauts did for the future of flying was let mankind know it could be done and thousands of people—now probably billions—would take to the skies when someone invented a navigable machine.

About Laurie Alice Eakes

“Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic times of bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author with a dozen books and novellas in print and more on the way. A graduate of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program, she also teaches writing and gives inspirational talks to women’s groups. She lives in Texas with her husband, dogs, and cats.

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Read excerpts from her books

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lost From Her Majesty's Back: Tudor Gowns and Finery

by Victoria Lamb

In Tudor films, you often see the women slipping easily out of their gowns at bedtime. But in reality, their clothing was a fiendish affair, which would have left modern women ready to scream. Poor women and lesser gentry might be able to get away with a smock-like one piece gown, pulled simply over the head. But wealthy Tudor woman had to contend with layers of clothing, some of which had to be fastened together as they were put on.

By Hans Holbein the Younger. British Museum.
The kirtle or foreskirt went over any undergarments - rarely worn - and often had a highly decorative front panel. Sometimes the kirtle was already attached to a bodice, but might also be laced into place at the time. Over this would be hung an overskirt with a wide V-style opening to reveal the decorative kirtle. In the later Elizabethan era, a hoop or farthingale might be worn below the kirtle to swell it out like a bell. A "bum-roll" was also used to help support this structure and to provide contrast between the narrow waist and chest - helped along by a stiffened or bone-strengthened bodice holding a lady's assets down - and the swaying skirts.

The Family of Thomas More.
Sleeves were normally separate from the rest of the gown, and could be worn in a mix and match way, so that women might have "favourite" sleeves which they used with different gowns. These would be tied on with laces or ribbons. For some of Queen Elizabeth I's more elaborate outfits, however, it was not unusual for the sleeves to be so heavy with fur trimmings or jewels, they would need to be sewn on at the time of dressing. The stitches would then be patiently unpicked by her small army of ladies-in-waiting at the end of the day.

Only imagine the boredom of such a lengthy disrobing ritual, which for Queen Elizabeth could take as long as four hours! Perhaps the literary cliche of lusty gentlemen ripping high-born ladies' bodices off in sheer frustration may not be so far from the truth.

All these expensive clothes would have been stored in chests that accompanied the queen everywhere, including on visits away from her royal palaces, and were guarded zealously by the Keeper of the Royal Wardrobe. Any jewels which snagged and fell off unnoticed while Elizabeth was out walking would be marked down in a Day Book now charmingly known as 'Lost From Her Majesties Back', which was kept religiously by her ladies. Every tiny pearl that disappeared from a sleeve or hem was noted down in this book, presumably allowing replacements to be ordered.

Given how many lost jewels appear in this book, it must have been quite a worthwhile pursuit to follow the queen about on state occasions, hoping to grab any lost jewels as they fell from her gowns, some of which were fairly bristling with expensive jewels - a point made by Janet Arnold in her fascinating book, Lost from Her Majesty's Back (The Costume Society, 1980), which may be available from some university libraries if looking to pursue this topic further.

Victoria Lamb is the author of The Queen's Secret, a Tudor novel set at Kenilworth Castle during Queen Elizabeth I's epic visit in 1575. Now available in paperback, Hardback and Kindle edition.

Bantam Press 2012

Her heroine Lucy Morgan will return in His Dark Lady, due to be published in the UK in March 2013.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Women's Periodicals During the Regency: Ackermann's

by Lauren Gilbert

When the name Ackermann's comes to mind, the first thing one thinks of is the fashion plate, the beautifully drawn illustration of the current mode.  However, there was so much more than that...

Rudolph Ackermann published Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics  (also known as Ackermann's Repository)  in London beginning in 1809 as a monthly periodical.

Originally, this periodical was much more than a fashion magazine.  As its title indicates, each month, the reader was treated to a selection of articles about a wide variety of subjects, ranging from art and architecture, to domestic issues (including needlework patterns and home furnishings), biographical sketches of historical or current figures, reviews of books and art exhibitions, and all manner of things. Even political matters were explored.  Fashion was only one of many subjects addressed in these early magazines.

It was a very influential magazine, providing women with information about many topics, not just domestic matters.Women's buying power was also acknowledged, in that there were product advertisements, not only for cosmetics (such as Gowland's Lotion) but for larger purchases as well, such as furniture like the patent pianoforte advertised in 1812, shown here.

I took the opportunity to browse through the Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, &c.  The SecondSeries Vol. II July 1, 1816 No. VII.  Articles included information about architecture (A Gothic Conservatory and the new Customs House were the focus in this edition), saloon draperies, a needle-work pattern (a design for muslin), instructions on how to dye various fabrics certain colors from The Domestic Commonplace Book, poetry and short stories.  Under "Miscellanies", there was a fascinating article titled "Some Particulars Illustrative of the Character of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg."  The fashion items appeared later in the periodical, and discussed English and French fashion issues.   The illustration below is from 1811 issue, and is very typical of the lovely and detailed fashion drawings that appear in every edition:

February 1811 Fur Pelisse

These illustrations and the very detailed descriptions provided were intended to keep women abreast of the current modes, and also to provide dressmakers with the information needed to replicate them.

The periodical ceased operations in 1829.  By that year, it was known as Ackermann's Repository of Fashion and was dedicated primarily to fashion and needlework. 

A quick review of Ackermann's Repository of Fashions, No. I January, 1829 Price 2s shows the beautiful fashion plates, with detailed descriptions and a needlework pattern.  The February 1829 edition includes masquerade costumes and "General Observations on Parisian Fashions", as well as a needlework pattern.  

Considering that, by this time, there was already a shift towards the mores and values we associate with the Victorian period, including the idea that a woman's place was in the home, no longer encouraged to take an interest in matters such as politics, the change in content is significant. 

Suggested reading list:
Blum, Stella, ed.  ACKERMANN'S COSTUME PLATES Women's Fashions in England, 1818-1828.  New York, Dover Publications, Inc. 1978.

On line via GoogleBooks:
The Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, &c.  The Second Series. Vol. II July 1 1816 No. VII  (found in REPOSITORY of ARTS, LITERATURE, FASHIONS &c. Rudolf Ackermann, Frederic Shoberl)

Ackermann's Repository of Fashions. No. I January 1829 Price 2s (found in R. ACKERMANN'S REPOSITORY OF FASHIONS [4th ser. of the Repository of arts, literature, fashions, manufactures].

(Both books contain multiple editions, and are fun to go through.)

By Lauren Gilbert, author HEYERWOOD, A Novel.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Profitable Vice: Gambling in Regency England

by J.A. Beard

Games of chance have been with mankind from our most ancient days. Even in cultures and times where currency and property were unknown ideas, staring down fate and wagering something of importance were known. In many ancient cultures, gambling was even linked to mystical, religious, and ritualistic practices. The pervasive allure of gambling also affected the English of the Regency period.

While the Regency English did not elevate gambling to a mystical experience, the pastime, as it were, was tremendously popular during the period. It’s important to note this fondness for games of chance and profit/loss cut across all levels of society. It was arguably most pronounced among the top tiers of proper society, as the elite could enjoy the special thrill that came with extremely high stakes.

Both men and women were drawn in by Lady Luck's tests of chance, though there were differences in regards to their typical approaches to gambling. Men, in general, bet on a wider range of activities including cards, dice, sporting events (e.g., boxing and races), et cetera. Really, though, the true gamblers, would bet on almost anything. Women, however, particularly women of higher social standing, tended to keep their gambling more focused on cards and also tended to keep their stakes lower. Whist, faro, piquet, and loo were all popular card game choices for men and women who wanted to toss a bit of coin around and challenge fortune.

This is not to say that women never played for larger stakes, and there even was the occasional titled woman who decided that there was good money to be made in facilitating gambling and taking a cut. After all, the house always wins, right? Men also had their gambling facilitated by its more prominent presence at their clubs and their greater social freedom to frequent "gaming hells."

Although there were some who looked askance at gambling as a moral failing, there was no general social condemnation against the activity in polite society. Excessive gambling, as with other excessive behaviors, was frowned upon, but people of great social respectability could freely gamble without a lasting taint on their reputation, even with the occasional playing at one of the seedier gaming dens. Though larger bets meant great reward, they obviously also carried greater risks, and it wasn't unknown for people to even bet and lose property, a rather serious matter in a society that so tied land to status.

Indeed, arguably, the main social condemnation related to gambling at the time (other than cheating) applied only to those who acquired gambling debts and then did not pay them off.

As with all things during the Regency, social class differences heavily colored the view of a gambling debt. A titled gentleman would feel pressured to promptly pay back his debts to another titled aristocrat of similar rank. A titled aristocrat might feel he could take his time, though, if he owed debts to a common merchant. Although the general tendency of social classes to mix with those of their own kind kept the overall amount of extreme class differences between debt holders and their debtors relatively low, there were more than a few gentlemen of means who found themselves owing a large sum to their alleged social inferiors. They would get their money… eventually. Despite the "advantage" that came with being able to be leisurely repay one's social inferiors, it was somewhat offset with the reality that owing money to a social inferior was very damaging to one's reputation.

Gambling could also reinforce social classes in a different way. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennet finds herself a bit off-put not by the presence of gambling, but by what she assumed were too high of stakes:

"On entering the drawing room she [Elizabeth] found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high she declined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below with a book."

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 8.

I'm guessing that once she became Mrs. Darcy, she was a bit less nervous about high stakes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Bloody Assizes and the Demon Judge

by Regina Jeffers

Historical Context:

With the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658, the newly-elected Parliament “restored” Charles II to the throne of England. Charles II’s reign (1660-1685) was marked by political unrest. The ruling class split into two parties: the Whigs and the Tories. The Whigs supported Charles’s brother, James, the Catholic heir to the throne. They believed in constitutional monarchism and opposed absolute rule. The Whigs played a central role in 1688’s Glorious Revolution and were the standing enemies of the Stuart kings and pretenders, who were Roman Catholic. They took full control of England’s government in 1715 and remained in control until King George II came to the throne in 1760.  The Whigs were reliant on parliamentary power and distrustful of the Catholic Church.

The Tories, on the other hand, remained sympathetic to royal power and the reestablishment of the Anglican Church. They were hostile to Protestant “dissenters,” such as the Baptists, the Quakers, and the Presbyterians.

Each side tried to outmaneuver the other in its power struggle. Unfortunately, the Whigs tried one too many manipulations when they encouraged Titus Oates to lodge conspiracy and treason charges against James and other governmental officials of Catholic sympathies. “God, King, and Country”

Charles II disbelieved Oates’s conspiracy theories, but he dared not to confront Oates openly. In 1681, he was able to dissolve a Whig parliament and rule directly, with the support of the Tories. Charles II’s reign saw the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1665, as well as the Great Plague in the same year and the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Charles II died in 1685 after being received into the Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed, and his brother James II came to the throne. Although he was a known Catholic, James II did not impose his beliefs upon his people, but most Whigs did not believe him. Therefore, a Whig faction supported a revolt by Charles II’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. The revolt was quickly dispensed, and James sent Judge George Jeffreys to deal out his “revenge.” The result was what is known as The Bloody Assizes.

Full of confidence, James II dismissed Parliament (1685) and appointed Catholic officials, even going so far as to ally himself with the much-despised Louis XIV of France. In 1686, James took measures to restore Catholicism in England and to set up a standing army of 13,000 troops. A like army was supported in Ireland, which created large pockets of distrust among the English. The execution of the Duke of Monmouth united James’s Whig opposition behind the only remaining Protestant claimant to the throne, William of Orange, husband to Mary, James’s daughter. In 1688, Whigs and disenchanted Tories invited William to England to restore English liberties and to drive James from the throne. In 1688, James abdicated and fled to exile in France.

The Bloody Assizes were a series of trials, which began on August 25, 1685, in the aftermath of the Battle of Sedgemoor, which ended the Monmouth Rebellion. There were five judges: Sir William Montague (Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer); Sir Robert Wright; Sir Francis Wythens (Justice of the King’s Bench); Sir Creswell Levinz (Justice of the Common Pleas), and Sir Henry Polexfen. The group was under the direction of Dorset’s Demon Judge, Lord Chief Justice George Jeffreys.

George Jeffreys:

In June 1685, James Scott, the first Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of King Charles II, landed at Lyme Regis in Dorset, bringing with him a bloody swatch of rebellion. In the days that followed, horror filled the hearts and minds of those living in the area. Monmouth brought some eighty trained soldiers with him. When King Charles II died, his Catholic brother, James, the Duke of York, who became King James II, succeeded him. However, Monmouth, a Protestant, made a bloody bid for the throne.
Landing in Lyme Regis, Monmouth marched across the West Country towards Taunton, into Somerset, Devon, and back to Dorset, gathering support for his bid. The revolt soon became known as The Pitchfork Rebellion. When word reached James II of his “nephew’s” efforts to claim the throne, James II sent an army, commanded by Lord Faversham, to crush the revolt.
On July 6, the two armies clashed at the Battle of Sedgemoor, where Monmouth’s army, along with the Duke, fled. The following morning, disguised as a farm laborer and hiding in a ditch at a spot now known as Monmouth’s Ash, the Duke was captured near Horton Heath, about 8 miles south of the hamlet of Woodyates. Escorted immediately to London, Monmouth was tried for treason and, eventually, beheaded on Tower Hill on July 15, 1685.

As part of his revenge on those who stood with Monmouth, King James II sent his most ruthless judge, George Jeffreys, the First Baron Jeffreys of Wem, to deal with the rebels. Jeffreys held a reputation for swift justice and merciless sentences; he, eventually, rose to the position of Lord Chancellor, and occasionally served as Lord High Steward.  Some 1400 prisoners were brought before Jeffreys at the courts of Winchester, Taunton, and Dorchester. The court hearings were given the title of The Bloody Assizes, for some 300 men were put to death during the proceedings. Those found guilty by Jeffreys were hanged or drawn and quartered. Rotting bodies hung from makeshift gallows peppered the main highways and towns in the area. These gruesome sights were a clear warning to those who might force the king’s hand. Another 800 men were sentenced for transportation.
From his Prescript to the Sheriff of Dorset, Jeffreys leaves these orders: “These are, therefore, to will and require of you, immediately on sight hereof, to erect a gallows in the most public place to hand the said traytors on, and that you provide halters to hang them with, a sufficient number of faggots to burn the bowels, and a furnace or cauldron to boil their heads and quarters, and salt to boil them with, half a bushel to each traytor, and tar to tar them with, and a sufficient number of spears and poles to fix and place their heads and quarters; and that you warn the owners of four oxen to be ready with dray and wain, and the said four oxen, at the time hereafter mentioned for execution, and you yourselves together with a guard of forty able men at the least, to be present by eight o’clock of the morning to be aiding and assisting me or my deputy to see the said rebels executed. You are also to provide an axe and a cleaver for the quartering of the said rebels.”
Judge Jeffreys opened the Bloody Assizes at Dorchester on 5 September 1685 at the Antelope Hotel in the “Oak Room.” During his stay in Dorchester, Jeffreys stayed at a house in High West Street, a building, which is still known as his lodgings, and made his way to the courtroom by a secret passage in order to avoid the angry crowds. In one of his more infamous manipulations, Jeffreys convinced a young girl to spend the night in his bed in exchange for her brother’s freedom. When the girl woke the next morning, she peered out the window to see her brother hanging from the neck by a Bridport Dagger. (The town of Bridport was known for the production of netting and rope for the fishing industry and for use by the British navy. Bridport was also known for the production of the hangman’s rope. It was customary to say that those who were hanged were “stabbed by a Bridport Dagger.”) By the time, Jeffreys moved on to Lyme Regis, he had sentenced 74 men to death, sent another 175 to transportation, had 9 whipped, and pardoned 55.
On 11 September 1685, the Bloody Assizes opened at Lyme Regis. On the 12th of September, twelve men were executed on the beach west of the Cobb, and their body parts were displayed on spikes along the railings around the church. Two of the men’s heads were impaled on the iron gates of Chatham House. Jeffreys had dined at the great house on Broad Street the evening before the executions. Since that time, Jeffreys’ ghost is said to carry a bloody bone through the house.
This ghost tale is circumspect at best. After all, in reality, Jeffreys died some four years after the Bloody Assizes ended. During the Glorious Revolution, Jeffreys stayed in London when James II fled. However, when William III’s troops marched into the city, Jeffreys disguised himself as a sailor and made his escape. He was captured at a public house in Wapping (now named The Town of Ramsgate). Fearing the public outcry for his “crimes,” Jeffreys begged for protection. On 18 April 1689, he died of kidney failure while in custody in the Tower of London.

The Future Mrs. Darcy by Maria Grace

Maria Grace is giving away a copy of The Future Mrs. Darcy. The Giveaway ends at midnight September 29.

For more information about the book, please click HERE. Comment in this post to enter the drawing.  Be sure to leave your contact information. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Anne Askew: Mother, Minister, Martyr

by Sandra Byrd

A hot day in July, 1546 was about to get hotter for Anne Askew, who was tied to a bundle of sticks between two friends who were likewise restrained.  Her jailers had secured the wood to her mid-section because she'd been tortured — racked — to the point where she could not hold herself upright any longer.   Anne was the married mother of two young children, was twenty-five years old, and she was about to burn to death for her faith.

Anne had been born to an up-and-coming gentry family in Lincolnshire and at the age of fifteen she'd been forced to marry her dead sister's fiancé, a not-unusual arrangement.  She and her new husband, Thomas, did not get along well, in part because Anne was fervent and active in the budding English Reformation.  The Dictionary of National Biography says that she left her family to go "gospelling",  the sixteenth century word most often used for preaching scripture.  

This, of course, was unusual in a time when by law women were not only under the constant legal authority of their husbands, but were also forbidden from reading the Bible aloud to any but their close friends, in private.  But it was not preaching which so offended the council of Henry VIII, it was Anne's stubborn refusal to accept the doctrine of transubstantiation. 

The doctrine, an important one in the some Christian churches then and now, states that during Mass, also called Communion or the Lord's Supper depending on denomination and tradition, the bread and wine become the actual body of Christ.  Many reformers, such as Askew, believed that the elements were representative, instead. Although it may seem like a "live and let live" issue to us in the twenty-first century, at that time, according to Henry's laws, the belief was heresy and punishable by death.

Woodcutting of the Burning of Anne Askew
Anne was caught in the middle of the maelstrom that was religion in the Tudor Court.  Religious traditionalists wanted a return to the Roman Catholic faith which had been foundational in England for more than a thousand years.  Reformers wanted change in the church, or perhaps to establish a new church altogether.  Although many on both sides had deeply held convictions for which they lived and died, others were more interested in the temporal power that rested with the final decision, namely, control of Prince Edward, and the future of the kingdom. 

Henry, sick, seemed to lean more and more upon his sixth wife Queen Kateryn Parr, a strong reformer.  She, too, hoped to continue to influence her step-son, Edward, after her husband's death, for both religious and personal reasons; she was very fond of him.   Religious conservatives wanted Edward under their control instead. By implicating Parr through her friend Askew's heresy, they hoped to bring down the queen, too.

Anne has the dubious honor of being the first woman tortured on the notorious rack in the Tower of London.  She was brought before it and asked to name other highborn women in the queen's household who believed as she did, the implication being that the Queen should be named, too.  When she refused she was stripped of her clothing down to her shift and racked - a means of torture in which ankles and wrists are strapped to a pulley which stretches until all joints are dislocated.  Afterward, Askew was brought to the stake in a chair.
After the fire was lit, Anne continued to correct the bible teaching of Bishop Nicolas Shaxton, so recently a friend and fellow reformer till he'd recanted when faced with torture and death.  As the flames grew higher, she'd speak out, correcting Shaxton on his scripture. "Yes, he's got that right," she'd boldly call out on a passage, or, "No, there he misseth and speaks without the book."  

John Foxe, author of Foxe's Book of Martyrs, tells us that someone provided gunpowder to be added to the stakes below Askew to speed her death and more quickly ease her pain.  Many believe that the same strong women at court that she protected — the Queen and her highborn ladies in waiting — supplied that gun powder to speed the bold and courageous Askew heavenward on her "chariot of fire."

To learn more about Sandra's Ladies in Waiting Series, set in Tudor England, please visit For blogs on England and English history, visit:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Historical Anecdotes

by the English Historical Fiction Authors

William IV

William the Fourth

by David W. Wilkin

A few weeks back I wrote about the sons of George III and their mistresses who were as much of a wife as many of the marriages we honor today.

One of those was William, who succeeded his brother (George IV) and ruled from 1830 to 1837. He was succeeded in turn by Victoria. Prior to his reign he spent 20 years with Dorothea Jordan and had 10 children with her.
Dorothea Jordan

From the Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes we have the exchange between George III to his son:

George III
"Hey, hey:--what's this--what's this. You keep an actress, they say."

"Yes, sir."

"Ah, well, well; how much do you give her, eh?"

"One thousand a year, sir."

"A thousand, a thousand; too much; too much! Five hundred quite enough! Quite enough!"

Married Life by Samuel Pepys 
(with a bit of help from Deborah Swift)

Long-suffering Elisabeth Pepys
6th January

"Myself somewhat vexed at my wife's neglect in leaving of her scarfe, waistcoat and nightdressings in the coach that brought us from Westminster though I confess she did give them to me to look after - yet it was her fault not to see that I did not take them out of the coach." (italics mine)

Is it just me, or is this scene of married life frighteningly familiar?!

Massacre Averted: The Siege of Calais 
by Rosanne E. Lortz

After the English defeated the French at the Battle of Crecy (1346), they moved on to besiege the city of Calais. French pirates had been using Calais as a base from which to attack English merchant ships, and this city situated on the Channel had been a thorn in England's side for years. The siege lasted almost a year. As the days inched by, Edward III grew more and more angry at all the time and money Calais was costing him.

The hungry citizens of Calais kept hoping that their king would come and lift the siege, but it was a risk Philip VI was not willing to take. Finally, in August of 1347, Calais' governor sent Edward word that they were ready to surrender and asked what terms they would receive. Enraged, Edward replied that they would receive no terms and that he intended to slaughter them all out of revenge. Edward's nobles pleaded with him not to commit such an atrocity. Grudgingly, he agreed to lessen his revenge, demanding instead that six of the leading citizens exit the city and come to him with a rope around their necks.

When Queen Philippa, who had come to France to be with her lord, heard that he meant to hang these men, she came into his presence and knelt before him. Heavy with child, she entreated him that for love of her he would refrain from pursuing his revenge. The love that Edward bore his wife was strong, and although he was sorely frustrated to see his desires blocked at every turn, he handed the captives over to his gentle wife. And so thanks to the good offices of Queen Philipa, these six men were spared, and all the citizens of Calais were allowed to leave the city unharmed.


The weather and temperature in 18th Century England - by Mike Rendell

If my ancestor’s diaries are anything to go by, diarists love to record what the weather was like. After wading through pages of tedious reports of “fine-ish” or  “some rain, sunny at times” it is lovely to come across a more descriptive passage such as “a dribbling sort of day”. But my favourite description is when my ancestor Richard Hall says how cold it was in January 1776, making the comment  “Exceeding sharp; Snow, froze very hard. Froze the water in the Chamber pot.”  Now that is cold!

"Little Ease": Torture and the Tudors
By Nancy Bilyeau

On a March night in 1534, a man and woman hurried past a row of cottages on the outer grounds of the Tower of London. They had almost reached the gateway to Tower Hill and, not far beyond it, the city of London, when a group of yeoman warders on night watch appeared in their path, holding lanterns.

In response, the young couple turned toward each other, in what seemed like a lover's embrace. But something about the man caught the attention of Yeoman Warder Charles Gore. He held his lantern higher and within seconds, recognized the pair. The man was a fellow yeoman warder, John Bawd, and the woman was Alice Tankerville, a condemned thief and prisoner.

So ended the Tower's first known escape attempt by a woman. But Alice's accomplice and admirer, the guard John Bawd, was destined to enter the Tower record books, too, and for the grimmest of reasons--he is the first known occupant of a peculiar torture cell used during the reigns of the Tudors and the early Stuarts. The windowless cell measured 1.2 m (4 square feet) and bore the faintly prim name of Little Ease. The prisoner within could not stand nor sit nor lie down but crouched over, in increasing agony, until freed from the suffocating, dark space.

 For more, go to the full article, Little Ease.


That's No Ordinary M.M. Bennetts

I'm reminded me of this charming story of military valour and courage just about every time I pass the pet shop...

Hunting being the traditional sport of kings, Napoleon Bonaparte was mad about it.  And this one day, he wanted to go out hunting, so he and his various chums took their guns to a hunting lodge outside Paris for a day's shooting and general jollification.

The obsequious courtier who owned the hunting lodge in question decided to take no chances with the day's outcome--displeasing the Emperor could ruin one's life and livelihood--so he went and bought (figures vary here, but the received wisdom says 1000 or so) rabbits, just to make sure that everyone except the rabbits would have a great day out.

Unfortunately, what the courtier failed to understand was that these were domesticated rabbits.

Hence, when Napoleon and his posh mates started walking out into the field, the rabbits imagined it was their feeding time and, as one, rushed the little Corsican.

Can't you just see it?

And confronted by a thousand hungry, rushing hoppers what's a little corporal to do but run away?

And run faster!

Which is what he did--pursued by the rabbits.  All the way back to his carriage.  Where he hid, refusing to come out.

That's right, Napoleon cowered in his carriage whilst surrounded by ravenous, fanged, er, bunnies...Ha ha ha. (Also of interest perhaps:  he was afraid of cats.)


The King, The Archbishop and The Bear 

by Judith Arnopp

Bishop Burnet, writing a century after the event, relates a bizarre incident that took place in Henry VIII’s reign during the aftermath of the six articles.  The Six Articles was an act that set out quite clearly and reinforced six points of medieval doctrine which Protestants at that time had begun to undermine. The act also specified the punishments due to those who did not accept them and was known by many protestants as ‘the bloody whip with six strings.’ As a married man, Archbishop Cranmer must have taken particular exception to Article Three which stated that priests should not be allowed to marry.

He set down his objections quite strongly, making detailed notes, all backed up with citations from the bible and learned scholars, and it is believed he planned to present his findings to Henry.  His secretary, Ralph Morice, duly copied the notes into a small book and set of with it to Westminster.

The king, meanwhile, was attending a bear-baiting across the river at Southwark and, just as Ralph Morice and company were passing in a wherry, the bear broke loose from the pit and with the dogs in hot pursuit, leapt into the river and made straight for the boat. Bishop Burnet goes on to relate that;

‘those that were in the boat leaped out and left the poor secretary alone there. But the bear got into the boat, with the dogs about her, and sank it. The secretary, apprehending his life was in danger, did not mind his book, which he lost in the water.’

You can just picture it, can't you? Dripping wet bear, soaked dogs, terrified clerk, wildly rocking boat?

When Morice reached the shore he saw his book floating and asked the bearward (who was not perhaps as ‘in charge’ of the bear as one might hope) to retrieve it for him. But before he could get his hands on it, the book fell into the hands of a priest who, realising what the book contained, declared that whoever claimed it would be hanged.

Burnet says that, ‘This made the bearward more intractable for he was a spiteful papist and hated the archbishop, so no offers or entreaties could prevail on him to give it back.’
In no little panic Morice sought the immediate assistance of Cromwell who, on discovering the bearward about to hand the book over to Cranmer’s enemies, confiscated it, threatening him severely for meddling with the book of the privy councillor. Thus saving the life of the Archbishop.

This all sounds rather like a scene from the film Carry-on Henry, a farce, far too unlikely to be true. I cannot help but wonder what Henry made of the spectacle.


Women and Childbirth in 17th Century England by Sam Thomas

When we think about the difference between the past and present, our minds often turn to medicine, and with good reason. Who in their right minds would want to return to a world of leeches and blood-letting, of pregnancy without doctors and high death-rates for both mothers and children? But as so many of the writers on this blog have made clear, there is far more behind the history than modern stereotypes, and childbirth is no exception.
If you were to peek in on a woman in labor (or “in travail” as she might have said), the first thing you might notice is the people in the room. There would be a midwife rather than a doctor, of course, and you’d not find her husband – until the eighteenth century at the very earliest, childbirth was the business of women...
To read the rest of this post, click here.

Sam Thomas is the author of The Midwife's Tale: A Mystery from Minotaur/St.Martin's. Want to pre-order a copy? Click here. For more on midwifery and childbirth visit his website. You can also like him on Facebook  and follow him on Twitter.


Boudicea: Warrior Queen of the Iceni 
by Teresa Thomas Bohannon

Boudicea Warrior Queen
Boudicea was Queen of the Iceni, a tribe of the ancient Britons (in what is now Norfolk) during the era when Nero ruled in Rome and Roman troops occupied Britain. Her husband, Præsutagus, was King of the Ice'ni, and a Roman ally. Under Roman law, the sovereignty of Præsutagus' realm would end at his death and neither Boudicea, nor their daughters would be allowed to rule in his stead, however his personal wealth was his to distribute as he would. Præsutagus, a powerful ruler, had amassed a great deal of wealth during his reign.  In an attempt to placate the occupying Romans and protect his family's legacy, Præsutagus, made the emperor of Rome co-heir to his personal wealth along with his two daughters. Unfortunately, Præsutagus underestimated the greed and brutality of the Romans. Immediately upon his death, they not only took possession of his lands, but also seized all of his personal assets. The widowed Queen was outraged and protested vigorously. For her impertinence, she was seized by the Romans and publicly stripped and flogged. Her daughters, were turned over to the Romans soldiers and subjected to indignity and rape.

Boudicea incited the Britons to war and riot leading them in several battles where Roman troops were decimated. She besought them to fight for their country and their homes. "On this spot we must either conquer or die with glory," she said. "There is no alternative. Though I am a woman, my resolution is fixed. The men, if they prefer, may survive with infamy and live in bondage. For me there is only victory or death."

To read more about Boudicea visit these posts
Boudicea: Warrior Queen & Boudicea: Destroyer of London


The Great Stink of London, 1858 by Debra Brown

I greatly enjoy Liza Picard's book Victorian London. If you want to read numerous great anecdotes, her book is a wonderful source. Her first chapter discusses the smells of London past.

Day and night in Victorian times, she says, London stunk. The Thames "main ingredient" was human waste. Human excrement was sold as fertilizer to nurseries and farms surrounding London by the night-soil men who emptied the cesspits. A chamber pot might be emptied on your head as you walked through the narrow streets, adding to the stench of dead dogs, horse and cattle manure and rotting vegetables.

By 1841 there were 1,945,000 people and 200,000 cesspits full and overflowing. Years of waste fermented in miles of sewers in Holborn and Finsbury with no access to the Thames. Even in aristocratic Belgravia, Grosvenor Square, Hanover Square and Berkeley Square noxious matter stopped up house drains and reeked. Buckingham Palace smelled from drains that ran below.

Cows were kept in cowsheds all over London in appalling conditions with no space for cleaning. Cattle, sheep and pigs sold in Smithfield Market walked through London streets leaving behind 40,000 tons of dung a year, and thousands of horses each excreted 45 lb. of faeces and 3.5 lb. of urine a day.

A 14 foot deep pit at St. Bride's Church was reopened every Wednesday to take in carcasses of dead paupers until it could hold no more. The whole neighborhood stunk.

Coal gas stunk, and gas mains leaked. In Bermondsey skins and hides were tanned using a process including dog turds. Refuse from hospitals, fishmonger's and fishmarket washings and offal, slaughterhouse offal, glule-makers, candle-makers, bone dealers, dye works, dead rats, dogs and cats and even, the January 1862 journal The Builder said, dead babes stank.

  © Copyright Mick Garratt and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Finally there was a breakthrough, right? when water closets became a normal part of a house. By 1857 there were 200,000 of them all duly sidetracking the cesspits and emptying straight into the Thames via the sewers. The result was the Great Stink of 1858.

" Broken Victorian Sewage Pipe Saltburn's sewage used to be discharged into the sea below Huntcliff. The pipe has been filled with concrete but the constant pounding of the sea twice a day at high tide is gradually taking its toil of the pipe." Wikimedia

This at last precipitated actions which helped to turn things around. You really do want to read Liza's book!



We have arrived at our Anniversary weekend. In one year nearly 80,000 unique visitors. A historical post everyday. More than 50 bloggers bringing you a little piece of English History every day that they uncover in their research. History that adds color and background to the novels that they write for your enjoyment.

To thank all those who have come this year to sample the endeavors herein, twenty of the books that our writers have labored over are being given away this weekend. Just post your name, email in the comments section for a chance to win. (Many people place spaces on each sign of the @ symbol, or type that out as (AT) but we'll get the idea.) A comment on Saturday the 22nd, or Sunday the 23rd or both days will garner a chance to win one of the twenty books. Some are eBooks, some are physical and have restrictions as to where they will ship. Should you win, we will contact the author and provide them with your information. They then will contact you and if there is a problem because of the restrictions, we shall find away to get another tome into your hands. 

In no particular order for all prizes will be awarded randomly, we have donations for our giveaway from these authors and their works:

David Wilkin--The Shattered Mirror, The End of the World ebooks
Debbie Brown--Companion of Lady Holmeshire
Nancy Bilyeau--The Crown (2 Copies)
Lauren Gilbert--Heyerwood
Deborah Swift--The Gilded Lily
Katherine Pym--London 1660
Lucinda Brant--Deadly Affair
Cathie Dunn--Dark Deceit
Maria Grace--The Future Mrs. Darcy, Darcy's Decision
Nancy Jardine--The Beltane Choice
Maggie Secara--The Dragon Ring
Edward H. Carpenter--A Matter of Honor
Karen Wasylowski--Sons and Daughters
Peter St. John--Gang Territory
Teresa Thomas Bohannon--Choice of: A Very Merry Chase, Shadows in a Timeless Myth or The Widow's Tale
Mark Patton--Undreamed Shores
Sherry Jones -- Four Sisters, All Queens