Friday, May 31, 2013

What the dickens and balderdash!

by Maria Grace 

Confound it all!

One of the frustrations of writing historical fiction is discovering your character could not do/hear/see/say something because it had not been invented yet! Such is my plight as I just discovered my Regency era heroine could not say 'Confound it!' as the saying did not exist for nearly another 40 years! A few other things she could not say (and the year in which she could have said them) include:

  • botheration – c. 1835
  • by gum – c. 1825
  • cheeky – c. 1830
  • cheerio – c. 1910
  • confound it – c. 1850
  • darned - c. 1815
  • drat – c. 1815
  • fancy that – c. 1834
  • frightfully – c. 1830
  • (all) right – c. 1837
  • right you are – c. 1865
  • smashing – c. 1850
But, when frustrated, as I am at the moment, she could have said any of these (and the year they made their appearance):
  • bah --c. 1600
  • balderdash – c.1675
  • barmy -- c. 1600
  • beastly – c. 1200
  • blasted – (damned) c. 1600
  • by (Saint) George – c. 1719, by Jove – c. 1570
  • by the bye – c. 18th C.
  • criminy - c. 1700
  • daft – c. 1450
  • damn- c.1300's but avoided in print until 1930's
  • damnation
    - c.1300's but avoided in print until 1930's
  • dang -- c. 1790
  • darn - c. 1790
  • deuced (damned) -- c. 1785
  • devilish – c. 1450
  • devil of a... – c. 1750
  • dickens (What the dickens?) - late 1600
  • egad -- c. 1675
  • fiddle-de-dee - c. 1785
  • fiddle faddle – from 18th C.
  • fiddlesticks – from 17th C.
  • fudge- from the 1610
  • gads -- from 17th C.
  • gadzooks -- c. 1655
  • ghastly – c. 1325
  • golly - c. 1775
  • good gracious – from 18th C.
  • goodness! – mid 19th C.
  • gosh - c. 1760
  • go to the devil – from 14th C.
  • gracious – from 18th C., gracious me – from 19th
  • hocus pocus from 1620
  • I say – from 17th C.
  • la – from 16th C.
  • lo and behold -- by 1810
  • Nation: abbreviation of damnation--by 19th C.
  • oh! - c. 1550, oh-oh -- c. 173
  • pah -- c. 1600
  • pish -- c. 1595
  • pooh -- c. 1600
  • poop- c. 1744
  • pshaw -- c. 167
  • rot it – 17th -- 18th C.
  • rubbish -- c. 1630
  • son of a (female dog)--c 1707
  • son of a gun -- c. 1710
  • tosh - (nonsense) c. 1530
  • What (how) the devil – from 17th C.
  • zooks - c. 1635
  • zounds - c. 1600
What a beastly lot of devilish rubbish it is to care whether or not she could have said any of these phrases.

Confound it all!  

English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh, Writer’s Digest Books, 1998
Etymology of Expressions compiled by Joanna Waugh
Etymology Online
 Maria Grace is the author of Darcy's Decision,  The Future Mrs. Darcy and All the Appearance of GoodnessClick here to find her books on Amazon. For more on her writing and other Random Bits of Fascination, visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook, follow on Twitter or email her.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Holyrood Abbey and the Palace of Holyroodhouse

By Lauren Gilbert
The Palace of Holyrood House is one of the most haunting places I have ever visited.  It is inextricably linked to Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, who lived there during much of her reign.  However, its history extended back centuries, and continued after her.    It was built next to Holyrood Abbey, where its history actually began.

The Abbey of Holyrood was founded in Edinburgh, Scotland for the Canons Regular of St. Augustine by King David I in 1128.  There is a legend that the foundation was laid as an act of thanksgiving by the king, for a miraculous escape from a hunting accident on Holy Cross Day.  A hart was deflected from goring the king by the reflection of sunlight on a crucifix, according to the legend.  An alternate version has a crucifix appearing between the antlers, while the king was trying to save himself by grabbing the antlers.  Either way, the Abbey was founded and named Holyrood (“rood” meaning cross) in honor of the king’s escape on Holy Cross Day.  A fragment of the True Cross was housed in the Abbey church.  It had been brought to Scotland by King David’s mother, Margaret (canonized as St. Margaret of Scotland) from Waltham Abbey, and became known as the Black Rood of Scotland.   The Abbey survived and continued through the next few centuries.
Remains of Abbey of Holyrood

The Abbey suffered invasion by the English twice, once when it was burned by Richard II in 1305, after which it was restored, and again in 1322 when it was sacked by Edward II’s army.  In 1346, at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, the Black Rood of Scotland was captured by the English and carried off to Durham Cathedral, from where it subsequently disappeared during the Reformation.

Edinburgh became the capital of Scotland in the 15th century, and the guest house of the Abbey of Holyrood was used more and more frequently by the royal family, apparently in preference to the fortress of Edinburgh Castle.  James I of Scotland’s twin sons were born within the Abbey in 1430, and his queen Mary of Gueldres was crowned there in 1449. The younger of the twins became James II and he was crowned in the abbey, married there, and was finally buried there.   In July of 1469, James III married Margaret of Denmark (who was only 13 years old) at least in part to resolve the feud between Scotland and Denmark over the Hebrides. 

During the period from about 1500-1504, James IV built a palace for himself and his bride Margaret Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister) next to the Abbey, of which little remains. His son James V extensively rebuilt the palace, possibly for his bride Madeleine (daughter of Francis I of France). His second wife, Mary of Guise, was crowned in the Abbey of Holyrood.  The north tower, a large tower with round corner turrets built to be royal lodging between 1528-1532, still stands, at the front of the palace.  Between 1535-6, further rebuilding was done on the other wings.  During this time, Edinburgh Castle was used more as a place to confine political prisoners.   James V died of fever December 15, 1542, after the Scots were defeated by the English at the Battle of Solway Moss, leaving his only legitimate child, the infant Mary, to become queen.  During the “rough wooing”, the Abbey was burned and looted by the English in 1544; finally, in 1547, the English destroyed the choir, lady chapel, transepts and monastic buildings of the Abbey.  Although some repairs were made, it was never fully restored.

In 1548, Mary left Scotland for France, and the French troops ended the English occupation.  Her mother, Mary of Guise governed on her behalf under her death in 1560.  During this period, the Reformation gained momentum, and Scotland became increasingly Protestant.  After the death of her husband, Francis II of France, also in 1560, Mary returned to Scotland and made the Palace of Holyrood House her residence.  This remained her primary residence through her tumultuous years as queen.    Ironically, what may be the only building in Scotland directly attributed to her  still remains: the bath house near what was the north side of the palace in her time. 
The Queen's Bath House

In July of 1566, Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (her cousin) in 1566 in the Abbey church.  The next year, Mary’s secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered in her private apartments at the Palace, setting in train a series of events that led to the murder of Darnley, her marriage to James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, and ultimately the end of her reign.  Religious differences accelerated and exacerbated the tumult; also in 1567, the interior of the church was pillaged by the followers of John Knox.  The bloodstains left by David Rizzio’s murder are still visible on the floor in the palace.

Between the Reformation and the Restoration, the palace and abbey were largely neglected.  However, in 1633, some renovations were carried out to mark the coronation of Mary’s grandson, Charles I.  Unfortunately, during the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell’s troops were quartered in the palace, which resulted in much more damage caused by fire.

 Charles II was crowned in Scotland in 1651 (before the restoration in 1660).  In the 1670’s he ordered a massive rebuilding under Sir William Bruce, Scottish architect, at which time the Abbey Church was made into the Chapel Royal.  When James, Duke of York, succeeded him as King James VII of Scotland/II of England, he restored the Catholic services at Holyrood, and used it as the chapel for the ceremonies of the Order of the Thistle.  Unfortunately the Abbey was plundered again in 1688 by the Edinburgh mob to show their outrage at King James’ Catholic leanings.

Again there was a long period of neglect.  At one point, “grace and favour” housing was provided there to poor and distressed aristocrats.  For a brief period, things improved when Bonnie Prince Charlie used Holyrood as his headquarters in 1745, during his unsuccessful attempt to reclaim the throne.  After that brief moment of glory, the palace sank into neglect again.   The Abbey Church roof collapsed in 1768. 

The site was left as it was until the early 19th century.  Money was voted to improve Holyrood because of George IV’s state visit to Scotland in August of 1822.   George IV decreed that Mary’s apartments in Holyrood should be preserved.  Subsequently, after Queen Victoria fell in love with Scotland and purchased Balmoral, she reintroduced the custom of the Royal Family staying at Holyrood, which inspired the Scots to renovate the palace extensively.  Renovations were continued by King George V and Queen Mary, installing electricity, bathrooms, and other 20th century conveniences.  Today, the palace is still in use by the Royal Family when in Scotland.  When they are not in residence, the palace is open for tourists.  Mary Stuart’s apartments, complete with David Rizzio’s bloodstains  can be seen, just as George IV would have wanted.
Courtyard and fountain at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Sources include:

Phillips, Charles.  THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ROYAL BRITAIN. Petro Books: New York (no date of publishing shown-sometime after 2005).

Steel, David and Judy.  MARY STUART’S SCOTLAND The landscapes, life and legends of Mary Queen of Scots.  Crescent Books: New York, 1987.

Castles and Palaces of the World (on line). “History of Palace of Holyroodhouse.”

Catholic Encyclopedia: Holyrood Abbey.

Mary Queen of  “The Palace of Holyroodhouse & Holyrood Abbey.”

Website of the British Monarchy-The Royal Residences.  “The Palace of Holyroodhouse.” Residences/ThePalaceofHolyroodhouse/History.aspx  “Holyrood Abbey – Edinburgh, Scotland.”
Images from Wikimedia Commons.
Lauren Gilbert is the author of HEYERWOOD: A Novel.  She lives in Florida with her husband, and is working on another novel which is coming out soon.  You can visit her website HERE.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Historical Anecdotes

by David William Wilkin

In the autumn of 1785, there was held a masked ball at which two of the attendees came to blows and had to be marched out of the ball by guards. Outside they were unmasked.

"Aye, William, is it you?" asked the first.
"Aye, George, is it you?" replied the other.
The embarrassed guards hurriedly released their princely prisoners.
From the Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes 1989


Very popular at the moment is Richard III, who reigned for but two years, from 1483 to 1485. Those who are fans of Historical Fiction will perhaps have read the Epic, The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman (if you haven't and you like Historical Fiction, this should be a read!) or perhaps Josephine Tey's, The Daughter of Time, which was voted the Greatest Mystery Novel of all Time by the Crime Writer's Association. (Another read you should delve into as a fan of English Historical Fiction.)

Both of these stories tell us that Richard was not as bad as he was later painted, primarily by Thomas More, and Thomas Cromwell, Oliver's grandfather and a servant of Henry VIII. Henry VIII of course was the son of the man who took Richard's throne away.

Since he ruled so briefly, yet he was very much trusted by his elder brother, Edward IV (father of those two princes lost somewhere in the Tower of London) the first slur on Richard came six years after he died on Bosworth field.

File:Richard III earliest surviving portrait.jpg

The York Civic Records say, "an hypocrite, a crook back and buried in a ditch like a dog."

(DWW-I have scoliosis. A lot of people have it. It does make our backs curve more than they should and depending on how severe it is, more curving. But was he a crook back?)

John Ross, a Warwickshire antiquary who first wrote during Richard's reign, rewrote in Henry VII to curry royal favor. "Richard was born at Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire, retained inside his mother's womb for two years and emerging with teeth and hair to his shoulders."

(DWW-Is that at all possible? Would someone educated at all in the 15th century be able to give credence to such? I know there were not many as a percentage who were educated, but really, two years in the womb?)


Charles II is another favorite. His escape after the Royalists were defeated at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 was well chronicled, and often recited by many others besides Charles. It is a story that they would have told to entertain while dining out, as we do today with one of our own personal great stories, except this was Charles' tale to tell.

The diarist Samuel Pepys had the story recounted to him direct by the King twice, once when Charles sailed to England to accept his realm back from a country free of his enemy, the slighter Cromwell (DWW-He and his New Model Army slighted many a castle and manor house.)

"Upon the Quarter-deck he fell in discourse of his escape from Worcester. Where it made me ready to weep to hear the stories that he told of his difficulties that he had passed through. As his travelling four days and three nights on foot, every step up to the knees in dirt, with nothing but a green coat and a pair of country breeches on and a pair of country shoes, that made him so sore all over his feet that he could scarce stir."

Fr. Huddleston added more about the shoes:

"His shoes were old, all slasht for the ease of h[is] feet and full of gravell, with little rowlls of pa[per] between his toes; which he said was advised to, to keep them from galling."

Pepys went on to say:

"... he was forced to run away from a miller and other company that took them for rogues."

More could be relayed of course about the campaign and Charles' retreat, or rout, but that would be a retelling for a full blog post.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Samuel Leech's Account of War at Sea

by Wanda Luce

Every time I read Jane Austen's famous, historical novel Persuasion, I wonder what life for Captain Wentworth might have been like aboard one of his frigates.  In anticipation of this post, I came across this actual account of one sailor's experience and thought I would share it. I have not posted the entire account due to its length, but I believe you will have a clear sense of what a Georgian or Regency-era wartime sailor might have experienced.
SAMUEL LEECH HMS Macedonian vs. USS United States 1812

 Samuel Leech, R.N., fought in the battle between the 38 gun HMS Macedonian, commanded by Captain John Surman Carden, and the 44 gun USS United States, Commodore Stephen Decatur on October 25th 1812.


"At Plymouth we heard some vague rumors of a declaration of war against America. More than this, we could not learn, since the utmost care was taken to prevent our being fully informed. The reason of this secrecy was, probably, because we had several Americans in our crew, most of whom were pressed men, as before stated. These men, had they been certain that war had broken out, would have given themselves up as prisoners of war, and claimed exemption from that unjust service, which compelled them to act with the enemies of their country.
Captain john Surman Carden
This was a privilege which the magnanimity of our officers ought to have offered them. They had already perpetrated a grievous wrong upon them in impressing them; it was adding cruelty to injustice to compel their service in a war against their own nation. But the difficulty with naval officers is, that they do not treat with a sailor as with a man. They know what is fitting between each other as officers; but they treat their crews on another principle; they are apt to look at them as pieces of living mechanism, born to serve, to obey their orders, and administer to their wishes without complaint. This is alike a bad morality and a bad philosophy. 

There is often more real manhood in the forecastle than in the ward-room; and until the common sailor is treated as a man, until every feeling of human nature is conceded to him in naval discipline--perfect, rational subordination will never be attained in ships of war, or in merchant vessels. It is needless to tell of the intellectual degradation of the mass of seamen. "A man's a man for a' that;" and it is this very system of discipline, this treating them as automatons, which keeps them degraded. When will human nature put more confidence in itself?

 Leaving Plymouth, we next anchored, for a brief space, at Torbay, a small port in the British Channel. We were ordered thence to convoy a huge East India merchant vessel, much larger than our frigate and having five hundred troops on board, bound to the East Indies with money to pay the troops stationed there. We set sail in a tremendous gale of wind. Both ships stopped two days at Madeira to take in wine and a few other articles. After leaving this island, we kept her company two days more; and then, according to orders, having wished her success, we left her to pursue her voyage, while we returned to finish our cruise.
Though without any positive information, we now felt pretty certain that our government was at war with America. Among other things, our captain appeared more anxious than usual; he was on deck almost all the time; the "look-out" aloft was more rigidly observed; and every little while the cry of "Mast-head there!" arrested our attention.
It is customary in men of war to keep men at the fore and main mastheads, whose duty it is to give notice of every new object that may appear. They are stationed in the royal yards, if they are up, but if not, on the top-gallant yards: at night a look-out is kept on the fore yard only.
Thus we passed several days; the captain running up and down and constantly hailing the man at the mast-head: early in the morning he began his charge "to keep a good look-out," and continued to repeat it until night.
Indeed, he seemed almost crazy with some pressing anxiety. The men felt there was something anticipated, of which they were ignorant; and had the captain heard all their remarks upon his conduct, he would not have felt very highly flattered. Still, everything went on as usual; the day was spent in the ordinary duties of man-of-war life, and the evening in telling stories of things most rare and wonderful; for your genuine old tar is an adept in spinning yarns, and some of them, in respect to variety and length, might safely aspire to a place beside the great magician of the north, Sir Walter Scott, or any of those prolific heads that now bring forth such abundance of fiction to feed a greedy public, who read as eagerly as our men used to listen. 

To this yarn-spinning was added the most humorous singing, sometimes dashed with a streak of the pathetic, which I assure my readers was most touching; especially one very plaintive melody, with a chorus beginning with,  "Now if our ship should be cast away, It would be our lot to see old England no more," which made rather a melancholy impression on my boyish mind, and gave rise to a sort of presentiment that the Macedonian would never return home again; a presentiment which had its fulfilment in a manner totally unexpected to us all. The presence of a shark for several days, with its attendant pilot fish, tended to strengthen this prevalent idea. 

The Sabbath came, and it brought with it a stiff breeze. We usually made a sort of holiday of this sacred day. After breakfast it was common to muster the entire crew on the spar deck, dressed as the fancy of the captain might dictate; sometimes in blue jackets and white trowsers, or blue jackets and blue trowsers; at other times in blue jackets, scarlet vests, and blue or white trowsers with our bright anchor buttons glancing in the sun, and our black, glossy hats, ornamented with black ribbons, and with the name of our ship painted on them. After muster, we frequently had church service read by the captain; the rest of the day was devoted to idleness. But we were destined to spend the Sabbath, just introduced to the reader, in a very different manner.
We had scarcely finished breakfast, before the man at the mast-head shouted, "Sail ho!" 
The captain rushed upon deck, exclaiming, "Mast-head there!" 
"Where away is the sail?" 
The precise answer to this question I do not recollect, but the captain proceeded to ask, "What does she look like?" 
"A square-rigged vessel, sir," was the reply of the look-out. 
After a few minutes, the captain shouted again, 'Mast-head there!" 
"What does she look like?" 
"A large ship, sir, standing toward us!" 
By this time, most of the crew were on deck, eagerly straining their eyes to obtain a glimpse of the approaching ship and murmuring their opinions to each other on her probable character. Then came the voice of the captain, shouting, "Keep silence, fore and aft!" Silence being secured, he hailed the look-out, who, to his question of "What does she look like?" replied, "A large frigate, bearing down upon us, sir!"  

A whisper ran along the crew that the stranger ship was a Yankee frigate. The thought was confirmed by the command of "All hands clear the ship for action, ahoy!" The drum and fife beat to quarters; bulk-heads were knocked away; the guns were released from their confinement; the whole dread paraphernalia of battle was produced; and after the lapse of a few minutes of hurry and confusion, every man and boy was at his post, ready to do his best service for his country, except the band, who, claiming exemption from the affray, safely stowed themselves away in the cable tier. We had only one sick man on the list, and he, at the cry of battle, hurried from his cot, feeble as he was, to take his post of danger. A few of the junior midshipmen were stationed below, on the berth deck, with orders, given in our hearing, to shoot any man who attempted to run from his quarters.
Our men were all in good spirits; though they did not scruple to express the wish that the coming foe was a Frenchman rather than a Yankee. We had been told, by the Americans on board, that frigates in the American service carried more and heavier metal than ours. This, together with our consciousness of superiority over the French at sea, led us to a preference for a French antagonist.
The Americans among our number felt quite disconcerted at the necessity which compelled them to fight against their own countrymen. One of them, named John Card, as brave a seaman as ever trod a plank, ventured to present himself to the captain, as a prisoner, frankly declaring his objections to fight. That officer, very ungenerously, ordered him to his quarters, threatening to shoot him if he made the request again. Poor fellow! He obeyed the unjust command and was killed by a shot from his own countrymen. This fact is more disgraceful to the captain of the Macedonian than even the loss of his ship. It was a gross and a palpable violation of the rights of man.

As the approaching ship showed American colors, all doubt of her character was at an end. "We must fight her," was the conviction of every breast. Every possible arrangement that could insure success was accordingly made. The guns were shotted; the matches lighted; for, although our guns were all furnished with first-rate locks they were also provided with matches, attached by lanyards, in case the lock should miss fire. A lieutenant then passed through the ship, directing the marines and boarders, who were furnished with pikes, cutlasses, and pistols, how to proceed if it should be necessary to board the enemy. He was followed by the captain, who exhorted the men to fidelity and courage, urging upon their consideration the well-known motto of the brave Nelson, "England expects every man to do his duty."In addition to all these preparations on deck, some men were stationed in the tops with small-arms, whose duty it was to attend to trimming the sails and to use their muskets, provided we came to close action. There were others one of also below, called sail trimmers, to assist in working the ship should it be necessary to shift her position during the battle.
My station was at the fifth gun on the main deck. It was my duty to supply my gun with powder, a boy being appointed to each gun in the ship on the side we engaged, for this purpose. A woollen screen was placed before the entrance to the magazine, with a hole in it, through which the cartridges were passed to the boys; we received them there, and covering them with our jackets, hurried to our respective guns. These precautions are observed to prevent the powder taking fire before it reaches the gun. 
Thus we all stood, awaiting orders, in motionless suspense. At last we fired three guns from the larboard side of the main deck; this was followed by the command, "Cease firing; you are throwing away your shot!"  

Then came the order to "wear ship," and prepare to attack the enemy with our starboard guns. Soon after this I heard a firing from some other quarter, which I at first supposed to be a discharge from our quarter deck guns; though it proved to be the roar of the enemy's cannon.
A strange noise, such as I had never heard before, next arrested my attention; it sounded like the tearing of sails, just over our heads. This I soon ascertained to be the wind of the enemy's shot. The firing, after a few minutes' cessation, recommenced. The roaring of cannon could now be heard from all parts of our trembling ship, and, mingling as it did with that of our foes, it made a most hideous noise. By-and-by I heard the shot strike the sides of our ship; the whole scene grew indescribably confused and horrible; it was like some awfully tremendous thunder-storm, whose deafening roar is attended by incessant streaks of lightning, carrying death in every flash and strewing the ground with the victims of its wrath: only, in our case, the scene was rendered more horrible than that, by the presence of torrents of blood which dyed our decks.
Though the recital may be painful, yet, as it will reveal the horrors of war and show at what a fearful price a victory is won or lost, I will present the reader with things as they met my eye during the progress of this dreadful fight. I was busily supplying my gun with powder, when I saw blood suddenly fly from the arm of a man stationed at our gun. I saw nothing strike him; the effect alone was visible; in an instant, the third lieutenant tied his handkerchief round the wounded arm, and sent the groaning wretch below to the surgeon.
The cries of the wounded now rang through all parts of the ship. These were carried to the cockpit as fast as they fell, while those more fortunate men, who were killed outright, were immediately thrown overboard. As I was stationed but a short distance from the main hatchway, I could catch a glance at all who were carried below. A glance was all I could indulge in, for the boys belonging to the guns next to mine were wounded in the early part of the action, and I had to spring with all my might to keep three or four guns supplied with cartridges. I saw two of these lads fall nearly together. 

 One of them was struck in the leg by a large shot; he had to suffer amputation above the wound. The other had a grape or canister shot sent through his ancle. A stout Yorkshireman lifted him in his arms and hurried him to the cockpit. He had his foot cut off, and was thus made lame for life. Two of the boys stationed on the quarter deck were killed. They were both Portuguese. A man, who saw one of them killed, afterwards told me that his powder caught fire and burnt the flesh almost off his face. In this pitiable situation, the agonized boy lifted up both hands, as if imploring relief, when a passing shot instantly cut him in two.  

I was an eye-witness to a sight equally revolting. A man named Aldrich had his hands cut off by a shot, and almost at the same moment he received another shot, which tore open his bowels in a terrible manner. As he fell, two or three men caught him in their arms, and, as he could not live, threw him overboard. 

One of the officers in my division also fell in my sight. He was a noble-hearted fellow, named Nan Kivell. A grape or canister shot struck him near the heart: exclaiming, "Oh! my God!" he fell, and was carried below, where he shortly after died.
Mr. Hope, our first lieutenant, was also slightly wounded by a grummet, or small iron ring, probably torn from a hammock clew by a shot. He went below, shouting to the men to fight on. Having had his wound dressed, he came up again, shouting to us at the top of his voice, and bidding us fight with all our might. There was not a man in the ship but would have rejoiced had he been in the place of our master's mate, the unfortunate Nan Kivell.
The battle went on. Our men kept cheering with all their might. I cheered with them, though I confess I scarcely knew for what. Certainly there was nothing very inspiriting in the aspect of things where I was stationed. So terrible had been the work of destruction round us, it was termed the slaughter-house. Not only had we had several boys and men killed or wounded, but several of the guns were disabled. 

The one I belonged to had a piece of the muzzle knocked out; and when the ship rolled, it struck a beam of the upper deck with such force as to become jammed and fixed in that position. A twenty-four-pound shot had also passed through the screen of the magazine, immediately over the orifice through which we passed our powder. The schoolmaster received a death wound. The brave boatswain, who came from the sick bay to the din of battle, was fastening a stopper on a back-stay which had been shot away, when his head was smashed to pieces by a cannon-ball; another man, going to complete the unfinished task, was also struck down. Another of our midshipmen also received a severe wound. 

The unfortunate wardroom steward, who, the reader will recollect, attempted to cut his throat on a former occasion, was killed. A fellow named John, who, for some petty offence, had been sent on board as a punishment, was carried past me, wounded. I distinctly heard the large blood-drops fall pat, pat, pat, on the deck; his wounds were mortal. Even a poor goat, kept by the officers for her milk, did not escape the general carnage; her hind legs were shot off, and poor Nan was thrown overboard.

Such was the terrible scene, amid which we kept on our shouting and firing. Our men fought like tigers. Some of them pulled off their jackets, others their jackets and vests; while some, still more determined, had taken off their shirts, and, with nothing but a handkerchief tied round the waistbands of their trowsers, fought like heroes. Jack Sadler, whom the reader will recollect, was one of these. I also observed a boy, named Cooper, stationed at a gun some distance from the magazine. He came to and fro on the full run and appeared to be as "merry as a cricket." The third lieutenant cheered him along, occasionally, by saying, "Well done, my boy, you are worth your weight in gold."
I have often been asked what were my feelings during this fight. I felt pretty much as I suppose every one does at such a time. That men are without thought when they stand amid the dying and the dead is too absurd an idea to be entertained a moment. We all appeared cheerful, but I know that many a serious thought ran through my mind: still, what could we do but keep up a semblance, at least, of animation? To run from our quarters would have been certain death from the hands of our own officers; to give way to gloom, or to show fear, would do no good, and might brand us with the name of cowards, and ensure certain defeat. 

Our only true philosophy, therefore, was to make the best of our situation by fighting bravely and cheerfully. I thought a great deal, however, of the other world; every groan, every falling man, told me that the next instant I might be before the judge of all the earth. For this, I felt unprepared; but being without any particular knowledge of religious truth, I satisfied myself by repeating again and again the Lord's prayer and promising that if spared I would be more attentive to religious duties than ever before. This promise I had no doubt, at the time, of keeping; but I have learned since that it is easier to make promises amidst the roar of the battle's thunder, or in the horrors of shipwreck, than to keep them when danger is absent and safety smiles upon our path.
While these thoughts secretly agitated my bosom, the din of battle continued. Grape and canister shot were pouring through our port-holes like leaden rain, carrying death in their trail. The large shot came against the ship's side like iron hail, shaking her to the very keel, or passing through her timbers and scattering terrific splinters, which did a more appalling work than even their own death-giving blows. The reader may form an idea of the effect of grape and canister, when he is told that grape shot is formed by seven or eight balls confined to an iron and tied in a cloth. These balls are scattered by the explosion of the powder. Canister shot is made by filling a powder canister with balls, each as large as two or three musket balls; these also scatter with direful effect when discharged. What then with splinters, cannon balls, grape and canister poured incessantly upon us, the reader may be assured that the work of death went on in a manner which must have been satisfactory even to the King of Terrors himself.
Suddenly, the rattling of the iron hail ceased. We were ordered to cease firing. A profound silence ensued, broken only by the stifled groans of the brave sufferers below. It was soon ascertained that the enemy had shot ahead to repair damages, for she was not so disabled but she could sail without difficulty; while we were so cut up that we lay utterly helpless. Our head braces were shot away; the fore and main top-masts were gone; the mizzen mast hung over the stern, having carried several men over in its fall: we were in the state of a complete wreck.
A council was now held among the officers on the quarter deck. Our condition was perilous in the extreme: victory or escape was alike hopeless. Our ship was disabled; many of our men were killed, and many more wounded. The enemy would without doubt bear down upon us in a few moments, and, as she could now choose her own position, would without doubt rake us fore and aft. Any further resistance was therefore folly. 

So, in spite of the hot-brained lieutenant, Mr. Hope, who advised them not to strike, but to sink alongside, it was determined to strike our bunting. This was done by the hands of a brave fellow named Watson, whose saddened brow told how severely it pained his lion heart to do it. To me it was a pleasing sight, for I had seen fighting enough for one Sabbath; more than I wished to see again on a week day. His Britannic Majesty's frigate Macedonian was now the prize of the American frigate United States.
I NOW WENT below, to see how matters appeared there. The first object I met was a man bearing a limb, which had just been detached from some suffering wretch. Pursuing my way to the ward-room, I necessarily passed through the steerage, which was strewed with the wounded: it was a sad spectacle, made more appalling by the groans and cries which rent the air. Some were groaning, others were swearing most bitterly, a few were praying, while those last arrived were begging most piteously to have their wounds dressed next. The surgeon and his mate were smeared with blood from head to foot: they looked more like butchers than doctors. Having so many patients, they had once shifted their quarters from the cockpit to the steerage; they now removed to the ward-room, and the long table, round which the officers had sat over many a merry feast, was soon covered with the bleeding forms of maimed and mutilated seamen.
While looking round the ward-room, I heard a noise above, occasioned by the arrival of the boats from the conquering frigate. Very soon a lieutenant, I think his name was Nicholson, came into the ward-room and said to the busy surgeon, "How do you do, doctor?"
"I have enough to do," replied he, shaking his head thoughtfully; "you have made wretched work for us!" These officers were not strangers to each other, for the reader will recollect that the commanders and officers of these two frigates had exchanged visits when we were lying at Norfolk some months before. 
I now set to work to render all the aid in my power to the sufferers. Our carpenter, named Reed, had his leg cut off. I helped to carry him to the after ward-room; but he soon breathed out his life there, and then I assisted in throwing his mangled remains overboard. We got out the cots as fast as possible; for most of them were stretched out on the gory deck. One poor fellow, who lay with a broken thigh, begged me to give him water. I gave him some. He looked unutterable gratitude, drank, and died. It was with exceeding difficulty I moved through the steerage, it was so covered with mangled men and so slippery with streams of blood."


How anyone man could endure so terrible an experience is beyond my understanding.  I stand in awe of anyone who came through so grotesque, so hideous an ordeal and still had their wits about them!  I think I can safely say that Captain Wentworth would have been no pansy.  The hero in my second book--which is not yet in print--was also a captain in the Napoleonic Wars, but he somewhat loses his moral compass as a result of his experiences.  It is, of course, the heroine who inspires him to find it again.



Giveaway: Salt Redux by Lucinda Brant

Lucinda is giving away two ecopies of Salt Redux, the sequel to Salt Bride. You can read more about the book HERE. You will be prompted to return to this post to enter the drawing by commenting below. Please be sure to leave your contact information.

Seven Surprising Facts About Anne of Cleves

by Nancy Bilyeau

Everyone thinks they know the story of the fourth wife of Henry VIII.  Anne of Cleves was the German princess whom he married for diplomatic reasons, but when the widower first set eyes on his 24-year-old bride-to-be, he was repulsed.

With great reluctance, Henry went through with the wedding, but after six months he’d managed to get an annulment and the unconsummated marriage was no more. Although Anne of Cleves had behaved impeccably as queen, she accepted her new status as “sister” and lived a quiet, comfortable existence in England until 1557, when she became the last of the wives of King Henry VIII to die.

And so Anne has either been treated as a punchline in the serio-comic saga of Henry VIII’s wives or someone who was smart enough to agree to a divorce, trading in an obese tyrant for a rich settlement. But the life of the queen is more complex than the stereotypes would have you believe.

1.) Anne’s father was a Renaissance thinker.  The assumption is that Anne of Cleves grew up in a backward German duchy. But her father, Duke John, was a patron of Erasmus, the Dutch Renaissance scholar. 

The Cleves court was fair, with low taxes for its citizens. And the duke made great efforts to steer a calm course through the religious uproar engulfing Germany in the 1520s and 1530s, earning the name John the Peaceful. He died in 1538, so his must have been the greatest influence on Anne, rather than her more bellicose brother, William.  In Germany, highborn ladies were not expected to sing or play musical instruments, but Anne would have been exposed to the moderate political ideals espoused by William the Peaceful.

 2.) Anne was born a Catholic and died a Catholic. Her mother, Princess Maria of Julich-Berg, had traditional religious values and brought up her daughters as Catholics, no matter what Martin Luther said. Their brother, Duke William, was an avowed Protestant, and the family seems to have moved in that direction when he succeeded to his father’s title.

Anne of Cleves was accommodating when it came to religion. She did not hesitate to follow the lead of her husband Henry VIII, who was head of the Church of England. But in 1553, when her step-daughter Mary took the throne, she asked that Anne become a Catholic. Anne agreed. When she was dying, she requested that she have “the suffrages of the holy church according to the Catholic faith.”

Duke William

3.) Her brother had a marriage that wasn’t consummated either.  
Duke William was not as interested in peace as his father. What he wanted more than anything else was to add Guelders to his country—but the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had other ideas. William took the bold step of a French marriage so that France would support him should it come to war.

His bride was Jeanne D’Albret, the daughter of Marguerite of Angouleme and niece of King Francis. The “high-spirited” Jeanne was only 12 and did not want to marry William. She was whipped by her family and physically carried to the altar by the Constable of France.  But when Charles V took hold of Guelders, France did nothing to help William. The four-year-old marriage was annulled—it had never been consummated. Her next husband was Antoine de Bourbon, whom she loved. Their son would one day become Henry IV, king of France.

Holbein's portrait of Amelia of Cleves.
4.) Hans Holbein painted her accurately. The question of Anne’s appearance continues to baffle modern minds. In portraits she looks attractive, certainly prettier than Jane Seymour.  A French ambassador who saw her said she was “of middling beauty and of very assured and resolute countenance.”

It is still unclear how hard Thomas Cromwell pushed for this marriage, but certainly he was not stupid enough to trick his volatile king into wedding someone hideous. The famous Hans Holbein was told to paint truthful portraits of Anne and her sister Amelia. After looking at them, Henry VIII chose Anne. Later the king blamed people for overpraising her beauty but he did not blame or punish Holbein.

5.) Henry VIII never called her a “Flanders Mare.” The English king’s attitude toward his fourth wife was very unusual for a 16th century monarch. Royal marriages sealed diplomatic alliances, and queens were expected to be pious and gracious, not sexy.

Henry wanted more than anything to send Anne home and not marry her, which would have devastated the young woman. He was only prevented from such cruelty by the (temporary) need for this foreign alliance. But while he fumed to his councilors and friends, he did not publicly ridicule her appearance. The report that Henry VIII cried loudly that she was a “Flanders mare” is not based on contemporary documents.

6.) Anne of Cleves  wanted to remarry Henry VIII. After the king’s fifth wife, young Catherine Howard, was divorced and then executed for adultery, Anne wanted to be queen again. Her brother, William, asked his ambassador to pursue her reinstatement. But Henry said no. When he took a sixth wife, the widow Catherine Parr, Anne felt humiliated and received medical treatment for melancholy. Her name came up as a possible wife for various men, including Thomas Seymour, but nothing came of it. She never remarried or left England.

7.) Anne is the only one of Henry’s wives to be buried in Westminster Abbey. Henry himself is buried at Windsor with Jane Seymour, but Anne is interred in the same structure as Edward the Confessor and most of the Plantagenet, Tudor and Stuart rulers. In her will she remembered all of her servants, and bequeathed her best jewels to the stepdaughters she loved, Mary and Elizabeth.


Read Nancy Bilyeau's newsletter for more links to more nonfiction stories about history and for first look at new short stories, giveaways, and upcoming novels. Nancy's spy novel set in the 18th century, The Blue, was a finalist for the People's Choice Book Award in 2020. To subscribe to the monthly newsletter, sign up here.

Nancy Bilyeau is the author of the historical mystery trilogy The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry, set in Tudor England and published in nine countries. The Crown was an Oprah pick for 2012 and was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association's Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award.

Anne of Cleves is a character in The Chalice and the third book in the trilogy, The Tapestry, which was published by Simon & Schuster in March 2015. The Tapestry is a finalist for the RWA Daphne du Maurier award for Best Historical Romantic Suspense.

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