Saturday, August 31, 2013

Divorce Regency Style? The Paget Conundrum

by David William Wilkin

To write this post today, which on a personal note is the 10th anniversary of my wedding (and a birthday as well), seems to be at cross purposes--writing about a divorce, when there were so few in Regency England, and mixing that in when I should be only celebrating good successful marriages.

But wait a bit and you will see there is method to this madness.

In writing my most recent novel, Beggars Can't Be Choosier (look for it this month!), I thought to use the time-honored device of marrying for money and then after a suitable time had passed, divorcing so the spouses could then lead the lives they truly wanted.

One reader, Nancy Mayer, who maintains an excellent resource blog pointed out that this was a problem as there were very few divorces in the period. The term was used to imply legal separation so the spouses in a marriage were still married but pursued their own affairs so to speak.

That stumped me. This plot device so used by others was no longer valid? I felt I must look into such a matter and see how it applies.

Some of those larger than life members of the ton got away with the very actions that so few others did. But that is what Regency Romance is about. We create fictitious dukes, earls, and even princes of the royal family. (That's a nod to our founder of EHFA, Debra Brown and her Companion of Lady Holmeshire.)
My tale, of course, involves larger than life members of the ton--men and women whose behaviour will be on dits and most likely would have gotten the approbation of Ms. Jane Austen in a letter to Cassandra Austen. But then Jane did not lead the life of the ton, but the rather much more sedate country gentility which we might not want to trade for those of Town, yet those of Town give us so much to follow and discuss. 

(I have not taken a poll or compiled a list of the ratio between Regencies that discuss Town and those that discuss Country, but I hazard that there is a greater weight to the doings of the titled of Town then the gentry of the Country.)

We now come to the research. There were between the high two hundreds and mid three hundreds in number of divorces that Parliament granted during the Georgian and Regency Periods. Not many. There are probably that many each hour now in the countries that read these types of stories.

Yet to be true to the manner of the period, one has to think of how that integrates. 

Scotland was the solution.

Many know of Gretna Green, famous for our Regency couples who have no permission to wed, or have not posted the banns. It was the closest place in Scotland, from England, to marry.

Scotland also provided the Reno of the Regency Times (for those who do not live in the US or are not familiar with US history, you can go to Reno in Nevada, "The Biggest Little City in the World", establish residence, and get a divorce.)

In historical novels of the period, our heroes and heroines could go to Scotland, establish residence by living there six weeks, and then get divorced. You had to have cause, adultery being ever a good reason with evidence to back it up. 

In a Regency Romance, it is most likely that should a divorce be discussed, it is a conflict plot point that the author is using as contention to separate his hero and heroine before bringing them together in the end. We as readers expect this to happen, and often we know that history is repetitive. Everything we think is new probably has happened before. 

A good divorce that then results in a marriage of love and a healthy relationship would serve as an example for our Regency Heroes and Heroines. Despite Jane Austen, in the country writing tended to be about love as the reason that people marry, and not to protect property and status--the reason so many in the ton married. Being forced into a marriage with someone you did not love and then finding there was someone that you did could cause a conundrum for anyone, and when they are our esteemed legends of the Regency, then what?

The Iron Duke (he wasn't that yet) had left the Peninsula to answer the charges of the terms of surrender at Rolica. He would be exonerated, but General Sir John Moore had taken over the British army at that time, and his commander of cavalry was Sir Henry William Paget whose father was the Earl of Uxbridge. Henry was married to the daughter of the Earl of Jersey, Lady Caroline. They liked each other well enough to produce eight children. Before going on campaign with General Moore, Henry fell in love with Charlotte Wellesley, however, who was married to Henry Wellesley, the younger brother of Sir Arthur.

Paget was very successful during the Corunna campaign at keeping the French from destroying the British presence in Spain and Portugal. He was a hero even then. But because of the affair with Lady Charlotte, Sir Arthur would not use him. General Moore died at Corunna, and Sir Arthur later returned to take charge of the forces in Portugal and then in Spain, very successfully as we know.

Henry, returning to England got Charlotte with child, and Caroline had her own new lover in the Duke of Argyll. Henry and Charlotte went to Scotland where residency and reason can bring about a divorce. Henry was sued by Henry Wellesley and had to pay 20,000 pounds, but still, the outcome of all was that the Wellesleys were divorced, and then Henry Paget and Lady Caroline were granted their divorce in Scotland. A week later the Duke or Argyll took to wife Lady Caroline, and Henry Paget married his Charlotte.

Sir Henry William Paget (1768-1854), 1st Marquess of Anglesey, 2nd Earl of Uxbridge

Later, at Waterloo, Henry famously had his leg shot off and yet lived 39 years more. He was made a Marquess (of Anglesey) and he and Charlotte had ten children besides the one that was born before they wed. Most of the children of the Marquess married well. Fourteen of Paget's children lived to adulthood, and as for their spouses, one married a duke, others the granddaughter of a duke, a marquess, a baron, a baron, an earl, an earl, an admiral, a general, another earl, another general, and the son of an earl. This gives us evidence that the haute ton which Austen was not a part of, accepted the children of a divorced couple freely. The Marquess was of such stature that the doors he wished opened to him were opened. There may have been some who were tarnished because they were divorced, but obviously there were those who were not.

Society, the ton that we see in the Regency and in the Regency Romances show that this is accepted behavior--not just the device of a divorce, but the actual carrying out of such. Jane Austen wrote to Cassandra and did not want to know such people. Austen's heroes marry for love. Historically the people she wrote of married for money. (It is crass, but when you break it down that appears to be the reason.) We know of many married couples of the period who had affairs because they looked for love as well. That they did divorce to achieve love in their married lives seems evident. It may have been difficult, but it was done.

Researching the subject and connecting the dots, a divorce may provide an on dit but that seems, as most on dits in  Regency Novels, temporary. After a few years in a second marriage, how often do we speak in our societies about our friends and the previous spouse? Gossip is momentary, and we (and those who lived 200 years ago) surely turn our minds to other things. 

Divorce in England was rare. That is something to keep in mind. Also remember that it was a term used for permanent legal separation, but not a severing of the marriage status to allow a new wedding. But there was always Reno--I mean Scotland, to bring those truly in love together. Whether just that trip to Gretna Green or the desire to live in Scotland for six weeks and secure freedom from a marriage, one wanted to leave for a new chance at happiness.


Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian (A great sub-genre that is fun to explore) and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy works. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence. He has several other novels set in Regency England including The End of the World and The Shattered Mirror. 

His most recent work is the humorous spoof; Jane Austen and Ghostsa story of what would happen were we to make any of these Monsters and Austen stories into a movie.

And Two Peas in a Pod, a madcap tale of identical twin brothers in Regency London who find they must impersonate each other to pursue their loves.
He is published by Regency Assembly Press

The links for all locations selling Mr. Wilkin's work can be found at the webpage and will point you to your favorite internet bookstore: David’s Books, and at various Internet and realworld bookstores including the iBookstoreAmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords.

And he maintains his own blog called The Things That Catch My Eye where the entire Regency Lexicon has been hosted these last months as well as the current work in progress of the full Regency Timeline is being presented.

You also may follow Mr. Wilkin on Twitter at @DWWilkin
Mr. Wilkin maintains a Pinterest page with pictures and links to all the Regency Research he uncovers at Pinterest Regency-Era

Friday, August 30, 2013

On Henry VIII’s MP3 Player

by Melanie Spiller

Okay, so you and I both know that Henry VIII didn’t have an MP3 player. But what if he had? What kind of music would he have collected? What interesting tunes would turn up on shuffle?

Insert watery wavering lines and harp glissandos as we travel back in time…

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509-1547. His father, Henry VII, had a serious interest in music and was a strong supporter of musicians. Throughout Henry VIII’s childhood, music occupied a prominent place at his father’s court, and young Henry was trained in music from an early age.

When he was still a teenager, it was his turn to be king, and Henry VIII turned his court into a center of musical culture. He encouraged foreign musicians to work there, introducing the Franco-Flemish style of church music (see my posts on Josquin, Dufay, and Ockeghem for more about this style) to England, and building up an enormous collection of musical instruments.

During his lifetime and after, supporters created the Henry VIII Manuscript. The manuscript is mainly a secular document, and includes descriptions of life at court (perhaps somewhat embellished and romanticized by a finely honed sense of “courtly love”). It also includes song lyrics, naming composers such as Robert Fayrfax (1461-1521) and William Cornysh the Younger (1468-1523), and even the names of some of his buddies. Other manuscripts from Henry VIII’s reign contain a variety of songs and instrumental pieces in three and four parts, which was the style of the day.

From this environment, by mid-century, a distinctly English genre for solo voice accompanied by a consort of viols had emerged. The master of the consort song was William Byrd (1543-1623), who raised the technical level of the medium to new heights. Byrd’s collection was very successful in his own lifetime and after, and although English madrigal and lute songs are better known today, composers would continue to write songs for consorts well into the 17th century. But Byrd was more a composer for Elizabeth I and James than for Henry. I mention him here so that you can see how English music was hugely colored by Henry VIII, as much by the man himself as by the political and religious change that his monarchy brought about.

Speaking of change, the leader of the Reformation movement and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), wrote to Henry stating what was to become the basic principle for settings of the new English musical texts: “The song should not be full of notes, but, as near as may be, a syllable for every note.” This put the emphasis on the text, where it had been before polyphony came along, about 500 years earlier. (For more on this, read my blog posting Chords versus Polyphony.)

Composers reacted variously to the new conditions. John Taverner (1495-1545), one of England’s shining stars, gave up composition altogether to become an agent of Thomas Cromwell (c1485-1540), who was First Earl of Essex and the chief minister who helped orchestrate the annulment of Henry’s first marriage. Christopher Tye (c1505-c1572) and Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585) wrote music for the Protestant services, which, while attractive, did not match the technical interest and artistry of their Latin music. Both continued to compose Latin motets, but obediently no longer wrote the lengthier (and more undeniably Catholic) Mass music.

The suppression of the monasteries between 1536 and 1547 not only involved the dispersal of monastic musicians, but often included the destruction of musical manuscripts in large quantities, so much of the pre-Reformation music of the British Isles is lost to us. We have the Fayrfax Book (collected c1500) and the Eton Choirbook (collected 1500-1505) from Henry’s father’s time, but that is nearly all that survived. (Don’t you wish there really had been MP3 players?)

The Chapel Royal

In the 13th century, English monarchs established a body of priests and musicians to provide musical entertainment and who were part of the royal household. This group was called the Chapel Royal, and to be named a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal was a considerable honor. It meant income, status, and property. (There is still such a group in England today. Other countries had similar bodies, although most have long since disbanded.)

During Henry’s father’s time, big names like William Cornysh the Younger (1468-1523), Robert Fayrfax (1461-1521), and John Lloyd (d.1523) were part of this establishment, and after Henry’s time, William Byrd (1543-1623), Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585), and Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) received this honor.
During Henry’s reign, only Richard Edwardes (1525-1566) seems to have been added to the very auspicious ranks. Edwardes was probably Henry’s illegitimate son by Agnes Edwards, so it’s hard to know if he was there on merit or out of some some obligation on Henry’s part.

But that doesn’t mean Henry VIII didn’t surround himself with musicians of the highest caliber. It meant that many of the greatest musicians of his time were already members from his father’s reign. But he didn’t stop with British musicians. He invited big names from all over the Continent to come, and come they did.

Henry collected all things musical, and musical instruments were no exception. It probably started with the tradition of having household minstrels. At the time, minstrels were common for royal households and those of other aristocrats. Ecclesiastics kept them, and so did towns and ships. Minstrels played either haut instruments or bas (for more on haut and bas, see my post on the shawm) as required by the occasion, and they sang and were expected to compose songs on demand. Kind of like today’s rap artists.

The minstrel would have had a large collection of instruments, such as the louder winds and the trompette de menestrals (which was a slide trumpet or sackbut, not a modern trumpet), stringed and keyboard instruments, along with gentler wind instruments like recorders and cornetti. Wind instruments were his favorite, and Henry VIII had 77 recorders in his stash when he died.

Henry was a skilled all-around performer, playing several keyboard instruments, the cornetto, the recorder, and the lira de flauti (don’t know what that is, but I’m going to guess that it’s some sort of lyre or harp). There are stories that Sir Edward Stanley (c1460-1523), the fellow reputed to have killed James IV of Scotland, wrote and sang a ballade to the clavichord while at court, but it isn’t known if Henry accompanied him.

There were plenty of people in Henry VIII’s court who played or composed, including Robert Fayrfax (1461-1521), Richard Davy (c1465-1538), William Cornysh the Younger (1468-1523), Thomas Ashewell (c1478-c1513), John Redford (c1486–1547), Nicholas Ludford (c1490–1557), John Taverner (1495–1545), Christopher Tye (c1505–c1572), and most notably, Thomas Tallis (c1505–1585).

And there were some Chapel members who didn’t compose but were fine musicians, such as Benedict de Opitiis (dates not available), Ambrose Lupo (d. 1591), Dionisio Memo (dates not available), and Richard Sampson (d. 1554). All of these fellows would have been on Henry’s MP3 player. There would also have been women at court who played or sang, including some of his wives, such as Anne Boleyn, who was Henry’s equal in musical skill.

Henry’s education was quite good. In addition to reading and writing in English, French, and Latin, he played the lute, organ, and virginals, along with that assortment of wind instruments. (And I thought I had a large collection of instruments!)  Music was terrifically important to him, and he brought musicians from the Continent to teach and share their compositions. It was Henry VIII that put an end to English musical isolationism, something that Elizabeth I would follow up on with enthusiasm.

In 1513, Henry took the members of the Chapel Royal to Lille, where they met the Burgundian Chapel of Margaret of Austria. It must have been a wonderful festival, full of music. While Henry was out and about, he recruited Venetian organist Dionisio Memo (mentioned above), a whole bunch of French and Flemish musicians, and the Bruges organist Benet de Opiciis (no dates on this fellow, although he took payment for a regal organ—a post about these is coming soon—in 1518).

In 1520, they all trooped over to the Field of the Cloth of Gold in France, where they met the French Chapel of Francis I. The meeting was intended to improve relations between France and England and was considered a successful meeting, but one which not be repeated until Queen Victoria met King Louis Philippe I in 1843.

You all know the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, so I won’t tell it here. But the result of the fracas was a new church. In 1534, Henry convinced Parliament to separate from Rome and named himself as the new head of the Church of England. The new church remained essentially Catholic in Doctrine under Henry, but Henry wanted a few changes. He wanted less pomp and circumstance, as prescribed by the Mass format, but more importantly, he wanted the services to be in English rather than Latin, the language of Rome. English music would be changed forever.

The Music and Musicians

The leading composer of the early 16th century was John Taverner (c1490-1545). His Masses and motets exemplify the English taste for long melismas (lots of notes on a single syllable), full textures, and cantus-firmus (the chant melody, usually performed slowly as a counterpoint to the polyphony swirling around it). This is the opposite of what Thomas Cranmer prescribed, if you’ll recall, and probably had a lot to do with Taverner’s quitting the music business.

Most of Taverner’s church music was probably written during the years 1526-30, while he was organist and choirmaster of Cardinal College (now Christ Church), Oxford. It includes eight Masses, three Magnificats, and some shorter pieces. But Taverner was attracted to Lutheranism, and he became a zealous agent of Thomas Cromwell during the Dissolution and repented that he’d previously made “Popish ditties.” He abandoned composition altogether.

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1527) also wrote to Henry, stating the basic principles for settings of the new English texts. He also preferred syllabic music (one note per syllable) rather than melismatic (a single syllable spread over lots of notes). But not all composers agreed.

Christopher Tye (c1505-c1572) and Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585) wrote music for the Protestant services. They were nice, but not as interesting or technical as their Latin music. Both Tye and Tallis continued to compose Latin motets but not Masses, and it is perhaps this simplification of music that led to what would become the English anthem (you’ll read more about those in my post on William Byrd, coming soon).

The most important mid-century English composer—not just for the 16th century, but probably until our own times—was Thomas Tallis (c1505-1565). Firmly Catholic despite the laws against practicing Catholicism, he would come to write English service music and other sacred works that reflected the religious and political upheavals in England during Henry’s rule and through Elizabeth’s. But he couldn’t hide his own pain at the dismal situation his own religion was in, and it’s reflected in his music, either in the melody or in the texts he chose.

Another noted composer of the times was John Merbecke (c1510-c1585). He wrote that music should follow natural speech rhythms. In 1522, Merbecke was among the pro-Calvinists who proclaimed that all music was vanity.

But what would Henry have listened to; what would he have asked his musicians to play? Part songs, which is music written for multiple voice parts (like soprano, alto, tenor, bass) were popular in Henry’s reign, and the fashion continued long after. Keyboard music was new and in vogue, such as that of John Redford (1485-1545) for virginals and organ. Most of these songs were based on chant, now called plainsong in England, with either imitative counterpoints or florid ornamental lines as accompaniment. There are plenty of dances, settings of psalm tunes and chant melodies by Redford’s contemporaries, and transcriptions of secular part songs and anthems in the Mulliner Book (compiled 1545-1570).

The FitzWilliam Virginals Book (collected 1562-1612) is from later years, but it contains organ works from earlier, such as dances, variations on themes, and fantasia forms (lots of improvisation) that are usually found only in the lute repertoire. The virginals or virginal (depending on what country you’re in) was a keyboard instrument similar to the harpsichord, and was very popular among those with smaller parlors.

Any Excuse

There would have been many reasons for making music. Church, obviously, would have been one of them. But it wasn’t all seriousness and prayer. There would have been dances, ceremonies for visiting dignitaries and the promotion of the aristocracy, and social entertainments. There would have been tournaments, festivals, and breaks from the work-a-day drudgery of ruling a nation. There would have been ambient music during meals, fanfares announcing the king’s arrival, and notifications of arriving ships or dignitaries. There would have been loads of music everywhere the king went. Except when he didn’t want it, of course. That’s what being king is all about.

Henry wrote plenty of music himself. There are 34 pieces identified as by Henry, and there are possibly more attributed to “anonymous” or lost. Of the 20 vocal items he wrote, many are not original but are arrangements of existing music, and his instrumental offerings might also have been arrangements.

Pieces for which Henry gets credit include Helas madam and Pastyme with good companye, which are two of his most famous works. They’re very much in the style of what was going on over on the Continent. They also found 13 instrumental pieces in three or four parts, and a three-part motet, Quem pulchra est.

White note mensuration was used to write all this music down. You’ll want to have a look at that over on the blog post I wrote about the History of Music Notation. There’s too much to go into that here.

After Henry VIII

When Henry died, his son Edward was too young to take the throne properly. He had advisors, and as you can imagine, it was a fractious time to be at court. The Edwardian Act of Uniformity devastated all remaining musical establishments by forbidding the celebration of Mass. Attending church became less formal, a poor substitute for what had previously been the chief feature of the daily musical life at cathedrals, churches, and colleges. Whole throngs of monastic and clerical musicians were essentially sent out to compete with lay musicians, seeking patrons and busking to earn their keep.

Under Mary, for five years, Mass music reappeared along with the official restoration of Catholicism. But as soon as Elizabeth took the throne, it was banned again. In the new type of service established during Elizabeth’s reign, Latin motets could be used as church music, along with the new form, the anthem. You’ll want to read my blog post on William Byrd (1543-1623) when I publish it for more on that subject. He’s quite a character!

If you want to build your own MP3 player full of the same music Henry would have heard, you’ll want to search for music by the fellows in this article. Here. I’ll make it easier:

·         Thomas Ashewell (c1478-c1513)
·         William Byrd (1543-1623)
·         Richard Davy (c1465-1538)
·         Josquin des Prez (c1440-1541)
·         Guillaume Dufay (c1400-1474)
·         Richard Edwardes (1525-1566)
·         Robert Fayrfax (1461-1521)
·         Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)
·         Henry VIII (1491-1547)
·         John Lloyd (d.1523)
·         Nicholas Ludford (c1490–1557)
·         John Merbecke (c1510-c1585)
·         Johannes Ockeghem (c1420-1497)
·         John Redford (c1486–1547)
·         Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585)
·         John Taverner (1495-1545)
·         Christopher Tye (c1505-c1572)

Melanie Spiller is a medieval musician in San Francisco, California. She’s a bit of a chant-aholic, sings against anything with a drone from the refrigerator’s hum to a leaf blower to a shruti box, and is looking for a publisher (or two) for her books on Hildegard von Bingen (fiction and non-fiction). Her blog focuses mostly on the history of music. She’d love to help you figure out what your characters were listening to or what kind of instrument they would have played. Her blogs are collected on her website ( and publish approximately weekly at


The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music, edited by Stanley Sadie. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1994.
A Dictionary of Early Music, from the Troubadours to Monteverdi, by Jerome and Elizabeth Roche. Oxford University Press, New York, 1981.
A History of Western Music, by J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2010.
The Concise Oxford History of Music, by Gerald Abraham. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979.
The Pelican History of Music, Volume 2: Renaissance and Baroque, edited by Alec Robertson and Denis Stevens. Penguin Books, Middlesex, 1973.
Music Manuscripts, by Arthur Searle. The British Library, London, 1987.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Duel that Shocked the Nation

by M.M. Bennetts

On the 21st of September 1809, just after the dawn of a sunny and clear morning, Viscount Castlereagh made his way with his cousin, Lord Yarmouth, toward Yarmouth's cottage, discussing as he went the fashionable soprano, Angelica Catalani, and even humming the tunes of her arias.  Awaiting them at the cottage were George Canning and Charles Ellis, Canning's second.  

After Ellis made one final attempt at reconciliation between the two principals, at shortly after six, Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Canning took the ten required paces, turned and took aim, both missing their first shot. After which, Castlereagh declared himself unsatisfied and the pair resumed their positions.

This second time Castlereagh's aim proved more accurate and Canning collapsed on the grass with a bullet in his thigh. Castlereagh, honour now satisfied, rushed to his fallen adversary's side, and taking him by the arm, carried him to a neighbouring cottage to receive medical attention.    

However, within weeks, The Battle of the Blocks, a satire mocking the profligacy and arrogance of the duellists, was published to the delight of the jeering classes.  And it was only the first of many such poems and satires.
But what can have occurred to have brought a man like Castlereagh, about whom one of his fellow diplomats would later write, "the suavity and dignity of his manners, his habitual patience and self-command, his considerate tolerance of difference of opinion in others...his firmness, when he knew he was right, in no degree detracted from the influence of his conciliatory demeanour..." to be involved in such a scandalous activity as a duel?  

Look no further than his opponent and rival, George Canning.  

Under the aegis of the aging and somewhat sickly Duke of Portland as Prime Minister, a government had been formed in March 1807 with Spencer Perceval as the Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House, Canning at the Foreign Office, and Castlereagh at the War Office.  

Castlereagh, with customary diligence, threw himself into his work reorganising the Volunteers and the militia to bolster Britain's expeditionary forces, as well as commissioning a series of reports from intelligence agents across Europe in an attempt to find the weak points in Napoleon's empire.

In the Lower House, he was also frequently called upon to stand firm against the attacks from the Opposition on the conduct of the war, in particular defending the actions and honour of Sir Arthur Wellesley, first in regard to his action in Denmark and latterly over events in the Peninsula which had culminated in the disastrous Treaty of Cintra.  

(In a nutshell:  Wellesley had trounced the French at the Battle of Vimeiro on 21 August 1808.  All well and good.  Within a day however, Wellesley was superseded by two older armchair generals, Sir Harry Burrard and Sir Hew Darymple, who negotiated a completely ruinous treaty with the French General Junot, in which Britain was required to transport all the defeated French troops back to France carrying with them their 'personal' items, which happened to be all they'd looted from the Portuguese.  When news of the treaty got out in London, there was a huge outcry--and Wellesley was blamed, though he had not been a signatory to the Treaty.)

By late September, as the news of the Battle of Vimeiro was published and the details of the dishonourable treaty leaked out, Canning, in private, grew strident in blaming both Castlereagh and Wellesley for the debacle.  

Though a new Commander-in-Chief, Sir John Moore, was given command of the Peninsular Campaign, by the end of January 1809 he was dead, and the surviving British troops had been evacuated following the Retreat to Corunna.  (No, things weren't looking great on the war front...)  Nevertheless, by April, heartily supported and endorsed in Parliament by Castlereagh, Wellesley was on his way back to the Peninsula as Commander-in-Chief, to aid the beleaguered Portuguese and Spanish in ridding themselves of the Napoleonic yoke. 

At the same time, Castlereagh proposed within the Cabinet attempting to open up another front in the war against Napoleon, this time in northern Germany near Flushing--later this would be known as the Walcheren Campaign.

And it is at this time, around Easter 1809, that Canning's campaign to discredit and undermine Castlereagh got going.  Thus as the months of meetings with his fellow Cabinet-members moved forward, as Castlereagh relied on their support and expertise and trust for his pursuit of the country's war aims, Canning was pursuing a secret campaign to have him removed from office even as in public he made a show of friendship and support.  A letter here, a comment there, it was a perpetual drip-feed of undermining criticism, and although the Prime Minister was unwilling to act on Canning's advice and remove Castlereagh, Canning's duplicitous backstabbing and insidious whispering campaign continued unabated.

And no one, not even his uncle, said a word, leaving Castlereagh completely and utterly in the dark.  

In early September, as the sick troops began to return home from the disastrous Walcheren Expedition and Castlereagh felt that the weight of responsibility for the debacle lay upon his shoulders, he also learned of Canning's efforts to unseat him and his fellow Cabinet members' silence on the subject.  Shocked and demoralised, on 8 September he resigned from the Government.  

Over the next few weeks, as more and more details emerged of Canning's ambitious plotting, including his letter to George III suggesting himself as a new Prime Minister (an unprecedented act) and the deal he had struck with Portland to replace Castlereagh or he himself would resign, Castlereagh felt more and more keenly the humiliation of his position.  Thus on 19 September, he wrote to Canning that he had acted, "in breach of every Principle of good Faith, both public and private...It was therefore your act, and your conduct, which deceived me, and it is impossible for me to acquiesce in being placed in a situation by you which no man of honour could knowingly submit to, nor patiently suffer himself to be betrayed into without forfeiting that character." 

Castlereagh's letter left Canning--who had never fired a shot in his life--with little alternative but to agree to the duel which had previously been suggested.  (Castlereagh was known to be a crack shot...)

Following the duel and the news of it leaking to the press and every scandal-monger in Britain, both Castlereagh and Canning remained on the backbenches of the House of Commons and outside the Cabinet for some time. 

Castlereagh's reputation recovered first and he was soon offered the position of Foreign Secretary by Spencer Perceval, now the Prime Minister, a position which he held from February 1812 until his death in 1822, becoming over the course of those ten years one of the most renowned diplomats of the 19th century and possibly the greatest of Foreign Secretaries for his work at the Congress of Vienna in 1814.  

It wasn't until after Castlereagh's death that George Canning held office again--a high price for his ambitious machinations against a fellow Cabinet member.  (And he limped.)

M.M. Bennetts is a specialist in early 19th century British and European history and the Napoleonic wars and is the author of two novels, May 18122 and Of Honest Fame set during the period.  A third novel, Or Fear of Peace, is due out in 2014.

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Knights Templar ~ Misguided Motivations

by Scott Higginbotham

A stroll by a military recruiting office or perusal of a military branch’s website is full of imagery and catchy marketing designed to draw the twenty-something crowd into uniform.  The branches tout college money, travel, adventure, the opportunity to start a family, and camaraderie as just some of the benefits of military service.  The US Navy has the Nuclear Propulsion program, which is an academic crucible and one of constant training.  The life of a Reactor Operator has a certain appeal. 

Is it a fraternity of the few?  Indeed.

Since this concerns history let’s travel nine hundred years into the past, shall we?

The Crusades drew men and women away from their daily toils with promises of travel and adventure.  Not everyone held a sword in a mail-clad arm, for medieval armies needed support personnel.  Merchants could find a steady and healthy income by plying their wares to the ranks of soldiers.  It becomes clear that there were solid and logical motivations for packing up and trailing behind a long column of soldiers.

However, only the most devout or pious would travel hundreds of miles under harsh conditions for certain poverty.  Would a normal person choose this as a way of life?  How about a young man adding chastity to the mix?  Or that same young man vowing obedience to an all-encompassing set of rules where the penalty for disobedience was harsh, even by medieval standards?  It should also be noted that the attrition rate from disease, thirst, arrows, spears, and scimitars was higher than most vocations of the day.

Yet in the early years as word of their formation spread, the Knights Templars’ numbers swelled; monetary and gifts of land were given and it was considered an honor to die wearing their habits.
But why?

“An astonishing enthusiasm was excited throughout Christendom in behalf of the Templars; princes and nobles, sovereigns and their subjects, vied with each other in heaping gifts and benefits upon them, and scarce a will of importance was made without an article in it in their favor. Many illustrious persons on their deathbeds took the vows, that they might be buried in the habit of the order; and sovereigns, quitting the government of their kingdoms, enrolled themselves amongst the holy fraternity, and bequeathed even their dominions to the Master and the brethren of the Temple.”1

So what was the pull?  Was it the difficulty surrounding induction and remaining in good stead throughout one’s career?  Those are certainly spurs for joining such an elite cadre.  How about adventure and knowing that you belong to something greater than yourself?  Something intangible that you can embrace with you entire being?  Indeed, you cannot discount those either. But what would appeal to the medieval mindset the greatest?  War was constant and persistent. And so was the need to feel that one’s soul was eternally secure.  An appeal was made to both.   

“To increase the enthusiasm in favour of the Templars, and still further to swell their ranks with the best and bravest of the European chivalry, St. Bernard, at the request of Hugh de Payens, took up his powerful pen in their behalf. In a famous discourse 'In praise of the New Chivalry,' the holy abbot sets forth, in eloquent and enthusiastic terms, the spiritual advantages and blessings enjoyed by the military friars of the Temple over all other warriors. He draws a curious picture of the relative situations and circumstances of the secular soldiery and the soldiery of Christ, and shows how different in the sight of God are the bloodshed and slaughter perpetrated by the one, from that committed by the other.”2

That last line should make us all shudder.  With the stroke of a pen, the warlike spirit of medieval warfare was harnessed and rendered benign, if not a holy enterprise.  Indeed, the Knight Templars did do some good – they protected the pilgrim routes to Outremer, aided the poor and infirm, but the later years saw much corruption enter their ranks.  They answered solely to the pope and the Almighty God.  And in their eyes, blinded as they were, they would not suffer a fiery judgment.

To further underscore this thought, consider, “But the soldiers of Christ indeed securely fight the battles of their Lord, in no wise fearing sin either from the slaughter of the enemy, or danger from their own death. When indeed death is to be given or received for Christ, it has nought of crime in it, but much of glory....”3

Solomon in his wisdom knew that there were seasons for everything.  True wisdom is evident when one knows when to forebear.  The greatness of Christ’s kingdom came not from the sword and the zeal of the apostles, nor from crusading men of iron, but from a single sacrifice: “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:10-11).

1Addison, Charles G. (2012-01-17). The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple (p. 14).  Kindle Edition.
2Addison, Charles G. (2012-01-17). The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple (p. 15).  Kindle Edition.
3Addison, Charles G. (2012-01-17). The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple (p. 16).  Kindle Edition.   


Scott Higginbotham is the author of A Soul’s Ransom, a novel set in the fourteenth century where William de Courtenay’s mettle is tested, weighed, and refined, and For a Thousand Generations where Edward Leaver navigates a world where his purpose is defined with an eye to the future.  His new release, A Matter of Honor, is a direct sequel to For a Thousand Generation.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My New Clothes

by Anne Barnhill

I'm as excited as a school girl!  Why?  Because my Tudor dress, the outer garment, is finished.  Well, almost finished.  The miraculous seamstress, my dear friend from high school, Becky Thacker, must make sure the length is right.  My skirts will not be quite as long as the pattern indicated because I don't want to fall and break a hip while giving readings in my ensemble.  Besides, if I tripped, I might ruin the dress!

When my first book came out in January 2012, (At the Mercy of the Queen) Becky had completed the undergarments and I wore those to promote the book.  It was like that nightmare where you appear in front of people in just your skivvies--let's just say I lived the dream.

Here I am in shift, petticoat, bum roll:

After putting all that stuff on, I definitely see why one might need a lady-in-waiting.  I asked the lucky bookstore person to help (assuming this was a female) if Ms. Thacker couldn't attend me.  Often, there was great entertainment in the 'dressing room' as we struggled to get everything in place.

I expect the dress with be just as challenging.  Plus, I'll have all that underwear on, too. 

Thus far, I have not tried the dress on, but over a year ago, I fell in love with the materials Becky, her sewing advisor, Lisa, and I selected.  I had no idea the dress would be heavy, but I'm told the sleeves alone weigh a ton.

While the outer dress may not be as spot-on, historically speaking, as re-enactors might wish, it will serve my purposes well.  I want to bring listeners back to the 16th century and I believe visual aids help.  I've devised a little talk about the importance of clothing at Court; how, in those days, clothes really did 'make the man.'  Courtiers invested in silks and satins to impress the monarch, the way we might invest in real estate in the hopes of filling our portfolios.  If a courtier could catch the king's (or queen's) eye, establish a relationship and come into royal favor, that courtier would find his purse growing fatter and his future looking brighter.

I'm convinced my new dress would definitely be met with approval.  I used a color chart from The Tudor Tailor by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies to select my cloth and tried to get materials that would have been used in the 1500's by a noblewoman.  I also took into consideration the extremely hot North Carolina summer: no heavy velvets or damasks for me. 

When my second novel, Queen Elizabeth's Daughter, is released next March, I hope to keep cool over the summer, dress and all.

Here's the final product:

I can't wait to try it on!

Giveaway! Romance at the Royal Menagerie, by Ruth J. Hartman

Ruth is giving away an ecopy of her sweet romance to an international winner. You can read more about the book HERE. You will be prompted to return to this page to enter the drawing by commenting below. Please be sure to leave your contact information.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dogs: Royal, Common and Uncommon

by Katherine Ashe

“I am His Majesty’s Dog at Kew. Pray, tell me Sir, whose dog are you?” The Hanoverians, like many kings, were fond of their dogs and fond of a jest; the poet Alexander Pope proposed this inscription for one of their royal dog’s collars.

Both King Charles I and II had a weakness for little spaniels, with two modern breeds named for them. Spaniel breeds range from thirty pounds to two pounds, with long noses or noses reduced to mere buttons shorter than the jaws and sunk between the eyes. No creature bred by mankind shows more variety of form than the dog; goldfish are probably the closest runners-up.

Mary Queen of Scots found solace in her many dogs and had them about her even when she was imprisoned. Unwilling to be parted from them, when they died she had them stuffed.

The king perhaps most obsessed with dogs was Henri III of France. His passion for toy spaniels was such that his subjects took to hiding their pets lest he see and confiscate them for his ever growing court of canines. The breed now called Papillon, of the strain distinguished as Phalene, was his particular obsession. Papillons were so thoroughly associated with the Court that during the French Revolution there were little guillotines for little pups and the lineage was nearly annihilated. At least in France.

One characteristic of the dog does seem to date from the time of the Revolution: the Phalene was the proper form with drooping ears heavily fringed with silky hair. After the Revolution the ears became erect, the profuse, hanging hair forming the broad headdress that gives the breed its modern name, Papillon, as its head seems framed with butterfly wings.

The Papillon is tiny, properly two to seven pounds, and will sit silently for hours on m’lady’s lap but, set down, becomes gallantly playful, with a high-held head and high stepping action that mimics the gait of the most noble horse. The breed can be traced back at least to the 1500s and was as popular in Spain as in France. In appearance the modern short-haired Chihuahua seems a blend of the stocky yellow dog depicted in Central American artifacts and the much lighter bodied Papillon. And the long-haired Chihuahua is practically indistinguishable from the Papillon. It would seem the darling of Europe’s courtiers must have been carried by Spanish officials to the New World.

Of course, long prior to the 1500s there were tiny dogs favored by high-born ladies. Carved in stone on tombs, the portraits of medieval dead often include a small, pug-like dog curled under the deceased’s feet, giving rise to questions: did the dog die of a broken heart? Was it buried with its mistress in a sort of canine sutee? Or is the image merely figurative, a sentimental reference to loyalty, as in the painting John Ruskin so praised, “The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner,” the mourner being a grief-stricken Collie.

But for the real antiquity of tiny pups we must look to the Maltese. While he can be seen in medieval tapestries (note the little dog about to be crushed by the rearing unicorn), he’s far more ancient. The earliest depiction of the breed is on an amphora dating to about 500 B.C., and the little fellow is described there as Melitaei. Hence he’s believed to have come from the islands of Malta or Miletus. Or was that his name, derived from the Greek word for honey — very apt for the breed’s disposition? It’s Strabo, writing in the First Century A.D., who opts for Malta, actually a bit late in the breed’s history, so we may never know.

Aristocrats, certainly by the 16th century in Europe, bought their little pets from dog trainers who presented their offerings at m’lady’s levee. It was then in the day’s schedule that petitioners and salesmen were allowed into a lady’s presence as she dressed and her hair was arranged — a time-consuming process well paired with other practical activity. The dogs were offered fully trained so there would be no danger to the carpets or the legs of fine furniture. Collars studded with real jewels, and tasseled satin cushions or miniature tented pavilions enabled the pup to flaunt his wealth and high position, a mirror of his mistress. Costumes too were not uncommon, with little skirts and ruffles.

While the ladies, and many gentlemen, favored tiny dogs, the hunting dog was the most numerous of canine breeds in aristocratic circles.

King Henry II of France bred a variety of hound that was all white and extraordinary for beauty as well as coursing skills. While his dogs no doubt were derived from earlier French lines, the Talbot was quite different, though also a white hound used for hunting through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Depicted in the dining room at Haddon Hall in the 1400s, to commemorate the marriage of Sir Henry Vernon to Ann Talbot, the dog has a shorter snout that most hounds. There are some efforts to recreate this extinct breed.

Most hounds that ran, coursing game as swift as deer and flying far ahead of the huntsmen’s horses, were large and long of leg. The modern English hound raised for the hunt is tall and rangy, unlike the familiar Beagle used for hunting smaller game on foot. Once, when I was living in New Jersey, the Essex Hounds came streaming around our house in full cry. They were surprisingly big; one doesn’t want to be in their way. Those handsome hunt prints are of tall men on tall horses with tall dogs.

Coursing hounds usually live their lives in kennels, bonding with the members of their pack and their trainer, and they are not pets. But there certainly were exceptions. George Washington kept some of his coursing hounds around him whenever he was at home, feeding his favorite bitch, Sweet Lips, from his own plate at the dinner table.

But before the sleek, spotted white hound of the hunting prints, there was the Allaunt, a large, fierce beast that could hurl himself at stag or boar. The lordly household of the 13th century was incomplete without its Allaunts, and Eleanor de Montfort, Countess of Leicester, in her account roll surviving from the year 1265 makes monetary allowance for her own Allaunts and their keeper.

The rough coated medieval Allaunt looks something like a Schnauzer who’s drunk Alice’s enlarging potion, and its nearest surviving relatives may be the Irish Wolfhounds and Scottish Deerhounds. When I was young and living in New York and had my first dog, a Basset Hound, I used to meet another young woman walking her pup, a scruffy gray fellow who had a certain raggedy charm. In a few months my friend was to be seen flying down the street behind a romping whiskery animal the size of a pony. She had no idea when she bought her pup just how big an Irish Wolfhound would be.

There was also in medieval times the smooth-coated Allaunt, and this breed has been reconstructed as the American Allaunt, somewhat like a Great Dane with a more Mastiff-like head.

Not all aristocratic dog were tiny or were hunters. Notably there was the dog King Louis XIV called “the gentleman in the fur coat.” A Great Pyrenees. This breed, brought to Gaul and the Pyrenees by Roman legions, is descended from the Italian Maremma, also a giant breed. All white, or with a slight pastel spotting of brown, the Great Pyrenees has a very thick double coat — good protection on snowy mountain tops, and from wolves’ claws and teeth.

For hundreds of years the Great Pyrenees has guarded sheep, and it was to guard our sheep that I acquired one some years ago to protect against Eastern Coyotes. (Our local coyotes are a new wild breed of canine believed to be a blend of Western Coyote, Canadian Timber Wolf and assorted domestic dogs. In appearance they look like ill-bred German Shepherds, but they practice choruses of howling like any other coyotes.)

Our Pyrenees, Thibaut, with a bark that was basso profundo, kept the coyotes away solely by the impressiveness of his voice. He took his sheep guarding seriously. But when the sheep were safely in the barn for the night, he and I would dance a waltz, his forefeet gently placed on my shoulders and his head reaching seven feet high. When he rode in our station wagon for his yearned-for visits to the ice cream shop his hind feet were on the back seat, his forefeet on the front seat and his head up against the windshield.

Aristocrats and royalty, as well as common folk like me, continue to be dog lovers. The hunt has dwindled as the sport par excellence, but the comforting pet remains a mainstay. Charles de Gaulle is quoted as saying “The better I know men the more I love dogs.” Queen Elizabeth II, when at leisure, can be seen ankle-deep in Corgies. Her Majesty has had them always, since she was a child.

Those burdened with power and position may well find relief in the companionship of dogs for, from the dog’s point of view, life is simple: love and loyalty are what really count.


Katherine Ashe is the author of the acclaimed four volume Montfort series on the life of Simon de Montfort, the founder of England's Parliament in 1258. Montfort is available in soft cover and Kindle e-book format from Amazon. Her animal population, formerly including horses, sheep, goats, geese, peacocks, and of course dogs, in now reduced to just three dogs, three cats and two Koi.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Witch Hazel: A Gift from America

by Lauren Gilbert

Species Hamamelis Virginiana, commonly known as witch hazel, is native to America.  It is a common deciduous shrub or small tree found on the American east coast from Quebec to Minnesota to Florida (there are other American varieties and a couple of Asian varieties as well, which will not be addressed here).  It is an understory plant, found wild in forests.  It is slow-growing, commonly reaching five to fifteen feet tall (although taller specimens are known, one reaching 30 feet).

It has a smooth brownish-grey bark, long slender branches growing in Y formations, and decorative leaves. The leaves are oval with scalloped edges and inverted-V veining that can reach up to 6 inches in length.  Their color runs from a deep green during the summer to gold in the fall.  It likes partial sun to light shade.   It blooms in the fall (late September-October) and can bloom into December (in the south, as late as March).  The blooms are yellow, and consist of four twisted ribbon-like petals.  The flowers have a light fragrance.  The plant is not self-pollinating, so must attract pollinators such as insects.

The flower is interesting as, when temperatures dip, the petals twist tighter to protect itself; when the temperatures are warmer, the petals relax more to allow available pollinators access.   In spring, it produces fruit of a fuzzy light brown capsule shape, which has one to two shiny black seeds. The fruit ripens in the summer time, and then in fall, when ready, the seed pod literally explodes, shooting the seed over 20 feet away.  The seed takes two years to germinate (assuming they aren’t eaten by birds).  These seeds are white and oily on the inside and are edible, supposedly tasting somewhat like pistachios.  This plant is unusual as it can have leaves, flower and fruit on the limb all at one time.

It is unclear how the name “Witch hazel” was derived; a popular theory is that it is derived from the word wych which is Old English referring to pliant or bendable branches (root word of wicker) and hazel because the early colonists thought it was related to species Corylus (hazel) due to similarities of bark & leaves.  It is also known as Hazel Nut, Snapping Hazel, Winterbloom, and Spotted or Striped Alder.

American Indians were familiar with this plant and used it medicinally.  The Menominee tribe (who were located in what is now modern Wisconsin) boiled it in water, creating a decoction that was rubbed on the legs to keep them flexible and on the back to relieve back pain.  The Osage (modern Midwest) used it for tumors, skin ulcers and sores.  The Iroquois (modern New York and Canada) brewed a strong tea that was used to combat dysentery, colds and coughs, as a blood purifier, and as an astringent.  The Mohegans (modern Connecticut) made a decoction used to treat bruises, cuts and bites.  Bark, leaves and twigs were used fresh and dried.  I could not find a reference to names by which the various tribes may have known this plant, but it was obviously widely known and used.

English colonists saw the witch hazel and noted its similarity to plants/trees at home, such as the hazel tree (species Corylus) whose flexible branches were used in wattle, fencing and baskets.  In 1588 Thomas Hariot indicated that Indians were using “wich-hazle” to make bows.

Dowsing was an ancient practice where Y shaped branches used to seek water.  Indians did this, and the practice was known in England and Europe.  Supposedly, the Mohegans introduced colonists in their range to dowsing with witch hazel branches.  The branches of the Witch Hazel with their slender Y-shaped configuration were similar to elm branches used for this purpose in England.  One theory links the “witch” part of the name to dowsing, which was considered a form of witchcraft.

Early colonists would have had the chance to observe the Indians making and using their remedies.  This knowledge was accumulated and applied.  Over time, the medical uses evolved. Witch hazel was known for its astringent qualities.  Bark or leaves were made into a bitter tea that would supposedly stop internal bleeding or dysentery.  The tea was also applied as a poultice to ease burns, scalds, insect bites, tumors and inflammation.  Balm was made with an extract of the bark which was soothing to sores and minor burns.  It was also used in a liniment.  The tea was also used as a treatment for hemorrhoids via an enema or compress.

How did it get to England? Witch hazel was one of the first plants adapted to ornamental use in European gardens.  It was known in private botanical collections in London, possibly as early as the mid-17th century.  The Oxford English Dictionary shows the name “witch hazel” in use in the mid-16th century.  It is not known exactly when or by whom the plant was first brought to England.  However, in the 18th century, it was one of many American plants that became known and popular in English garden circles.  “Hazel nut” (one of the common names for witch hazel) is listed in 1826 edition of Culpeper’s Complete Herbal  (additions to Culpeper’s work occurred in editions subsequent to the initial publishing date of 1653).  It was recommended for cough and the drying of mucus from the head; it is also recommended for stopping menstruation and diarrhea.   This corresponds with the known uses for witch hazel.   (It is worth noting that I found no similar medical uses for the English hazel and hazel nuts or philberts.)
Peter Collinson
Peter Collinson (1694-1768) was a Quaker born in London.  A woolen draper by trade, his passion was the study of plants and botany.  Largely self-taught, his trade links allowed him to obtain plant samples from all over the world, and his personal plant collections at his homes at Peckham and later at Mill Hill were remarkable.  (His Mill Hill property is now the site of the Mill Hill School). His trade links with the American colonies and his connection to the Pennsylvania Quaker settlements led him to correspond with Benjamin Franklin, and he became a supporter of the American Philosophical Society which was founded by Franklin in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin and John Bartram (who was a botanist and fellow Quaker).  Collinson introduced German information about electricity to Franklin in 1745, which resulted in Franklin’s electrical experiments, elevating the study of electricity to a science.  

Under the Patronage of Sir Hans Sloane, Collinson became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1728, and published his first paper in 1729.  He had helped with Sir Hans Sloane’s collection of natural curiosities by importing specimens for him from around the world-this may be considered Collinson’s contribution to the British Museum which was founded in 1753 based on the Sloane collection.  He was acquainted with the work of Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish naturalist, with whom he became acquainted about 1735 and with whom he corresponded.  Collinson was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1747. 

Collinson had a wide clientele for plant specimens, including the Royal family, Lord Bute, the Duke of Bedford and other wealthy and influential persons. (It is not too much to say that he and the plants he introduced were known to Lancelot “Capability” Brown as many of these people were Brown’s clients.)   He is widely considered to have been influential in introducing the witch hazel to English garden circles.
John Fothergill (1712-1780) was a British physician, philanthropist, and naturalist; he was also a Quaker.  A London physician, he published widely on medical topics, and was very interested in botany.  He was acquainted with Collinson, John Bartram and Benjamin Franklin among others, and was very interested in issues pertaining to the American colonies.  He and Collinson became good friends, and Collinson introduced him to the works of Linnaeus.  He became good friends with Franklin after treating him in London in 1757.  Fothergill had a large botanical garden and studied plants extensively, and is supposed to have introduced a genus of witch hazel into England.  He also became a member of the Royal Society and a member of the American Philosophical Society.
In the mid-1840’s, Theron Pond of Utica, NY was supposedly shown witch hazel’s uses and a means of creating an extract by an Oneida medicine man.  He saw the practical applications of this product and entered into an agreement with the Oneida tribe to make the extract.  He developed it into a skin product called “Golden Treasure” and successfully marketed it.  After he died, it became known as Pond’s Extract.
About the same time (mid-19th century), a steam-distilled witch hazel product was developed; alcohol was added, and the resulting product was popular for skin conditions and also for varicose veins (it acted as a constrictor and relieved the itching associated with them).
A popular ingredient in toilet water, after shave and other similar products, witch hazel is still in use.    My personal favorite product is an alcohol-free, rosewater-based toner.  Witch hazel  is one of a few plant substances approved by the FDA for use as an ingredient in over-the counter medication.  (Many non-prescription hemorrhoid treatments contain witch hazel.)

Images from Wikicommons:

Source materials include:
Bremness, Lesley.  HERBS.  Eyewitness Handbooks.  London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1994.
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician. Manchester: J. Gleave and Son, Deansgate, 1826.   (c)Harvey Sales, 1981, Spain.  Reproduced from an original edition published in 1826.

American Philosophical Society Website.  “John Fothergill Letters.”  Background note.
The Atlantic website.  “The Mysterious Past and Present of Witch Hazel” by John-Manuel Andriote November 6, 2012.
Dooyoo website.  “The Witch doctor... Witch Hazel.”
The Green Woman’s Garden.  “Witch Hazel Hamamelis virginana.”
The Mill Hill Preservation Society website.  “The Peter Collison Heritage.”

Moonwatcher’s Encyclopedia of Herbs website.  “Witch Hazel Hamamelis virginian L.”

Mother Earth News website.  “Witch Hazel Uses and History.”  January/February 1985.

Quakers in Britain website.  “Peter Collison (1694-1768).”
Stephen Foster Group website.  “Witch Hazel Hamamelis Virgiana  by Stephen Foster.


Lauren Gilbert, author of HEYERWOOD: A Novel, lives in Florida.  She uses witch hazel daily.