Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pudding sleeves, Finger Posts, and Mr. Prunella: A little colorful language for the parson

Francis Grose, author of Dictionary of he Vulgar Tongue
by Maria Grace

I confess, I am a word nerd. I love language captivates me, especially in the way it relates to a culture. Slang, the speech of the common man, paints such a picture of the speaker's world. I love it!

Since every place and time has its own unique slang, I thought it would be interesting to share some Regency era slang from time to time. Today's offering a little colorful language related to the church.

Colorful names for a Parson...

  • Autem Bawler 
  • Body Of Divinity Bound In Black Calf
  • Devil Catcher, or Devil Driver Snub Devil
  • Dominee
  • Parish-bull
  • Pudding Sleeves 
  • Levite  
  • Spiritual Flesh-broker 

Sir John. The old title for a country parson

Postilion Of The Gospel. A parson who hurries over the service.
Turnpike-man. A parson; because the clergy collect their tolls at our entrance into and exit from the world.
Finger-post. A parson; so called, because he points out a way to others which he never goes himself. Like the fingerpost, he points out a way he has never been, and, probably, will never go, i. e. the way to heaven.
Mr. Prunella. parsons' gowns being frequently made of prunella.
One In Ten. A parson: an allusion to his tithes.
Gluepot. A parson: from joining men and women together in matrimony.
Puzzle-text. An ignorant blundering parson.

…and his curate

Parson's Journeyman. A curate.
Hedge Priest. An illiterate, unbeneficed curate, apatrico.

Colorful names for a Parish clerk

  • Amen Curler 
  • Canticle 
  • Chuck Farthing 
The church...
  • Autem 
  • Gospel Shop
  • Steeple-house  
…and its pulpit
  • Clack-loft 
  • Hum Box 
  • Prattling-box
To look over the wood; to ascend the pulpit, to preach

Referring to the devil

  • Black Spy 
  • Old Harry
  • Old One
  • Old Poger
  • Ruffian. 
  • Old Nick.  from Neken, the evil spirit of the north.
  • Old Scratch. probably from the long and sharp claws with which he is frequently delineated.
Complaining about the preaching

Canting. Preaching with a whining, affected tone, perhaps a corruption of chanting

Spoil Pudding. A parson who preaches long sermons, keeping his congregation in church till the puddings are overdone.
Scraping. A mode of expressing dislike to a person, or sermon, practised at Oxford by the students, in scraping their feet against the ground during the preachment.
Long-winded. A long-winded parson; one who preached long tedious sermons.

Complaining about the tithe

 Black Fly. The greatest drawback on the farmer is the black fly, i. e. the parson who takes the tithe of the harvest.
Pinch On The Parson's Side. To defraud the parson of his tithe.
Priest-craft. The art of awing the laity, managing their consciences, and diving into their pockets.
Interesting Expressions related to church and the clergy

Church Work. Said of any work that advances slowly.

Churchyard Cough. A cough that is likely to terminate in death.
Hums. Persons at church.
Japanned. Ordained. To be japanned; to enter into holy orders, to become a clergyman, to put on the black cloth; from the color of the japan ware, which is black.
Thorough Churchman. A person who goes in at one door of a church, and out at the other, without stopping.
To boil one's lobster. for a churchman to become a soldier; lobsters, which are of a bluish black, being made red by boiling.
To cuckold the parson. to go to bed with one's wife before she has been churched.
To dine with Duke Humphrey. to fast. In old St. Paul's church was an aisle called Duke Humphrey's walk, and persons who walked there while others were at dinner, were said to dine with Duke Humphrey.
To fly a blue pigeon. to steal lead off a church.

Quoted from: Grose, Captain (Francis). (2004) Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811 ed. Ikon Classics


 Maria Grace is the author of Darcy's Decision,  The Future Mrs. Darcy, All the Appearance of Goodness, and Twelfth Night at LongbournClick 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.
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Friday, May 30, 2014

Jellies: Dessert, Medicine, Art Pieces and More!

by Lauren Gilbert

Growing up, when I thought of jelly, I thought of jelly as the apple-grape jelly my mother spread on toast and on my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I never thought of Jell-O as “jelly.” However, jellies have been popular since medieval times, and are so much more than a spread or a 9” x 13” dish of rubbery fruit-flavored treat adored by 20th and 21st century children. Expensive ingredients and elaborate moulds turned jelly into something extraordinary. They are a flexible dish that can take on certain aspects of many ingredients. They can be clear; they can be opaque. The addition of cream can add a creamy flavour and a silkier texture. Obviously powdered gelatin was not available. Hart’s horn, calves’ feet and isinglass (an expensive ingredient imported from Russia, made from the stomachs of sturgeon) were used to obtain the desired “jell”. Clear jellies required additional work, having to be filtered through the “jelly bag” to remove any pulp or fibers that might cloud the jelly.

Savory jellies, or aspics, have been a standby for centuries. Le Viandier, a 14th century French cookbook contains a recipe for aspic. The fact that a meat broth could become a jelly with cooling (thanks to the collagen in bones and cartilage) made all kinds of things possible. A wide variety of meat, poultry,eggs and fish have been served in this way. A very popular dish was jellied eel, which became popular in English cuisine in the 18th century. Eels produced a broth that jelled easily. In the Regency era, Careme, a famous French chef who at one point was employed by the Prince Regent, invented a dish called Chaud Froid (hot cold) which was prepared hot but eaten cold, which apparently included aspic.

Sweet jellies have always been favourites. These included fruit-flavoured jellies, wine jellies, sweetened cream jellies, and flummery, among others. They could be all one flavour or combinations of flavours and textures. The clear jellies were served in glasses, frequently in pyramids, which would have created a lovely effect with the light shining through. One example of a special jelly was “Oranges en Ruben”, which were orange skins filled with alternating layers of red wine jelly and creamy flummery in stripes, which must have been a lovely presentation. (The Petworth House and Park website has a recipe called “Stripey Orange Jellies” that seems very close to this special treat.)

It was considered that invalids were best nourished with dainty portions of foods that were easy to eat. Jellies would slip down easily, not aggravating a sore throat, or requiring much effort in chewing or swallowing. Calves’ foot jelly and pork jelly were considered especially strengthening. Pork jelly, such as Dr. Ratcliffe’s (or Ratteliff’s) Restorative Pork Jelly, was highly recommended for loss of appetite or any sort of consumptive complaint. There are multiple recipes for jellies recommended for varying complaints, most based on calves’ feet or hart’s horn. (I ran across one that included snails and citrus juice.)

There were establishments dedicated to the jelly. Just as there were coffee houses in the Georgian era, there were jelly houses that served jelly in special glasses. (According to Clarissa Dickson Wright, they were popular with prostitutes and their customers, so acquired a bad reputation.) In THE EPICURE’S ALMANACK, John Rylance specifically listed Tomlinson’s Jelly House in St James’s, that specialized in jellies only, and had been in business for over a century.

One of the aspects of jelly that maintained its popularity was the shape. Jelly moulds came in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from architectural forms (such as Solomon’s Temple) to fruit garlands, fish shapes and even multipart moulds that allowed for colour and textural contrasts. Moulded jellies maintained their popularity through the Victorian era, but gradually lost their appeal in the 20th century. Do visit the Petworth House and Park website; there are some wonderful photographs of jellies made in Georgian moulds. Take a look!

Sources include:

Brears, Peter. JELLIES AND THEIR MOULDS. 2010: Prospect Books, Totnes, Devon England. On-line at

Dickson Wright, Clarissa. A HISTORY OF ENGLSH FOOD. 2011: Random House, London.

Rylance, Ralph. THE EPICURE’S ALMANACK Eating and Drinking in Regency London. Edited by Janet Ing Feeman. 2013: British Library, London.

Historic Food blog. “Jelly, Flummery and Creams.”

Petworth House and Park website. “Jellies, Jellies Everywhere!”

Lauren Gilbert published her first book, HEYERWOOD A Novel, in 2011. She is currently working on another novel, in which Tomlinson's Jelly House will make an appearance, and has notes for a non-fiction work as well. She lives in Florida with her husband.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Prince Who Would Not Be King - The Unhappy Beginnings of Charles I

By Linda Root

Charles I -by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
Public Domain {{US-Art}}
There is a certain amount of controversy about the early years of King Charles I concerning whether his childhood experiences contributed to his fate. The drama heightens when we remember who his grandmother was and that she had been pegged by Elizabeth as 'the daughter of debate.' But the Queen of Scots has become a cult princess if not a martyr; there is little if anything iconic about Charles. He was weak at birth and not expected to live. This had a profound effect on his early life, since there was no troop of Scottish nobles vying for his custody or supervision. The honor, if it could be considered as such,  went to Alexander Seton, very likely by default. Whether any part of his fate can be traced to his early years and the influence of Seton is a Herculean topic for a blog post, but not too much to tease some of us into looking deeper.

When little Charles, and indeed he was a runt by comparison to other Stuarts, was born at Dunfermline Abbey on November 19, 1600, Alexander  Seton was Baillie of Dunfermline by appointment of Queen Anne. Charles spent most of the first four years of his life living with Lord Seton and his second wife Grizel Leslie at Dunfermline Palace. His guardianship was not an easy undertaking. Charles was frail,  subject to frequent fevers, and was a slow developer. In today's terms, he would be classified as a 'failure to thrive' child. The likely underlying cause  mentioned in  current medical discussions  is rickets, but there may have been other factors in play.

While rickets was a recognized problem for seamen of the Seventeenth Century,  the diet of the Scottish aristocracy was prone to the same problems but rarely diagnosed. Fresh fruit and leafy vegetables were uncommon and the importance of vitamins was not understood. At any rate, while Charles was in the Seton household, he neither walked nor talked, and when the royal family moved to London upon the ascension of James VI of Scotland to the English throne as James I, Charles remained at Dunfermline Palace under Alexander Seton’s supervision and in Grizel Leslie's care. He was deemed too frail to survive the trip.
Seton was a closet Catholic, and it was King Charles I's tendency to favor the High Anglican form of worship that caused much of the monarch's trouble in his future. There is a good argument that his determination to shove the Anglican prayer book down the gullets of the Scots set the stage for the Civil War. He came by his religious views honestly. For the first three years and five months of his life, Charles was raised in a Catholic environment, and then he was transferred to the care of Dame Robert Carey, and raised in a High Anglican household.

 His eventual delivery to England was a medical decision. Some writers propound that Seton propagated reports of a miraculous recovery on Charles’s part in order to be rid or him and bribed a doctor to exaggerate his new mobility, but there is better evidence that King James sent an English physician to Scotland to examine Charles, who by autumn of 1604 was able to walk the distance of the Great Hall at Dunfermline and was thus declared to be strong enough to travel. There are also conflicts in the reports of how he got to Whitehall.  One of the popular sites reports that his new guardian Carey was sent  north to rescue him from Seton's care and fetch him to London, and other sources have Seton delivering him personally. The conflict is resolved by Carey himself, who was sent by the King and Queen to rendezvous with Prince Charles's entourage and met up with it south of Northumberland. From that point, Seton and Carey continued the journey to Windsor together. Seton was in attendance at his ward’s investiture as Duke of York on Twelfth night, and remained at the English court until midsummer. He was back in Scotland in time to miss the hullabaloo over the Gunpowder Treason. 

At the Duke of York's investiture, Charles was still barely walking, but his disability was not a cause of profound concern. After all, he was the second son and unlikely to ever be a king.  According to Carey, when news of his arrival in England was first announced there were many aristocrats competing for his custody, until they saw what shape he was in.  It was the queen who selected Lady Carey as his foster mother, an appointment suggested by Seton.

The Duke of York 

Following  his investiture as Duke of York, Charles Stuart remained  a child unlikely to play a major role in the history of Britain. For those who were on hand during Charles's early years, that was no doubt considered something of a Godsend. Even when he gained the use of his legs, he was inordinately shy and stammered when he tried to speak. Fortunately, the position of heir-apparent was already occupied by the popular, attractive, independent, tall and athletic Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. Prince Henry Frederick was as much an English Darling as a Scottish one, with all of the grace, charm, intellect and robust health associated with the youthful Prince Harry Tudor. He was so popular with the peers of the realm that they soon forgot that he was born  a Scot.

In 2012, there was an exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery in which a life-sized wooden tomb effigy which had been placed upon Prince Henry's casket for the funeral procession was displayed. Reviewers commented on the athleticism of the carving. The portraits on display confirmed that Henry was indeed a model prince. Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales,  was the Hope of Britain, the man who was to right all wrongs and drive the nation forward with vision and gusto. He shared the best qualities of his father and his grandmother Marie Stuart Queen of Scots whereas it can be argued his brother shared the worst. He dreamed of erecting a Bridge over the Thames at Westminster, and he established galleries and libraries. His presence was commanding. He was described by foreign envoys as a natural leader.

Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales ({PD-US art}}
Charles Stuart, Duke of York {{PD-US art}}

Even his royal father held Prince Henry in considerable awe. As Henry grew older, he had his own satellite court and on questions of politics and religion, he was known to be confrontational with his father. Some contemporaries suggest that the king was afraid his son might usurp him, although the better evidence is that he was the king’s pride and joy.

 And then came a bout with typhoid and he was gone.

His brother, not quite twelve when Henry died,  had adored him and sought to be like him but his image thwarted any attempt to emulate him. At full growth he was only 5’4” tall and while his legs had recovered, he was never the robust champion that his brother had been. At the funeral procession, Charles, Duke of York, walked beside the coffin, but King James was too distraught to attend.  Even at the time of Charles's greatest grief, his father was not there to ease his burden.

One wonders what the mourners thought when they saw the adolescent who was to replace their Golden Child. Although the crowd watching the funeral procession was glimpsing a far more formidable Charles Stuart than they would have seen when he arrived in England in 1604, he still was not his dead brother's equal. The years of being a slow developer had taken a toll. The new heir apparent may not have been a cripple as was feared, but he was shy and ill-suited to the new scrutiny certain to surround him. No doubt the comparison to his dead brother gave the English a second cause to mourn the death of the handsome and competent Prince of Wales. Even now, historians are tempted to ask, "What if?" “Had Henry Frederick lived, would there have been a Cromwell?”

The early life of Britain's most unlikely king

It is not surprising that Charles had been born at Dunfermline Abbey. The lands at Dunfermline in Fifeshire had been one of the bones of contention in the Danish marriage. Under terms of the contract as the Danes construed it, Dunfermline  was to be Queen Anne's outright possession, which was not the case according to the Scots who had drawn the contract.  After considerable wrangling, Anne was permitted to style herself as Dunfermline's Lady Queen, but the castle on the hill and the lands near the town of Dunfermline were considered part of the Dunfermline barony. The queen took a special liking to the Palace at Dunfermline Abbey where many of Scotland’s legendary queens had resided,  including the sainted Queen Margaret, King David's queen.  Anne restored a portion of it into elegant apartments for herself. It was her favored residence during the years she spent in Scotland.

She apparently had no problem with having Alexander Seton as her neighbor on the hill. He had a broad continental education and  was fluent in the German spoken at the Danish court. He was also a Catholic at heart if not in daily practice. He was too pragmatic for that. While his thinly disguised  Catholic faith would have put him in good stead with Queen Anne who had secretly converted, it would have created a crisis for King James, who made him Chancellor in 1604. Seton 's nominal Episcopalianism was a survival skill that satisfied the law but fooled few.

Early in her marriage, Queen Anne had been highly agitated when she learned that the Scottish custom was to have the heir apparent raised at Stirling in the care of the Earl of Mar, and it had caused domestic problems when Henry Frederick was born and carted off to Stirling. However, when frail Charles came into the world and no one wanted the responsibility of keeping so sickly and disappointing a child, they were much less anxious to shove Queen Anna from the picture. At the time Charles was placed under the guardianship of Alexander Seton, Seton was Lord Fyvie with extensive holdings including both Fyvie Castle in the north and the old fortress of Dunfermline on the hill. Although there is no clear evidence of it, it is easy to imagine Seton coming to the abbey palace to confer with the queen at a time when her priests were singing a mass. For in spite of his clever cloak of Anglicanism, Seton was the most highly placed of Scotland’s surviving proponents of the auld religion.

Queen Anne  - Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger , Public Domain
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
 Public Domain Art

The Guardian,  Alexander Seton  

Alexander Seton had been schooled in Rome during his Marian father's exile and during his father's later embassy to France after the forfeitures against the Setons were forgiven by the king in the Pacifications. He was considered a gifted  Latin scholar as well as a keen legal mind. There is speculation that had he stayed in Rome he would have been a Cardinal. That tidbit  is supplied in the History of the House of Setoun written by Sir Richard Maitland  in the middle of the Sixteenth  Century  and published by the Maitland Club in 1849.  Sir Richard was a politician and a poet close to King James V,  and was the father of both the famous statesman William Maitland of Lethington and King James VI's Chancellor John Maitland, Lord Thirlestane. 

Sir Richard's mother was a Seton and his history is likely biased, but there is no question that Alexander Seton was held in high regard by the Catholic community in Europe.

As for the grant of the Fyvie Barony, there is evidence he bought it in exchange for forgiveness of his predecessor George Meldrum's heavy debts. The transfer of Meldrum's title to Seton was ratified in 1598. The previous Lady Fyvie had been Hon Marie Flemyng  of the famous Four Maries, Secretary William Maitland's widow when she married Meldrum. Dame Flemyng had been at odds with Sir Richard and her brother-in-law Thirlestane for acquiring her son’s barony of Lethington ‘on the cheap’ and it seems that Seton performed similar maneuvers when it came to her second husband’s barony of Fyvie. 

Seton may have had the background suited to a Cardinal but he was not a saint. There was more than casual speculation that he disposed of his first wife Lilias Drummond when she began to show her age after he became aware of the charms of the much younger daughter of the Master of Rothes, Grizel Leslie.  It is said that dead Lilias visited them at Fyvie Castle on their wedding night nd etched her name on the outside sill of their bedroom window, one of the reasons why Fyvie is regarded one of the most haunted castles in Scotland.

The Foster Mother, Dame Robert Carey

The Carey family, with Dame Robert second from the left
and  Sir Robert Carey in the center
Public Domain art {{US-Art}}

In late February 1605, a month after the Duke of York’s investiture,  he was placed in the residence of  Robert Carey and his wife, the redoubtable Elisabeth Trevannion, known in London as Dame Robert.  With much effort and aided by reinforced high topped Italian leather boots, Lady Carey had him walking and talking. She apparently did so after arguing with the king, who wanted his legs placed in iron casts. The king also wanted to cut the string beneath Charles's tongue, but Dame Robert would not allow it. Her husband gives her credit for the  boy's physical recovery and takes none of it for himself, unusual in a 17th century husband.

Charles remained in her care until he was eleven and his brother died, at which time he was given his own establishment. That did not remove Lady Carey from his life.  She was awarded a position in Queen Anne’s household as her Mistress of the Sweets and remained her former ward’s close friend and adviser.  When Charles ascended the throne on his father's death, he made Robert Carey Earl of Monmouth but throughout his life when he needed the support of someone strong, he turned to Dame Robert Carey.  Unlike his brother Henry Frederick who dared publicly defy his father on occasion, Charles had a deep belief in the Divine Right of Kings.  So did  Elizabeth Tudor, at least in her public persona.  Robert Carey was the son of Henry Carey, whose mother was Mary Boleyn.  There has always been a healthy bit of speculation that  Henry Carey was not just Elizabeth Tudors  first cousin. He might have been her half-brother. If Robert Carey had been Elizabeth Tudor's nephew, she well may have passed to him a very Tudor view of sovereignty, and he may have passed it on to Charles.

Part of Lady Carey’s regimen of child rearing with Charles as well as her own daughter and two sons was the use of praise.  It worked marvels with Prince Charles. It apparently bothered Queen Anne that as her surviving son matured, when he needed succor, it was Dame Robert whom he sought. Dame Robert's  liberal use of praise to build confidence in  Charles may have had the unfortunate effect of convincing him he could do no wrong. 

In the summer of 1605, much rewarded by the king for having borne the expenses and provided the care of the prince, Seton returned to Scotland  to become Scotland's  Chancellor.  To appease concerns of the English peers due to Seton's past influence and the queen's well known Catholic practices, the prince's studies were supervised by a Presbyterian tutor, Mister Murray.  Robert Carey  is regarded as one of the first English biographers and in his memoirs he highly praises Alexander Seton as a man of integrity and intellect. Carey does not proselytize, so it is difficult to isolate his religious beliefs from his political achievements,  but his household was High Anglican. In his memoirs, he applauds   Seton for remaining constant in his Catholic faith  until the day he died.  Contrary to what some modern sources infer,they were not rivals, but lifelong  friends.


In conclusion, it is not hard to imagine King Charles attempting to force the Anglican form of worship on the Presbyterian Scots. Many Puritans fled England during his early  realm. One recalls the often perverted but well known Jesuit saying discussed by Richard Dawkins in his controversial book The God Delusion, as quoted by Anthony Horvath in The Christian 
'Religious leaders are well aware of the vulnerability of the child brain, and the importance of getting the indoctrination in early.  The Jesuit boast 'Give me the child for the first seven years and I'll give you the man' is no less accurate (or sinister) for being hackneyed.'  
While the circumstances that produced the disastrous consequences of his reign are complex, Charles I ‘s beginnings were portentous of his tragic end.  His is a woeful tale, not just for the Stuart Monarchy of the early Seventeenth Century, but for his separate kingdoms. 

The Execution of Charles Stuart, King of England, Scotland and Ireland,
from a 17th century German manuscript

Author's Note:   The youthful Prince Charles, while the wee Duke of Albany, makes a brief appearance in my work-in-progress, In the Shadow of the Gallows, the fourth book in the Legacy of the Queen of Scots series, coming in the winter of 2014-15, and is mentioned in my recently released 1603: The Queen's Revenge.  In researching this post I have visited a variety of sources including the memoirs of Robert Carey and those of Alexander Seton. The Carey biography is available free as a Google Book, and insightful as to the character of Charles I. There is a wealth of colorful input in Agnes Strickland's book Lives of the Queens of Scotland and English Princesses Connected With the Regal Succession of Great Britain, Vol. 2 (Classic Reprint), much of which is speculative.      Linda Root, Yucca Valley, California May 26, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Saint Thecla: ‘Like a Light in a Dark Place’

By Kim Rendfeld

The clues about Saint Thecla are tantalizing. Who was this nun entrusted to govern two abbeys in eighth century Francia, east of the Rhine, a more dangerous area than her native Britain?

She was a kinswoman of Saint Lioba and lived with her and other Benedictine nuns at Wimbourne, a double monastery governed by Saint Tetta. In a letter to Wimbourne between 742 and 748, Saint Boniface, Lioba’s kinsman, asked Lioba, Thecla, and Cynehild to pray for him.

A Kneeling Saint in Nun's Robes,
16th century sketch by Plautilla Nelli,
via Wikipaintings
Around 748, Thecla was among the nuns crossing the Channel with Lioba to assist Boniface in his mission to strengthen Christianity on the Continent. The women were leaving behind the safety of Wimbourne for an area east of the Rhine, with pagan Saxons to the north. Thecla was a disciple and star pupil of Lioba, who was installed as the abbess of Bischofsheim.

Thecla and her abbess were close. When Rudolf, a monk at Fulda, wrote Lioba’s hagiography almost 60 years after her death, Thecla was among the writers he relied on, and she is included during a vignette about a storm so violent it blew the roofs off houses and shook the ground with its thunder. The terrified people sought shelter in the church, and Lioba lay prostrate at the altar, praying. Finally, the crowd had enough and roused Lioba.

“Thecla, her kinswoman, spoke to her first, saying: ‘Beloved, all the hopes of these people lie in you: you are their only support. Arise, then, and pray to the Mother of God, your mistress, for us, that by her intercession we may be delivered from this fearful storm,’” Rudolf wrote.

Motivated by Thecla, Lioba went to the church door and stood on threshold, where she made a sign of the cross, and three times invoked the mercy of Christ through the intercession of the Mother of God. And the storm dissipated. (Hagiographies often have miracles, the veracity of which I leave to the readers.)

Sources contradict each other with what happened next, so here is my best guess. Around 750, Thecla was appointed to lead the new abbey at Ochsenfurt, east of Bischofsheim. Still overseeing Ochsenfurt, she was later called to replace the founding abbess at Kitzingen almost 10 miles away, about a day’s journey if a cart didn’t break a wheel.

Abbesses at this time were in positions of power and influence and acted autonomously. That Thecla was responsible for two abbeys tells us how much Boniface trusted her, both for her abilities and loyalty. The 11th century Passion of Boniface says, “She shone like a light in a dark place.”

She is believed to have died around 790, after more than 40 years in Francia. The year is uncertain as is her feast day, either September 27 or 28 or October 15. If she had taken orders at Wimbourne in the 740s, my estimate is that she lived into her 60s.

Her relics were at Kitzingen, and her cult apparently was strong in the 11th century. But there is a sad postscript centuries later. In 1525 during the Peasants War, the tombs of Thecla and another saint were desecrated, and when the church was rebuilt in 1695, the bodies were covered with rubbish.

Thecla deserves better than that.


Medieval Sourcebook: Rudolph of Fulda: Life of Leoba

The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, By David Farmer

“Tetta ‘Noble in Conduct’ and Thecla ‘Shining like a Light in a Dark Place,’” Deborah Harmeling, OSB, Medieval Women Monastics: Wisdom's Wellsprings, edited by Miriam Schmitt, Linda Kulzer

Saint Thecla” by Gertrude Casanova, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912

Kim Rendfeld is the author of two novels set in eighth century Francia and Saxony: The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press),  a tale of love amid wars and blood feuds, and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (August 28, 2014, Fireship Press), a story of the lengths a mother will go to protect her children. For more about Kim visit her blog, Outtakes of a Historical Novelist, at or her website, or contact Kim at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The American Dream

by Anna Belfrage

I have something of a fascination with those intrepid ancestors of ours who decided to uproot themselves from everything they knew and start over, in lands they had never seen. Okay, so I must admit to these not being my ancestors – my ancestors remained very rooted to their few acres of land, complementing that income with long shifts in the nearby mines. Clearly not intrepid, one must assume, while hoping this is not to my detriment genetically.

People left for various reasons: some needed to re-invent themselves, some had to escape from baying creditors, others had no choice, many went because of religious persecution, and quite a few set off to become rich. These were often young men, with their heads filled with dreams of finding gold, or silver, or at least some copper. They hoped for rivers filled with sturgeon, for welcoming lands in which crops grew more or less by themselves. Boy, were they disappointed.

Virginia - land of bounty
One of the reasons behind this belief in a land of riches was due to propaganda. People were needed to populate the colonies, and selling a permanent trip to the other side of the Atlantic as being “harsh and difficult, with years of toil before you, and possibly you’ll die” would not exactly have volunteers lining up. The Spanish explorers, needing to justify the costs of sending repeated expeditions over the seas, promised their financial backers (ergo Their Most Catholic Majesties, Fernando and Isabel) gold and silver. Ultimately, as we know, the Spanish Conquistadores found gold aplenty in Peru, silver in Potosí, and a very much impenetrable jungle elsewhere.

Anyway; young men (it’s always the young men who bounce about on their toes, eager for adventure and pots of gold) who wanted to rise above their original standing in life listened to these rather imprecise descriptions and salivated. Go out, make a fortune, return home and marry well – seemed like an excellent plan, like an early version of the American Dream, although at the time it would have been labelled the Colonial Dream.

Most of them failed dismally. But some made good – good enough to be toted as examples of just how true the dream of riches was. One such man was William Claiborne, who would carve himself quite the excellent life in Virginia. Along the way he would also instigate the first naval battle in North America and cause quite some tension between the colonies of Virginia and Maryland. One of the movers and shakers of this world was William Claiborne – and definitely not afraid of taking on new challenges and unknown coasts.

Claiborne - at a somewhat more advanced age
Claiborne was born in Kent, England, in 1600. As his family did not have the means to offer him a promising career back home, William set off for Virginia in 1621, where he was appointed land surveyor. He was granted 200 acres, and through a combination of astute business sense and perfect timing, his original grant quickly expanded to well over 1 000 acres. Already here, William had more than realised his dreams of future wealth, but this was an ambitious young man, with his eyes set not only on gold but also on achieving a standing in society.

Life in Virginia was not exactly a walk in the park. In William’s second year there, the Powhatan rose in anger against the white settlers, and over one very bloody night more than a third of the settlers were killed. William was (obviously) not among the dead – and I suppose all those deaths increased the opportunities for an intrepid young man to further his own position. Our young hero capitalised on the situation, and at the age of 26 was appointed Secretary of State for the Colony of Virginia.

Being a landowner was not sufficient for our restless protagonist, and after some pondering, William decided to try his hand at trade. Off he went to develop the fur trade, sailing up and down the coasts of the Chesapeake to trade with the local Indians. I guess it was very much glass beads for furs, although now and then William probably offered a musket or two as well.

During his travels round the bay, William came upon the perfect place for a trading post, a small island just off the eastern shore of the bay. In a burst of nostalgia, he named it Kent Island and appropriated it in his own name. His Virginian financial backers cheered William on. Others did not, foremost among them Lord Calvert, who was looking for land in which to establish his very own colony, one of his options being future Maryland, to which territory Kent Island belonged. Calvert’s first attempt at founding a colony, in Newfoundland, had failed dismally. (And let us not here spend time wondering why on earth Calvert chose Newfoundland in the first place)

Lord Calvert Sr - the Newfoundland dude
Lord Calvert came to Virginia in 1629. At the time, he was more interested in colonising south of Virginia (the Carolinas) than north of it (Maryland). As far as the Virginians were concerned, Lord Calvert had no business being in their neck of the woods at all. Not only did Lord Calvert’s desire for his own colony pose a threat to Virginia’s territorial expansion, but to add insult to injury, Lord Calvert was a Catholic, and to make matters worse, the demented man actually argued for religious toleration, making the staunch Virginia Protestants squirm in their boots.

Lord Calvert was not a man to give up. He returned to England to urge the king to give him a charter for his own colony. The Virginians had no intention of giving Lord Calvert as much as a square inch on their precious shore, so they sent their Secretary of State to London to argue against any grant to Calvert. William was more than willing to go.

The Privy Council listened to Calvert. It listened to William. In between, the Privy Council yawned and thought of other things – after all, what happened in Virginia stayed in Virginia, and few Englishmen other than the merchants cared all that much about the colonies. The merchants, however, saw huge opportunities – this was the age when sugar and tobacco were becoming popular crops – and one such rich merchant took a liking to William Claiborne and his plans for Kent Island. Suddenly, William had the means to recruit indentured servants for his future trading post, and in May of 1631 William left London and sailed back home, quite convinced Calvert would never get the grant of land he so wanted.

Lord Calvert Jr - owner of Maryland
It must have been somewhat of a shock to William – and his fellow Virginians – when the Privy Council awarded Lord Calvert junior (the elder Calvert died just before) a charter for the colony of Maryland. The charter included Kent Island, but William made it very clear to Calvert that he answered only to Virginia and the king, not to some upstart Catholic. The upstart Catholic in question had received Maryland as a personal grant, so the colony was in effect Lord Calvert’s property, and Lord Calvert intended to enjoy all his lands – including Kent Island.

Kent Island became a symbol. William refused to hand it over to Calvert, calling for Virginia to come to his aid. The Virginia Governor, one John Harvey, was loath to do so: Lord Calvert came with an impressive Royal Charter, and Harvey was not about to pick a fight with the king. William was livid and probably expressed this. The Governor retaliated by having him dismissed as Secretary of State. The Virginia Assembly did not like that one bit, most of them being firm friends of Claiborne, and so Harvey was ousted from office.

Not that it helped William all that much - at least not in regard to Kent Island. A Maryland commissioner captured one of William’s ships, and in 1635 the first two naval battles on North American waters took place, both of them in Chesapeake, both of them involving William and his (unfairly according to William) impounded ship. Three Virginians died, things simmered down a bit, and still William hung on to Kent Island, but all this turmoil was not good for business. William’s intended profitable trading post was doing less than well, and in 1637 a London attorney popped up on Kent Island, representing William’s disgruntled London financiers. William was sent back to London to attend court proceedings against him, and while he was gone the attorney invited Maryland to take over Kent Island. Rather back-stabbing, and we must suppose William fumed and protested, but to no avail.

For some years, William was occupied elsewhere – in Honduras, to be precise – but he was soon back in Virginia, excelling at the political maneuvering that characterised the years leading up to the English Civil War. As unrest became open war between Parliament and king, William saw an opportunity to reclaim Kent Island once and for all. One wonders just what it was about this little island that had William so determined to control it. Was it simply a matter of pique? Was there a place on the island that reminded him of home? Hmm. William doesn’t strike me as the nostalgic type.

Whatever his reasons, William joined forces with Richard Ingle, a Parliamentarian Puritan merchant whose ships had been seized by the Maryland authorities in response to a royal order to do so. With England being torn asunder by civil war and religious tensions riding sky high, William and Ingle used Calvert’s Catholic faith as a pretext and attacked in 1644. William reclaimed Kent Island, Ingle took over St Mary’s City. I imagine William did a little happy dance, complete with hand-clapping and stamping, but already by 1646 Kent Island was back under Calvert control.

One cannot fault William with lack of perseverance. In 1648, as the newly appointed Parliamentary Commissioner and Secretary of Virginia – William declared for Parliament and the Puritan faith – he  was made responsible for bringing Maryland to heel. Yet again, up popped the question of Calvert’s Catholicism and how far a papist could be trusted. (I know; this becomes very repetitive, but blame it on the times, not on me). Calvert’s Governor was outnumbered by the vocal anti-papists and submitted to Claiborne’s authority – for a while.

In 1653, to William’s outraged surprise, Cromwell confirmed Lord Calvert as owner of Maryland. In 1654, Calvert’s man in Maryland, Governor Stone, declared that William Claiborne’s property – and life – could be taken at the Governor’s pleasure. The purpose was to scare William into leaving Maryland alone, but instead William and his co-commissioner, Bennet, overthrew the hapless Stone and ousted all Catholics from Maryland’s Assembly. This did not please Lord Calvert. Stone was told to get his act together and regain authority ASAP. Stone tried and failed. By 1655, the colony of Maryland was in the hands of Puritan colonists who went on quite the burning spree, destroying any Catholic institution they could find.

At last it seemed to William he was in a position to permanently claim Kent Island back. Together with Bennet, he sailed for England with the intention of convincing Cromwell to once and for all tear up that irritating Royal Charter which granted Maryland to Lord Calvert.  Didn’t work. Instead, Lord Calvert was granted total control over Maryland for the rest of the Protectorate, and William Claiborne had to kiss Kent Island away for ever.

Once Charles II was restored, William Claiborne’s political career was dead. A former Parliamentarian and Puritan had no future in the royalist and Anglican Virginia, and so William retired from public life, living out the rest of his years on his huge estate, Romancoke. He may not have acquired everything he desired, but when William Claiborne was laid to rest in 1677 (or thereabouts; we know for a fact he was alive in march of 1677 and dead in April 1679)  he left behind a substantial fortune.  The young penniless man who set sail from England in 1621 had indeed realised the American dream. He wasn’t the first to do so, nor was he the last – but he was definitely one of the few.

Anna Belfrage is the author of five published books, all of them part of The Graham Saga. Set in 17th century Scotland, Virginia and Maryland, The Graham Saga is the story of Matthew Graham and his wife, Alex Lind - two people who should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him

In A Newfound Land Matthew Graham immigrates to Maryland to start a new life for him and his family. In difference to William Claiborne, Matthew goes because he has to, having no illusions as to what fate awaits him, obdurate Presbyterian that he is, should he choose to stay in late 17th century Scotland.

The next instalment in the series, Revenge and Retribution, is due for release in June/July 2014

For more information about Anna and her books, please visit her website! If not on her website, Anna can mostly be found on her blog or on FB (Or with her hand in a cookie-jar somewhere)

Buy Anna's books on Amazon US, Amazon UK & through a number of other vendors (B&N, Kobo, Smashwords)

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Prince in Hot Water: The Duke of Windsor and the Murder of Sir Harry Oakes

by Pauline Montagna

The Duke of Windsor
When, in 1940, Winston Churchill arranged for the Duke of Windsor to be shipped off as Governor of the Bahamas where, with his well-known Nazi sympathies, he would 'do the least damage to the British war effort', he would not have expected the former king to be involved in a scandal much more shocking than his affair with Wallis Simpson. For, on 'a dark and stormy night', in early July, 1943, the Bahamas' richest and most powerful citizen, Sir Harry Oakes, was brutally murdered, and the Duke of Windsor would be implicated in an attempt to pervert the course of justice and frame an innocent man for the crime.

Sir Harry Oakes, an American-born Canadian who owned the second largest gold-mine in the Americas, had moved to the Bahamas for tax purposes and taken out British citizenship with his Australian-born wife, Eunice, and five children. Determined to keep his vast fortune 'intact and untaxed', he had nonetheless brought an economic boom to the colony through his investments and property development and had been created a baronet for his generous philanthropy. He was a member of the House of Assembly and a much loved benefactor.

With his whole family abroad on vacation at the time, it was Oakes' houseguest, Harold Christie, who found his body on the morning of July 8th. Oakes lay on his bed, his head staved in, his body strewn with feathers from a pillow then doused in petrol and the bed set alight. Only the rain coming in through the window had prevented the body from being entirely engulfed in flames. A Chinese lacquered screen nearby was partially burned and covered in blood and smudged hand-prints. There was a bloody hand-print on the wall above the bed, muddy footprints on the stairs and traces of petrol elsewhere in the house. The post-mortem revealed blisters on the body that were not caused by the fire.

As Governor, Windsor took the unusual step of immediately taking control of the investigation while suppressing news of the murder for several days. While the local police were perfectly competent to handle the case, he decided to call in outside help. Due to the war, bringing in experts from Scotland Yard was out of the question, but instead of calling in British Security personnel stationed in New York and Washington, Windsor engaged two detectives from the Miami police, Captains Melchen and Barker, whom he knew from his frequent trips to Florida. Despite Windsor's attempt at press censorship, the case would become an international sensation and sweep the war news off the front pages.

Much to the local police's chagrin, the American detectives took control of the investigation and within 36 hours they had arrested and charged Oakes' son-in-law, Count Alfred de Marigny, for the murder. De Marigny, a French-Mauritian businessman, was well-known to be in conflict with his father-in-law who had disapproved of the twice-married playboy eloping with his 18-year-old daughter, Nancy. According to the detectives, de Marigny's fingerprint had been found on the Chinese lacquered screen.

Informed of her father's death and her husband's arrest, Nancy immediately returned and took over her husband's defence. She brought in her own private investigator, Raymond Schindler, and fingerprint expert, Professor Keeler. Schindler was horrified to find, on visiting the crime scene, that police officers were cleaning up the room thus erasing all the evidence. He was never to know who had ordered the cleaning, but concluded it must be someone highly influential. He also discovered that the police were bugging his phone. Meanwhile, de Marigny's first choice of barrister, the colony's finest, had been snapped up by the Crown Prosecution, while the police never passed on de Marigny's request for his services.

Despite their claims to be fingerprint experts, whether through design or incompetence, the two American detectives led one of the worst botched investigations in the colony's history. Not only did they forget to bring their latent-fingerprint camera, a vital piece of equipment, they allowed visitors onto the crime scene and did nothing to stop them handling objects in the room, then, as we have seen, allowed the room to be scrubbed clean. Though their case relied on fingerprint evidence, they left a large number of fingerprints unprocessed and failed to take the visitors' fingerprints for the purposes of elimination. The photographs they did take of the many handprints were ruined when the plates were exposed to light.

As for the damning fingerprint, it was fortuitously discovered by Detective Barker after de Marigny had been held in police custody for several hours, and after the Duke of Windsor came to the police station and had a private conversation with the detectives. Furthermore, the material allegedly used to lift the fingerprint was not the usual sticky tape which left the print intact, but rubber which destroyed it. In court, Barker could not pinpoint exactly where on the screen he had found the fingerprint, while Detective Melchen denied knowing about it until several days later. Exactly when he found out varied under cross-examination. Professor Keeler testified for the defence that the fingerprint could not have come from the Chinese screen, but had been lifted from a flat surface, perhaps a glass used by de Marigny in the police station.

The detectives' discredited evidence, together with de Marigny's firm alibi that he had been entertaining guests that evening, one of whom stayed over and saw him in the early hours when the murder was believed to have taken place, made an acquittal inevitable.

As for the Duke of Windsor, he and the Duchess contrived to be abroad throughout the trial so he was never called on to testify. Despite numerous requests, Windsor never allowed the case to be re-opened. However, he did ensure that de Marigny was deported from the colony.

So who killed Sir Harry Oakes and why? And what was the Duke of Windsor's interest in the case? With all the evidence destroyed and all the participants long dead, we'll never know the answer, but the close-knit community of Bahaman high-society has thrown up a list of suspects and possible motives worthy of an Agatha Christie. In fact it has generated a swathe of books, films and even a West End play, all putting forward unproven and unprovable theories of varying plausibility.

First of all we might ask why the Duke of Windsor took such a personal interest in the case. It may well have been simply because he wanted to avoid a sordid scandal and so tried to get the case closed as soon as possible. Allegedly loathing de Marigny, he was simply unconcerned that an innocent man might hang. Another theory is that Windsor feared a thorough investigation might uncover that he was involved with Oakes in money laundering to finance his lavish lifestyle that went well beyond his inadequate allowance from the British government.

Other theories revolve around Windsor's relationship with Swedish millionaire industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren who came to the Bahamas in the world's largest private yacht. He was rumoured to have close ties with the Nazis and to have brokered the friendly relations between Germany and Sweden. He had established a bank in Mexico through which, it was feared, he planned to take control of the Mexican economy. It was through this bank that Windsor was believed to be doing his money laundering. According to one theory, Oakes was killed because he had discovered that Windsor and Wenner-Gren were Nazi spies. Another theory is that Oakes, too, was considering moving his money to Mexico and was killed to prevent his ruining the Bahaman economy by so doing.

Another dubious character lurking about was an American with connections to the Mafia, Frank Marshall. He is believed to have been the front man for mobsters Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky who were planning to build casinos and hotels in the Bahamas. Both Oakes and Windsor were against changing the law to allow the casinos to be built. Allegedly, Marshall had recruited Harold Christie (he who had discovered Oakes' body) to persuade them to change their minds.

Harold Christie was a native of the Bahamas who had made his way up the social ladder as a real estate broker. He and Oakes had become business associates and friends after Christie sold Oakes half the properties in the Bahamas, getting very well rewarded in the process. Although Christie was never considered a suspect, testimony given at the trial certainly puts him in a dubious light. Christie testified that he and several others had been invited to a soiree at Oakes' home on the evening of the murder. All the other guest had left by 11pm, but Christie stayed on and, having had a bit too much to drink, spent the night in the guest room just up the hall from Oakes' bedroom. Although he admitted to waking up a couple of times in the night, he claimed that he had not heard anything suspicious over the sound of the storm.

The defence questioned Christie intensely about the fact that he had parked his car well out of sight and a distance from the house, instead of right in front of the house as he usually did. Meanwhile, a local police officer testified that he had seen Christie in town riding in a station wagon coming away from the port. Although he had mysteriously drowned before he could testify, a nightwatchman had claimed to have seen an unfamiliar boat in the harbour and two men come off the boat, get in a car and drive away.

These inconsistencies have given rise to several theories. One theory purports that Frank Marshall was under pressure from the Mob to force Oakes to change his mind. With Christie's help he had got Oakes onto the mysterious boat where he was tortured. Inopportunely, Oakes died, and Christie helped to get him back to the house where the murder was staged. The fact that the two detectives came from Miami and might well have been on Lansky's payroll lends some weight to this theory.

However, another, simpler theory is that Christie had borrowed a great deal of money from Oakes who, since he was planning to go to Mexico, had called in his loan. Unable to pay it back, Christie had called in his disreputable brother to help him kill Oakes. The house was supposed to have burnt down, destroying all trace of the crime, but the rain had thwarted that plan and Christie had had to 'discover' the body instead.

Whatever his involvement in the murder, Harold Christie did not suffer from the association. He became a leading property developer in the Bahamas, made millions and was knighted in 1964. Despite her heroic defence of her husband, Nancy and de Marigny were divorced in 1949. Axel Wenner-Gren was blacklisted by the Allies during the war and his assets frozen, stranding him in Mexico while he was vacationing there. However, he has since been cleared of all suspicion of pro-Nazi activity and after the war continued his career as a pioneering industrialist. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor returned to France where they saw out their lives in quiet retirement. There is no trace of what became of Frank Marshall.


Pauline Montagna lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has published three books, The Slave, an historical romance set in fourteenth century Italy, Suburban Terrors, a short story collection, and Not Wisely but Too Well, a novel of the young Shakespeare and the first volume of a projected four volume series. You can find out more about her and her books on her website.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Giveaway: Britannia: Part I: The Wall, by Richard Denham and M J Trow

The authors are giving away a print copy (UK) or an ecopy (international). You can read about the book HERE, and return to enter the drawing by leaving a comment below. Please be sure to leave contact information.

A Perfectly Ordinary Medieval English Church

by Anne O'Brien

Or is it?

What is so special about this unassuming little church?

This is the church of St John the Evangelist at Shobdon, a small village in the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire. It looks very much like any small medieval church in this part of rural England.

The first known church at Shobdon was a timber chapel, built in Anglo Saxon times. The second was a stone church built in the 12th century, by Oliver de Merlemond, a steward of the powerful Mortimer family, when he received the estate of Shobdon from Hugh Mortimer.   A tower was added in the 13th Century.

The third and present church consisted of a completely new nave, which was built onto the 13th Century tower, by the Bateman family in 1756, on whose estate the church stood. Much like the rebuilding of many churches in England over the centuries, we would presume.

So what is it that makes this church so remarkable?  As soon as you enter, you will see that it is far from ordinary.  To be fanciful, it is like stepping into a traditional iced wedding-cake, a completely different world, a true Georgian gem.

This unique style of architecture is known as Strawberry Hill Gothic, a flamboyant world of Rococo and Gothic design that draws its inspiration from the work of Horace Walpole at his London house of Strawberry Hill.  This should not be be too surprising, as the Batemans were close friends with Walpole, and his ideas obviously influenced the design of this extraordinary building.

The interior is primarily two-toned, in white with pale blue accents. Highly decorated ornamental arches abound, with exquisite attention to the fine detail of the carving. The centrepiece of the interior is the lavish three-storey pulpit, which is based on one designed by William Kent for York Minster.

The church has no aisles, but has a gallery above the west entrance, and a chancel marked by a trio of ogee arches that appear almost oriental in style. There is a separate door for the Bateman family, which gives onto the family pew, where they were provided with their own fireplace for warmth. There is another door for the Bateman servants, which gives access to the servant's pew in the north transept.

The only piece of original decoration is on the Norman font which was retained.

The whole thing is quite unexpected and totally at odds with the exterior but quite delightful, particularly after its recent sensitive restoration. Not to be missed if you are visiting Herefordshire.

But that is not the end of the story.  What happened to the original interior of this striking little church?  Was it simply destroyed?  It would have been a tragedy if it had been destroyed for one very important reason.  

Soon after he acquired the manor, Oliver de Merlemond went on pilgrimage to the shrine of St James at Compostela, after which he rebuilt the small Saxon church on his manor, stunningly decorated, its arches carved with patterns and mythical beasts such as dragons, its pillars adorned with intricate interlaced decoration and figures, the semicircular panels above its two doorways bearing beautiful depictions of Christ in Majesty, upheld by angels, and the Harrowing of Hell. The church seems to have been the first building decorated by the celebrated Hereford School of Sculptors.

So ornate is the Hereford sculpture, so unlike what was being done in the rest of England at the time, and so like other work in Europe, that there has been speculation that Oliver’s journey influenced it in some way.

Did Oliver bring back a carver from Spain or France? Or did the group of pilgrims with which he travelled include a local stoneworker who absorbed the powerful influence of buildings on the route to Compostela? We will never know.

So what happened to this glorious carving?  When the 18th century church was built, the original Romanesque chancel arch was carefully removed and reassembled on the hill overlooking the church. This was linked to two carved doorways with their tympana to create an unusual folly. Though somewhat eroded by wind and weather, the arches, known as Shobdon Arches, still show us the exquisitely detailed Norman carving.

Anyone who wishes to see this Hereford style of architecture with its mythical creatures and interlocked carving still in its rightful position can visit the nearby churches of Eardisley and, of course, the most famous of them all, Kilpeck.

But nothing prepares you for the sight of the Strawberry Hill Gothic inside Shobdon Church.


Visit my website to discover more about my medieval interests and my historical novels.

The Forbidden Queen, a novel of Katherine de Valois, was released in the USA in March 2014.

The Scandalous Duchess, a novel of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, was released in the UK in March 2014.