Friday, August 31, 2018

The saucy and tragic legacy of a British naval defeat

by Anna Belfrage

The first time I ever had aioli was on Menorca. This is one of the Balearic Islands, and as its name implies it is smaller than Mallorca – but bigger than Ibiza, even if that is neither here nor there. Menorca is famous for an absolutely fantastic lobster soup/stew called caldereta, for its aioli – and for being the birthplace of mayonnaise.

What? I can see some of you straightening up from your slouch. Mayonnaise is a French sauce, you say – derived from Mayenne. Hmm. I am less than convinced, even if I do find the French version of this sauce’s pedigree historically interesting. According to some, one of the more capable (and likeable) generals in the religious civil war that plagued France in the 16th century was addicted to this thick, creamy sauce. I am talking, of course, about Charles de Mayenne, a son of the House of Guise and leader of the Catholic League. So fond was he of this sauce that it was given his name, and all that mayonnaise consumption is supposedly why our Charles grew very stout with age.

If we take a step back and study the ingredients of mayonnaise, one can but conclude that they are very, very similar to those of ailoi – bar the garlic. Okay, so to combine egg yolks, oil, salt and other seasoning and whip it all up into a sauce is not exactly rocket science, but all the same: it is easy to conclude aioli and mayonnaise are probably sister-sauces. For all those who prefer to view mayonnaise as a French sauce, I offer the comfort that even in the Menorca-based mayonnaise myth, the French play a central role. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Menorca is an island with a fascinating history. Prehistoric inhabitants left it littered with strange neolithic buildings, the Romans left their imprint on the island, it was a haven for early pirates, it was raided by Turks and by Barbary pirates – in brief, Menorca suffered a long string of wannabe owners. In the early 18th century, the British took possession of Menorca (this in the aftermath of the Spanish War of Succession).

At this point in time, the British Empire was still in expansion mode. Backing the right horse in the Spanish War of Succession gave the British not only Menorca but also the far more strategically important Rock of Gibraltar. Suddenly, the British Empire was a force to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean, and Menorca with its excellent natural harbour at Mahon (Aha! Mahon-aise…) became an important British outpost. The French were not pleased. The Spanish were not pleased. The Ottoman Empire was probably not pleased, but who cared about their opinion? Consensus among the French and the Spanish was that the British were intruders in the Mediterranean, and for some decades they gnashed their teeth and whetted their claws, waiting for an opportune moment in which to strike.

In 1754, the Seven Years’ War exploded, involving more or less all major European countries and their colonies. The Mediterranean became one of the war zones. The Mediterranean probably sighed and grumbled, shifting its waters in restless waves, but through the ages it has become quite accustomed to being contested waters so I guess it groaned dramatically and went “here we go again” while feeling somewhat flattered by the fact that people were STILL fighting over it.

Le Duc de Richelieu
It is time to introduce one of the central character in this our history of mayonnaise, namely the French Duc de Richelieu, Louis Francois Armand de Vignerot du Plessis – Armand to his intimates, among which he counted the king of France, Louis XV. In 1756, this gentleman was sixty, and per the standards of the time he should have been either dead or ailing, but our Armand was a vigorous man, and so he was put in charge of the French force that was to oust the British from Menorca.

Our French dandy set to with enthusiasm, besieging the British garrison of the Fort St Philip which looms over the Mahon harbour. 15 000 French soldiers were landed on Menorca in April of 1756, five times the number the British had. Severely outnumbered, the British garrison set their hopes to the relief forces commanded by Admiral Byng.

Admiral Byng was an experienced naval officer, at the time serving in the English Channel. He was ordered to immediately set off for Menorca, his protests along the lines that he needed more men and more money so as to repair his ships ignored. Byng had no choice but to follow his orders, despite serious misgivings. His ships leaked, he was seriously undermanned, and further to this he had been forced to replace his experienced marines with boatloads of soldiers to be landed on Menorca.

Admiral Byng
Byng made a brief stop in Gibraltar to provision. He begged the governor for more men to augment his numbers, but the governor refused. From Byng’s correspondence, it is pretty clear he knew his chances of success were slim. He was more than aware that his ten ship of the line would be no match against a determined French squadron.

On May 19 of 1756, Admiral Byng and his ships made contact with the French. Outnumbered and outgunned, reluctant to attempt any heroics and constrained by the doubtful sea-worthiness of some of his ships, Byng had no choice but to retire. He made for Gibraltar, there to repair his ships and try again.

Meanwhile, time was running out for the British garrison in Mahon. After three months, they gave up. Always the gentleman, the Duc de Richelieu treated his vanquished foes honourably, and they were allowed to depart the island, leaving the French in charge. And this, dear people, is when the French decided to party – and as we all know, when French people party, they do so with excellent food.

The Duc de Richelieu was fond of his palate. He enjoyed his food and sauces, and therefore where Armand went, there went a cook or two. In this case, the cook was put in charge of a massive banquet in which a sauce made of eggs and cream was to figure prominently. Mon Dieu! No cream! The cook cursed, he gnawed at his apron, he threw a wooden spoon or two at his kitchen boys, wondering what sort of uncivilised place this was that there was no cream. Which is when a local may have suggested he use the “salsa mahonesa” instead (like aioli but without the garlic). Or maybe the cook himself had the brilliant idea of replacing cream with olive oil. We will, I fear, never know.

What remains undisputed is that it was a very good party, with very good food, and ever since mayonnaise has been one of the staple sauces any chef worth his salt must learn to make.

Ultimately, the French dominion over Menorca was to be short-lived. The British won the Seven Years’ War and Menorca was returned to them in 1763, only to be wrested from them again in 1782. And as to Admiral Byng, he was to bear the full opprobium for the loss of Menorca. Upon reaching Gibraltar, he immediately began preparing for a second campaign, but before he could sail, ships from England arrived, relieving Byng of his command and placing him in custody.

What was to follow is one of the worst legal scandals in British history. To save its own hide, the Admirality hung Byng out to dry, and his honour and reputation were torn to shreds by the broadsheets of the time.  As a result of the furor that swept the country, Byng was court-martialed for his failure to relieve Menorca and found guilty of not having done his utmost to win. Under the new Articles of War, there was only one punishment for this: death.


Despite repeated attempts by Parliament, by Prime Minister William Pitt the elder, to urge the king to show clemency, George II refused. And so, on a March day in 1757, Admiral Byng was led out on the quarterdeck of HMS Monarque, knelt on a cushion and was shot dead by a platoon of Royal Marines.

These days, Menorca is a sun-drenched island that welcomes thousands of tourists to its beautiful coves and beaches each year. Very few of those tourists have any interest in history – whether of Menorca or of mayonnaise. But for those of us who do, maybe this post will serve to make us recall Admiral Byng whenever we open a jar of mayonnaise. Or maybe we should remember Louis Francois Armand de Vignerot du Plessis – but seriously, who can possibly remember all those names?

All pictures in public domain and/or licensed under Wikimedia Creative Commons

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Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

Anna's most recent series is The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.  The fourth instalment, The Cold Light of Dawn, was published in February 2018.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, she's probably visiting in the 17th century, specifically with Alex(andra) and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him. The ninth book, There is Always a Tomorrow, was published in November 2017.

Today, the first book of Anna's new series, The Wanderer, sees the light of the day. A Torch in his Heart tells the time-spanning story of Jason, Sam and Helle who first 3 000 years ago and have since then tumbled through time, trapped in a vicious circle of love, hatred and revenge.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Portable Reliquaries: Bringing the Medieval Pilgrimage Home

by Kim Rendfeld

In 757, if we are to believe the Royal Frankish Annals, Tassilo, the teenage duke of Bavaria, visited Frankish King Pepin and swore his fealty to the monarch and his sons on the relics of five saints. He touched the bodies of Dionysius, Rusticus, Eleutherius, Germanus, and Martin.

Scholars have said the Frankish annalist might have exaggerated the nature of the visit, as medieval writers were wont to do to please their bosses, in this case Pepin’s son Charles (Charlemagne). In reality, the visit might have been one of friendship rather than submission. Besides, that’s an awful lot of saints to bring to this occasion, considering the need for security and holy men. But for storyteller purposes, to have Tassilo swear on all those saints would have made his alleged disloyalty decades later all the more horrendous and justify Charles deposing his cousin.

Imagining massive processions and huge reliquaries carried by carts or multiple men, I was inclined to believe that part about the saints not really being present at the meeting. Then I encountered portable reliquaries in my research for Queen of the Darkest Hour. Perhaps, it was possible to bring a token from all those saints—not whole skeletons but tiny items connected to the divine and imbued with miraculous power.

By I, Sailko (GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons)

Portable reliquaries were common throughout the West in the early Middle Ages, when travel was expensive and dangerous. Although every Christian aspired to go to Rome at least once, many could not afford the trip. The pilgrims who made the journey likely wanted to make the most of it, and a portable reliquary allowed them to do so. About five inches tall, the reliquaries were easy for one person to carry. With them, a pilgrim could bring a physical part of their faith home and interact with it. They would remain in the presence of the saint throughout their life, and they could bequeath this precious gift to their children.

This might be a good time to define just what a relic is. It was a physical thing connected to Jesus or one of the saints. It could be a pebble from a holy tomb, some dust from the tomb’s base, a vial of oil from a lamp burned over the tomb, a bone chip, a hair, a splinter of the true cross, a shred of clothing, or twigs from trees where the shepherds watched their flocks by night. It need not be large.

And it could look quite ordinary. The pilgrim had no objective way of knowing if the twigs were really from a saint’s favorite tree or a nearby woodpile, and some sellers of relics were less than scrupulous. The pilgrim was better off collecting a relic on site rather than buying one. Whatever the form, the objects made events in Christian history real.

To transport the relics, medieval pilgrims could carry a block of wood carved into the shape of a purse and hollowed out. As they traveled, they could collect relics of the saints they visited. The relic was wrapped in a bit of linen or silk, perhaps cut from discarded church hanging or liturgical vestments. Sometimes the cloth was stitched to secure the relics and labeled with a scrap of papyrus.

By Kleon3 (CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons)

Once filled, the purse was sealed with a plug or sliding panel. To make this carved wood fitting for saintly objects, the purse was covered with a gilded metal, then stamped or decorated with gemstones or ivory. After chains were attached, the portable reliquary could be hung from a church beam or in a chapel, put on a bedpost, worn around the neck, or carried in a procession.

If the reliquary belonged to a church, a holy man could use it to raise revenue, heal the sick with its miraculous powers, bring warring factions to the peace table, or seek intercession during a famine or other natural disaster.

In a palace, the reliquary gave the king an aura of holiness, and it was handy when it came time for a vassal to swear an oath. It was one thing to offend a human lord, but quite another to anger a saint.

Whether Tassilo made a vow (assuming he did) while touching the actual saints’ bones or a portable reliquary with tiny objects, the promise was just as sacred.

Sources
Portable Christianity: Relics in the Medieval West (c. 700-1200) by Julia M.H. Smith

Carolingian Chronicles, which includes the Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories, translated by Bernhard Walter Scholz with Barbara Rogers

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Portable reliquaries appear in Kim Rendfeld's third novel Queen of the Darkest Hour. In Kim's version of events, Queen Fastrada must stop a conspiracy before it destroys everyone and everything she loves. The book is available on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & NobleKobo, and Smashwords.

Kim has written two other stories set in 8th century Francia. In The Cross and the Dragon, a Frankish noblewoman must contend with a jilted suitor and the fear of losing her husband (available on Amazon). In The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar, a Saxon peasant will fight for her children after losing everything else (available on Amazon). Kim's short story “Betrothed to the Red Dragon,” about Guinevere’s decision to marry Arthur, is set in early medieval Britain and available on Amazon.

Connect with Kim at on her website kimrendfeld.com, her blog, Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Editors Weekly Round-up, August 26, 2018

from the EHFA Editors

Never miss a post on English Historical Fiction Authors. Enjoy this week's round-up.

by Barbara Gaskell Denvil
(Editor's Choice from the Archives)



by Lauren Gilbert


Friday, August 24, 2018

Bifrons House: The Beginning

By Lauren Gilbert

I was reading an interesting article by Syrie James in which she discussed the Taylor family of Bifrons. This was a property with which I was unfamiliar, and the name struck me as unusual. When I researched it, I discovered just how unusual it was. The first meaning I came to was Bifrons, or Janus Bifrons, the two-faced god of the Romans, one of the earliest gods of the Roman pantheon. He was the gatekeeper who looked both ways and was the god of beginnings and endings, and of special significance to soldiers.

Sebastian Janus’ Cosmographia
The doors of Janus Bifrons’ shrines were never closed in times of war. Bifrons House, near the village of Patricksbourne (also shown as Patrixbourne) in Kent, is in an area not terribly far from where the Romans are thought to have landed in Richbourne, Kent c 43 AD (roughly 11 miles). It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the cult of Janus Bifrons existed in the general vicinity. Certainly, Janus was known in English early enough, as a view of Janus appears in an English edition (c 1550) of Sebastian Janus’ Cosmographia, as shown below. This was one of the most popular books of the 16th century.

(It is also worth considering that the name might be derived from two Latin terms: bi=double and frons=fronted.)

After the Romans withdrew and their influence waned, the Saxons moved in. This included the area in Kent in which Bifrons House is located. As it happens, a significant Saxon cemetery was discovered on a hill known as Patrixbourne Hill within Bifrons Park. The location of the cemetery is close to a Roman road to Dover, which road makes it clear that the Romans had been in the vicinity. The Domesday Survey shows that a church existed in this area in 1068, manorial lords (the Says, the Cheneys and the Patricks) were here from the 12th to the 15th centuries, and the church was served by a few canons from Beaulieu Priory. In 1254, an aid was granted to Henry III by William de Say and the canons of Patrikkesbourne (the roots of the modern name of the village).

The history of Bifrons House itself actually begins about 1607, when John Bargrave (also shown as Bargar), of a prosperous family which lived in the neighbouring parish of Bridge, began construction of the known house. (There may have been an earlier house, demolished to make way for this one.) The family, yeoman farmers and tanners, had long been established in Bridge parish, and had apparently recently become gentry. John was the oldest son of Robert Bargrave (or Bargar) and Jane Gilbert Bargrave, born September 13, 1571 in Bridge. There are indications that Robert Bargrave, who died in 1600, had been a soldier. John himself had been a soldier, serving about 10 years, attaining the rank of captain, and had fought the Spanish. John had multiple brothers and sisters including a younger brother Isaac Bargrave who was in the church, ultimately to become dean of Canterbury.

About 1597, John married Jane Crouch, the daughter and heiress of Giles Crouch of London, a wealthy haberdasher who supplied the funds for building. Indeed, it seems probable that Jane’s fortune was a serious boon to the family. John was also interested investing, being an early investor in the Virginia Colony, and may have established a private plantation in Virginia. It is known, however, that after Robert Bargrave died in 1600, John did not inherit the tannery in Bridge. The house, a Jacobean house of brick with stone details, was completed approximately 1611. A view painted between 1695 and 1705 by Jan Wyck is shown below:


John and Jane had multiple children, including their oldest son Robert, born c 1598 in Patrixbourne, Kent and their sixth son John born c 1610 in Nonington, Kent. During this period, life seems to have been more or less peaceful. John had a grant of arms in September 1611 from Camden Garter, which are visible in this small painting from 1650. However, there are indications that John’s investments were not successful as there are documents of a conflict between John and Sir Thomas Smythe indicating that John was not getting the return he should have and blamed Sir John Smythe, appealing for redress concerning cargoes that were not properly sold (or for which he was not paid), as shown by a petition filed with the Privy Council 1622. Somewhere after this date, it appears there was some kind of crisis, possibly loss of funds, as reminiscences of his son John (John the younger), who was in school at the King’s School in Canterbury around 1623-1624, indicated that he visited his aunt and uncle (John’s sister Angela married John Boys, who was dean of Canterbury Cathedral until his death in 1625) instead of returning to Bifrons which was nearby. The visit to his aunt and uncle could have been his preference, but it could also be argued that the house was closed or the family in straitened circumstances. John the younger studied at St. Peter’s College, Cambridge where he became a librarian then a fellow before becoming a clergyman himself.  Few records mention the family at Bifrons or their circumstances in this period.

It is important to note that this era was a time of unrest. Queen Elizabeth had died in 1603, leading to the succession of James I/VI and the joint rule of Scotland with England. James I was an extravagant king who was not particularly content to be restricted by Parliament. In 1625, James’ son Charles I inherited the throne and had a desire to formally unite England and Scotland as one kingdom, an idea not popular with Parliament. He also believed in the divine right of kings to rule unchecked. Also in 1625, Charles married Henrietta Maria, a Catholic French princess.

John Bargrave died sometime in 1625. It is not known when Jane died. Both were buried in Patrixbourne Church of St. Mary, where their remains were supposedly buried beneath the floor of the south chapel.

John’s oldest son Robert survived to adulthood. Robert was royalist as were his uncle Isaac and younger brother. It is easy to assume that, as the oldest son, Robert inherited Bifrons House and continued to reside there with his remaining family after his father’s death. However, at least in the sources I found, details about this Robert Bargrave are sketchy; not even the date of his death is known. It is interesting to note that he seemed to have inherited the estate at age 27 but did not marry until age 37. During the interim, he was apparently a soldier, and state papers of 1627 indicate Captain Robert Bargrave was involved with provisioning and transporting soldiers to fight the French. He married Elizabeth Peyton in 1635. They had children, the oldest being a son John who was the last Bargrave of Bifrons. Elizabeth’s father was Sir Samuel Peyton, MP, 1st Baronet of Knowlton and his wife Mary Aston. It seems probable that Elizabeth came with a significant dowry, as well as prominent connections. Data indicates that, by 1641, Robert was a Justice of the Peace. As tensions increased and the political situation worsened, Robert seems to have maintained his military connection as data indicates he served for the king and participated in the Kentish uprising in August 1648. I have found no mention of him after that, so it seems possible that he was killed or died shortly after this.

In the meantime, Robert's uncle Isaac (dean of Canterbury from 1625-1643) and younger brother John (fellow at St Peter’s College in Cambridge) had already paid for their royalist sentiments: Isaac was imprisoned in August of 1642; although he was released in a few months, he died shortly after that in January of 1643. John the younger was stripped of his fellowship in 1644, and subsequently fled abroad. He did not return until after the restoration. Among other appointments, he became a canon at Canterbury in 1662. He married a wealthy widow named Frances Osborne in 1665. He died in Canterbury May 11, 1680. In the meantime, his nephew John (Robert’s oldest son, hereafter called John the youngest) seems to have kept ownership of Bifrons House through the Civil War, Parliamentary rule and the Restoration, but could not hold it. In 1662, John the youngest sold the property to Sir Arthur Slingsby. In 1663, he raised memorial stones on the graves of his parents and grandparents in the Bifrons Chapel of the Church of St Mary in Patrixbourne, on which he indicated that his family had been destroyed by the Civil War. (This seems to be true of his most immediate family; the Bargrave family was far from extinct.) And yet, despite the Bargrave family’s Royalist sympathies and activities, the house seems to have stayed with the family throughout the period. I found no indication of destruction or confiscation so I can’t help but wonder how John the youngest's loyalty may have fallen. The house his grandfather built survived...

Stone of John and Jane Bargrave
St Mary, Patrixbourne, Kent - Ledger slab
by John Salmon, CC BY-SA 2.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13508584

The story of Bifrons to be continued...

Sources include:

Archive.org. “Captain John Bargrave’s Charges Against the Former Government of Virginia.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 6 No. 3, January 1899, PP. 225-228. HERE;
THE FULL TEXT OF THE OXINDEN LETTERS 1607-1642, 1641, CXCIII (Draft) Henry Oxinden to Robert Bargrave [MS 28,000, F359] September 23, 1641. HERE; Full Text of Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series of the Reign of Charles I, 1627-1628. Edited by John Bruce, Esquire VPSA. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts, 1848. Vol LXXIX 1627: Sept 1 #5, Sept 24 #22. HERE

Bifrons and Beyond. “Bifrons: Owners and Tenants,” posted August 28, 2016. HERE

British History Online. “Parishes: Patricksbourne.” Edward Hasted, 'Parishes: Patrixborne', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 9 (Canterbury, 1800), pp. 277-286. British History Online HERE; Calendar of State Papers Colonial, East Indies, China and Persia, Vol. 6, 1625-1629. East Indies: September 1627, Sept. 24. Cowes, aboard the Loyalty. 508. Capt. Robert Bargrave to Edward Nicholas. HERE

Canterbury-Cathedral.org. “The Bargrave Collection.”HERE

Geni.com. “John Bargrave of Patricksbourne, 1st of Bifrons,” by Erica Howland, last updated June 19, 2015. HERE

History of Parliament online. “Peyton, Sir Samuel, 1st Bt. (c1591-1623), of Knowlton, Kent” by Peter LeFevre and Andrew Thrush. HERE

GoogleBooks.com Ashton, Robert. COUNTER-REVOLUTION: The Second Civil War and Its Origins, 1646-8. Yale University Press, 1994. P. 440 HERE; Hastead, Edward. THE HISTORY AND TOPOGRAPHICAL SURVEY OF THE COUNTY OF KENT VOL. 4. Canterbury: 1799. “The Family of Bargrave”, p. 217. HERE; Bann, Stephen. UNDER THE SIGN: John Bargrave as Collector, Traveller and Witness. PP. 46-48. HERE

KentArchaeology.org. “A History of Bifrons Mansion House” by B. M. Thomas. Archaeologia Cantiana, Vol. 110, 1992. HERE; “Patricksbourne Church and Bifrons” by the Rev. W. A. Scott Robertson. Archaeologia Cantiana, Vol. 14, 1882. HERE; “RESEARCHES AND DISCOVERIES IN KENT – The Builder of Bifrons” by Philip H. Blake. Archaeologia Cantiana, Vol. 108, 1990, p. 270. HERE

Nonington.org. “Nonington and the Kentish Rebellion and the Second English Civil War of 1648.” (post undated.) HERE ; “Colonel Francis and Robert Hammon-Updated Biographies.” January 29, 2013. HERE

USArchive.org. THE VISITATION OF KENT, Taken in the Years 1619-1621 by John Philipot, Rouge Dragon, Marshal and Deputy to William Camden, Clarenceux. Edited by Robert Hovenden, FSA. London: 1898. [From The Publications of The Harleian Sociaty established AD MDCCCLXIX, Volume XLII for the Year MDCCCXCVIII] , P. 6. HERE

Images are public domain except where noted.
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An avid reader, Lauren Gilbert was introduced to English authors early in life. Lauren has a bachelor of arts degree in liberal arts English with a minor in Art History. A long-time member of JASNA, she has presented various programs at the South Florida Region, and a breakout session at the the Annual General Meeting in Ft. Worth, TX. She lives in Florida with her husband. Her first book HEYERWOOD: A Novel is available. She is finishing a second novel, A RATIONAL ATTACHMENT. For more information, visit her website - http://www.lauren-gilbert.com/.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Wickedly Romantic, The Earl of Rochester

by Barbara Gaskell Denvil

When England, disillusioned with Cromwellian rule and its enforced puritanism, welcomed a monarch back to the throne, King Charles II was crowned, and thus began the period we now call The Restoration.

Partially due to a backlash regarding the strict codes of puritanism, and partly due to the character and behaviour of King Charles II himself, this period in history was soon known as a time of loose morals and sexual freedoms, particularly amongst the titled and moneyed classes. Charles was a popular king most of the time, a man of considerable charm and conviviality, but the country continued paranoid concerning Catholicism and the remaining believers in Protestant puritanism were outraged by the new trends in liberal immorality.

Charles had his faults. He also had his virtues and strengths. He tended to elevate his many mistresses to the highest titles in the land and shower them lavishly with the somewhat impoverished country’s dwindling funds. This occurred even to the detriment of those who had suffered appalling poverty and hardship whilst backing Charles as king and attempting to save his father before him. Naturally he was criticised for this, but he was also loved for his flamboyance, disregard for stuffy rules, and outrageous indulgence of his lovers. His queen was unable to give him children, but he managed to sire a number of them on his mistresses. So much for Charles!

John Wilmot
2nd Earl of Rochester
John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester, (1647-1680) burst into this scene as one of Restoration England’s most fascinating and unusual characters. His life was hardly routine – and it started with his father. The first earl aided Charles, son of the deposed and executed King Charles I, to escape England during the civil war, both in outrageous disguise before successfully arriving in safe haven abroad. So the first earl was quite a character too, heavy drinking, firmly royalist and unstoppable when roused. Not that young John ever saw much of him. The first earl seemed to fear only one thing – the responsibility of his wife and only child. So John was left to grow up in puritan England with his strictly religious mother, a clever and sensitive young man who heard of his father’s heroic exploits – but did not meet him and knew himself unwanted.

Brought up to consider even Christmas carols, the hint of a dance, bright clothes and any dash of decoration in a church as heinous blasphemy, young John Wilmot was accepted into Oxford University by the age of 12 and later the following year was taken on the grand tour of France and Italy where he discovered many more exciting temptations with vice at the top of the list. He returned to England with a good deal more knowledge than he had left it.

With Charles II on the throne and his father dead, John was now the 2nd earl, with a head full of inspiration and dreams. He loved poetry, which was most definitely in fashion at court during that time, and began tentatively to write his own. However, living a life of ease and pleasure was considered not only the God-given right of a titled gentleman but also essential, since no nobleman could be seen to trade - let alone work!! Yet the Earldom of Rochester came with virtually no land, property or acquisitions, and the 2nd earl was as poor as a church mouse. The king later promised paid positions and allowances, but the king rarely paid up and his promises were frequently empty ones.

So how has Rochester become the inspiration for a multitude of historical romances and authors from the Brontes to Georgette Heyer? It all started when the earl attempted to abduct the woman he wanted to marry. Elizabeth Malet was an heiress, and her two guardians refused Rochester, the poverty-stricken young earl, all permission to court her. She was being approached by far more eligible suitors, although she had refused them all. She was very young, attractive, high spirited and rich. What more could any man want?

It does seem that Rochester was genuinely in love with the lady, and it became clear that abduction was the only way to get her. Sadly this attempt failed when the coach was seen and stopped. The prospective bride was saved, and the 18 year old Rochester was arrested and thrown into the Tower of London. With the plague raging through London at the time (1665), there was considerable danger. The very young earl pleaded with the king and was eventually set free. He later became a close friend of the king although the friendship was sometimes a rocky one. On his release from the Tower, Rochester promptly joined the Dutch wars and following his father’s example, acted with considerable courage, quickly becoming known as a naval hero.

The Lady Elizabeth had declined all other offers of marriage in his absence and on his return to England, they immediately escaped her guardians and eloped. This action leads me to suspect that it was Elizabeth herself, rather than Rochester, who actually organised the earlier abduction. She was in love with the handsome young man with an outrageous and infectious sense of humour who had secretly wooed her with poetry and wildly romantic demonstrations.

And so they were married. But they failed to live happily ever after, although it would seem they were gloriously happy at times and managed to produce four children, three girls and a boy. But Rochester was soon in the employ of the king and therefore obliged to stay in London at court while his wife stayed on the country estate. When separated, Rochester was anything but faithful. He followed the court’s and king’s example and frequented the brothels and theatres. Actresses at that time were little different from prostitutes, and Rochester became particularly involved with one – Elizabeth Barry – who he tutored until she became the most lauded actress of her time. I think some historians have over-exaggerated the seriousness of this infatuation, but she did bear him a lover’s child, a little girl named Elizabeth whom Rochester quickly adopted onto his own estates after breaking up with the mother and accusing her of neglecting the child. Thus at one time he had a wife named Elizabeth, a legitimate daughter Elizabeth, a mistress Elizabeth and an illegitimate daughter Elizabeth. Well at least he wasn’t in danger of saying the wrong name by mistake at impolitic moments.

But at that time the accepted standard of wild immorality had serious disadvantages, and soon Rochester (as did half the court and the king himself) contracted syphilis. A hideous disease, it was both misunderstood and incurable. The agonies that syphilis brought to its many sufferers is almost unimaginable, and Rochester began to die. It took years of collapse and remission during which time he wrote swathes of the most glorious poetry. He also converted from blatant atheism to become a devout religious believer.

Certainly much of Rochester’s poetry is hilariously vulgar and even pornographic, but a good deal more is enchantingly beautiful, thoughtful, and insightful. Although cynical, he was also a master of human understanding, and his work is rich in empathy and melancholy. He was certainly one of the greatest intellectuals of his age, and had he lived longer he would perhaps have become the most accomplished and famed of poets.

The 2nd Earl of Rochester,
older and sicker
The young earl is now more particularly famed as a drunken libertine, but Rochester was an awful lot more than that. Adored by his wife although he often treated her badly, and much loved by his children, he was tall, handsome, highly intelligent, eloquent and dashing, honest and courageous, fought duels, led a madly adventurous life of escapes, disguises, and even foreign espionage in the king’s service. His poetry was of the highest quality, although frequently dissolute and uproariously humorous. There was certainly no one quite like him. But he died tragically young and in terrible pain at the age of 33, leaving a reputation which has lasted more than 400 years.

This is an Editor's Choice originally published September 21, 2015

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Barbara Gaskell Denvil was born in Gloucestershire, England but, has now moved to rural Australia. She has published six historical novels - Satin Cinnabar which is a crime adventure actually commencing on the Bosworth battlefield, Sumerford's Autumn which is an adventure mystery with strong romantic overtones, set in the early years of the Tudor reign, Blessop's Wife (published in Australia as The King's Shadow) which is a crime/romance set in England during 1482-3 in those turbulent years around the death of King Edward IV, The Flame Eater, a romantic crime novel also set in 1482/3, The Deception of Consequences, a Tudor mystery-adventure, and a time-slip novel Fair Weather, a highly adventurous mystery which is set earlier during the reign of King John.
Her new novel The Deception of Consequences is a Tudor mystery - adventure and will be published late February 2017. Barbara is also an author of fantasy fiction.

Barbara's novels are available through Amazon.






Sunday, August 19, 2018

Editors Weekly Round-up, August 19, 2018


by the EHFA Editors

Never miss a post on English Historical Fiction Authors. Here's our round-up for the week ending August 18. Enjoy!

by Cryssa Bazos



by Ann Swinfen
(Editor's Choice from the Archives, 
reposted in memory of Ann, who passed away on August 4)

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Fenland Riots

by Ann Swinfen
An Editor's Choice, originally published April 15, 2014.  
Editors' note: Ann passed away on August 4, 2018

My new novel Flood takes place in the seventeenth century in a very distinctive area along the east coast of England, known as the Fens. Once a remote, slightly mysterious region of marshes and hidden villages, it attracted the attention of men greedy to get their hands on land by fair means or foul, never mind the consequences for the local inhabitants. They used the notorious method of ‘enclosure’, but in the Fens they were up against a formidable people who could not easily be bullied into submitting. When I discovered their story, I knew I had to write about it.

I had always known about enclosures, of course. From roughly Tudor times to the nineteenth century in England, land was stolen by large landowners or groups of speculators by semi-legal means. This stolen land was ‘common land’, that is, land held in common by a group of people, often the free villagers of a parish who were peasant farmers or yeomen. They had ancient rights to cultivate arable land on a shared basis, to graze their flocks and herds on local meadows, and to gather firewood and feed their pigs in neighbouring woods.

The enclosers fenced off the commons, expelled the commoners – sometimes even seizing their animals – and took possession of the land for themselves. The local people rarely had any means of redress or compensation. If they went to law, almost invariably they lost their cases, at considerable financial cost, when opposed by those with influence and deep pockets. The result is that there are very few common lands left today. Port Meadow in Oxford still has common grazing for a few Freemen who can claim ancient rights granted by Alfred the Great. The New Forest has privileges for those who are eligible.

This was a massive injustice, carried out under the guise of land improvement, or in order to create large wool-producing businesses. And in some cases it may have led to more efficient farming methods, but nevertheless it resulted in poverty, starvation and dispossession for many of its victims. The Highland Clearances in Scotland had a similar effect, although in their case small tenants were cleared off land already owned by a wealthy landowner in order to produce a larger income from sheep.

The Fens of East Anglia (stretching along the east coast of England from Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk to Lincolnshire) were from ancient times an area where land, water and marsh combined to form a rich tapestry with unique problems and rewards. The natural phenomenon of the area is the annual deposit by winter rains of rich silt from higher ground inland on to the lower arable fields of the fenlands. This produced some of the richest soil in England.

Floods would cover these fields in winter, then drain away, leaving land ready for cultivation. Between these arable fields lay a network of ancient peat bogs and waterways – some natural, some man-made over the centuries by local people who understood their special environment and the behaviour of their annual floods. They lived by arable farming, raising stock, fishing and water-fowling. The peat bogs provided fuel as well as absorbing excess water, and the rushes and willows growing along the waterways furnished materials for everything from thatch to hurdles and eel-traps.

Then, in the early seventeenth century, the ‘adventurers’ came – adventurers because they invested their money in a speculative venture. They would drain this boggy land, which they mistakenly believed to be poor and unprofitable, seize control of it, and install settlers from Holland and France as rent-paying small farmers. The return on their money would be phenomenal – it was a fool-proof investment. There were plenty of Protestant refugees from Catholic persecution on the Continent who would be only too glad of a chance to start a new life on the reclaimed lands.

And what of the local people? Many held charters of ancient rights. These were ignored in the law courts. Some tried to obtain compensation, but often found themselves imprisoned or fined instead, for attempting to oppose the speculators.

Oliver Cromwell
But they were a tough people, the fenlanders. They fought for their rights, destroying the drainage ditches and pumping mills, attacking the drainage workers and settlers. The unrest spread throughout the Fens and was one of the underlying causes of the English Civil War. The war itself brought a temporary halt to the drainage, but in the lull between the two phases of the war, it began again. And whereas the first period of drainage and enclosure had been financed by the aristocracy and the king, the new speculators were the men who had risen to power under the new government, and included Oliver Cromwell himself, who, in the past, had declared that he would protect the fenlanders.

Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder
I was drawn to the period and the events in the Fens by the persistent courage of the local people in defending their land and their customary way of life. I was also fascinated by discovering that the women fought alongside their men, some of them even being accused of being witches because of their unwomanly behaviour. Yes, this was the very period when the infamous ‘witch-finder general’, Matthew Hopkins, was roaming over this same area, instigating witch-hunts and hounding hundreds of innocent men and women to their deaths. Mostly women. But some men too. Because of the imposition of strict and unforgiving Puritan rules by Cromwell’s government, clergymen who continued to practice the established ceremonies of the Anglican church – such as baptism and church weddings – were attacked and in some cases tried and executed for witchcraft.

The more I read about the Fenland Riots, as they came to be known, the more I wanted to tell the story of these persecuted people. In my novel Flood, Mercy Bennington and her family and friends provided the voices of those forgotten seventeenth century forebears of ours.

And the irony of it all? Because the engineers brought in to drain the Fens did not understand the local terrain, their works resulted in uncontrollable floods. Water which would once have been absorbed by the marshland was pumped out into new ditches which overflowed and flooded villages and homes. Not until the nineteenth century was efficient drainage carried out, and it destroyed the peat bogs which by the present day have withered and shrunk, so that in many places the rivers are now higher than the surrounding lands, a dangerous and unsustainable situation. In recent years it has come to be realised that the marshes along the sea coast of the Fens used to provide a buffer against that other source of floods – floods from the sea. As a result, some coastal farmlands are now being allowed to revert to salt marsh, to protect the land.

I wonder what Mercy Bennington would have had to say about that?

References:
Fraser, Antonia, The Weaker Vessel: Woman’s Lot in Seventeenth Century England
Lindley, Keith, Fenland Riots and the English Revolution
Plowden, Alison, Women All on Fire: The Women of the English Civil War

~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Ann Swinfen (http://www.annswinfen.com) published three novels with Random House, but The Testament of MariamFlood and The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez – she published herself under the imprint Shakenoak Press. Loving the whole independent publishing process, and the control it offers to authors, she thought it unlikely she would ever return to conventional publishing. Some of her short stories which previously appeared in magazines and on BBC radio are now published on Kindle. She also reissued her backlist titles as paperbacks and Kindles. In July 2018, she published The Stonemason's Tale (Oxford Medieval Mystery 6).

FLOOD @ Amazon UK
FLOOD @ Amazon US


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sugar Production in Colonial Barbados

by Cryssa Bazos

A little sugar in your coffee, a little in your tea. Today, sugar is everywhere and most people don’t appreciate that at one time this commodity was a luxury and considered to be white gold. It fuelled British colonization in the Caribbean and it was built on the backs of men and women, enslaved and indentured. Colonial Barbados was at the centre of the sugar trade going back to the mid-17th century and was known as the Sugar Island.

Map of Barbados, 1736; [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Colonizing Barbados

The earliest English settlement was established in 1627 through a private venture corporation headed by the Courteen Company, Anglo-Dutch rivals of the East India Company. The soil in Barbados was good, there were plenty of wild hogs roaming the island, and the island was unoccupied by the native Caribs. Unfortunately for the Courteen Company, a dispute for proprietorship of the island came from another source just as the first settlers were establishing themselves. The company failed to obtain a patent for the island from King Charles I, and the oversight was discovered when the governor of St. Kitts, William Warner, acting through the Earl of Carlisle, obtained proprietorship of Barbados as well as a few other Leeward islands. James Hay, the first Earl of Carlisle, was a favourite of King Charles and his wife was an infamous court lady. To read more about Lucy Hay, read The Infamous Countess of Carlisle. Over the next several years the matter of the proprietorship of Barbados was litigated in favour of the Earl eventually leaving the Courteen brothers financially bankrupt.

In the early years, settlers were not yet producing sugar; instead, they grew tobacco, indigo, and cotton. Not being able to compete with the superior tobacco being shipped from Virginia, the plantation owners eventually began to grow sugar cane. Plants were obtained from Dutch controlled Brazil, and by 1642, sugar cane production had started.

Plantations

In the early years, smaller plantations ranging from ten to thirty acres dominated Barbados, but as sugar production took off, wealthy landowners began to purchase and consolidate smaller plantations, in order to maximize their yields. Larger plantations of five hundred acres would have had approximately two hundred acres devoted to growing sugar cane, producing approximately 600,000 pounds of sugar in a 15 month growing cycle and generating an income of approximately £7,500 for the lowest grade (muscavado) brown sugar. Refined white sugar meant lower yields but even greater profits. To read about a 17th century plantation in Barbados, read St. Nicolas Abbey: 17th Century Sugar Plantation.

Indentured servants and slaves

Plantations needed field labourers. In the early years, owners would obtain indentured servants from the British Isles, mostly willing, though not always so. These servants would agree to indenture themselves for a period of 5 to 7 years after which time they would get their freedom dues in the form of land, or in later years, an agreed amount of sugar. As sugar production took over there were not enough indentured servants to supply the need, and plantation owners relied more and more on imported slaves from Africa. During periods of war and invasion in the 17th century, English Parliament forcibly shipped Scottish prisoners of war and displaced Irish men and women to work the fields.


Growing and harvesting sugar

The English settlers relied heavily on the Dutch for the knowledge of how to cultivate and harvest sugar cane. The Dutch not only taught them how to grow and convert the rich cane juice into lucrative sugar, they lent them the initial funds to purchase the equipment needed (ingenio).

Canes took approximately fifteen months to mature (they initially experimented with twelve months but their yields were low). Once cut, the sugar canes needed to be crushed within hours of being cut. Men and women would be working in the fields in ten hour days and during harvest time, it would not be unusual for them to be working into the night.

In the 17th century, cut stalks would be loaded onto a cart, piled vertically in the back of an ox-drawn cart such that the cane could be easily tipped and taken to the rollers. Alternatively, they were loaded on a crook rigged to the packsaddle of a donkey.

The crushing mills were situated on a high point of the plantation and designed like windmills. A team of oxen would turn the gears of the rollers. Crushed juice was collected into troughs, which ran downward through a series of tubes to the boiling house, which was situated at a lower elevation than the crushing mill.


Ingenio

The ingenio refers to the sugar works, or the equipment needed to crush the sugar cane and process the juice. This would include the crushers, rollers, the coppers in the boiling house and the stills. The end products include muscovado (brown unrefined sugar), refined white and rum (also called kill-devil in the 17th century).

The cut canes were passed through the rollers twice in order to extract all the juice. The remaining plant material would be carted away and used for pig fodder. Crushed cane juice would pass through a series of five boiling coppers followed by two cooling tanks. The entire process would take a week. The fires in the boiling house were kept alight day and night from Monday to Saturday at which point they were extinguished for Sunday. By the time the reduced cane juice reached the coolers, crystals would begin to form. The solid mass was then put into cone-shaped pots with plantain leaves on the bottom (where the molasses could be filtered out) and left in the curing house.

For muscovado sugar, the pots would be left to rest for a month before the sugar was ‘knocked out’ and bagged for transport to Bridgetown. For refined white sugar, after the sugar mass was put into the pot, a thin clay mixture was added right on top of the sugar to draw out the molasses content. The sugar would sit for four months after which time they would cut away the top and bottom (which was muscovado sugar and could be sold or passed through another round of boiling to process again) leaving the middle part which was pure white sugar.

Rum production used the skimmings of the boiling sugar during the clarifying process. The skimmings from the first two coppers would be discarded, but by the time the sap reached the third copper, the skimmings were syphoned off to the still house to be turned into rum. In the early days, the rum, or “kill-devil” was kept on the planation and given to the servants and slaves for various ailments. Whatever was in excess could be sold to the taverns in Bridgetown or shipped abroad.

Barbados dominated the sugar trade for the next few centuries. Today, sugar is still grown on the island, but it isn’t the major industry it once was. Next time you are asked, “One lump or two”, you will have a better appreciation for where it came from.

Recommended reading:

The True & Exact History of the Island of Barbados, by Richard Ligon; Originally published in London 1657.

~~~~~~~~~~

Cryssa Bazos is an award winning historical fiction author and 17th century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot, is published by Endeavour Media and is the first in a series called "Road to the Restoration". Traitor's Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award (historical fiction), a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards (historical romance) and the RNA Joan Hessayon Award. Cryssa is currently working on the second novel of the series called the Severed Knot, which follows Scottish POWs to the sugar cane fields in Barbados. The Severed Knot is slated to be released January 2019. 

Traitor's Knot is available through Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Connect with Cryssa through her Website - 17th Century Enthusiast, Facebook, Twitter (@CryssaBazos). Sign up for her Newsletter to receive updates on future releases. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Editors Weekly Round-up, August 12, 2018

by the EHFA Editors

Here's what you missed last week on English Historical Fiction Authors. Enjoy!


by Jacqui Reiter
(an Editor's Choice from the Archives)



by Maria Grace



Giveaway: A Tale of Two Murders by Heather Redmond
Comment on the blog by 11:59pm Sunday, August 12, 
for a chance to win a hardback copy (US) or e-book (rest of the world)







Friday, August 10, 2018

The Real Origins of the Ice Cream Cone

by Maria Grace

It is suggested that ice cream cones were an invention of an ice cream vendor at a fair (possibly the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis) in need of a way of serving their frozen treats. Who that ice cream vendor actually was and at what fair were they selling ice cream is a matter of some debate.

It does not take very long to fell that myth though. We know Italo Marchiony was granted a patent for a multiple cone mold on December 15, 1903 so ice cream cones were clearly around before the 1904 fair.

But just how far back do ice cream cones go? That’s where it all becomes rather interesting.

Wafers


Wafers, the stuff of which ice cream cones are made, date to the medieval era where they were an important part of a meal’s end. Over the next few hundred years, they came to be regarded as “stomach settlers,” served at the end to the meal to calm digestion.

Eventually—because creative cooks just can’t leave well enough alone don’t you know—wafers transformed into luxurious treats, making up an important element of the dessert course.  Rolled into three-dimensional shapes called funnels, cornucopias, horns or cornets they could be filled with all sort of fruit pastes, creams, and iced puddings—and chocolate, we must not forget the possibility of chocolate!

The first printed recipe for wafer cones is found Cleremont’s The Professed Cook from 1769.

Of Wafers and other Pastes

What is here meant by Cornets (Horn), is the thin Dutch Wafers twisted like a Horn.
Des Gaufres. 
Of Wafers. 
THE most fashionable are those made with cream. Mix as much powder-sugar as good flour, with a little orangeflower water-; put this into a proper vessel, and pour some good cream to it by little and little, stirring it very well with a spoon to hinder it from forming into lumps, and add as much cream as will make the paste or batter pour out pretty thick from the spoon. This is also made with Spanish, or sweet wine: mix an equal weight of sugar-powder and flour as before, and work it with one or two new-laid eggs, and sweet wine sufficient to make the batter of the same consistence as the first. They are also done with butter: use the flour and sugar as usual, add a little rasped lemon-peel, and a few drops of orange-flower water; mix as before by degrees, with very good butter melted in a little milk until it comes to the same consistence as others: the paste being prepared after this manner, of either kind, warm the waferiron on both sides, and rub it over with some butter tied in a linen bag, or a bit of virgin-wax; pour a spoonful of the batter, and bake over a smart fire, turning the iron once or twice until the wafer is done on both sides of a fine brown colour; if you would have them twisted, put them upon a mould ready at hand for that purpose; put it up directly as you take it out, and press it to the shape of whatever form you please, and so continue; always keep them in a warm place.
 .

From Wafers to Ice Cream Cones


One might note that Clermont does not actually talk about what to do with those cones once they are made. That was left entirely to the cook’s imagination. It was not until Francatelli’s The Modern Cook (1846) more than seventy five years later, that we see a specific recommendation that these wafer shapes be used to hold ice cream.  He recommended filling the wafer cornets with ice cream and using them to garnish ice cream puddings, including the rather spectacular creation Iced Pudding à la Chesterfield.

1342. ICED PUDDING, A LA CHESTERFIELD. 
GRATE one pound of pine-apple into a basin, add this to eight yolks of eggs, one pint and a half of boiled cream, one pound of sugar, and a very little salt; stir the whole together in a stewpan over a stove-fire until the custard begins to thicken; then pass it through a tammy, by rubbing with two wooden spoons, in the same manner as for a purée, in order to force the pine-apple through the tammy. This custard must now be iced in the usual manner, and put into a mould of the shape represented in the annexed wood cut; and in the centre of the iced cream, some macédoine ice of red fruits, consisting of cherries, currants, strawberries and raspberries in a cherry-water ice, must be introduced; cover the whole in with the lid, then immerse the pudding in rough ice in the usual way, and keep it in a cool place until wanted. When about to send the pudding to table, turn it out of the mould on to its dish, ornament the top with a kind of drooping feather, formed with green angelica cut in strips, and arranged as represented in the wood-cut; garnish the base with small gauffres, filled with some of the iced cream reserved for the purpose, place a strawberry on the top of each, and serve. (Emphasis added)

Were there Ice Cream Cones in the Regency?


But I’m pretty sure that someone made the leap to use wafer coronets for ice cream in that seventy-five year gap between Cleremont’s book and Francatelli’s. In fact, near the end of the Regency era, in The Italian Confectioner (1820), G. A. Jarrin “wrote, that his almond wafers should be rolled ‘on pieces of wood like hollow pillars, or give them any other form you may prefer.  These wafers may be made of pistachios, covered with currants and powdered with coarse sifted sugar; they are used to garnish creams; when in season, a strawberry may be put into each end, but it must be a fine’ . . . He suggested turning another of his wafers into ‘little horns; they are excellent to ornament a cream.” (Quinzio, 2000) Sounds like an ice cream filled cone to me!

Of course, that is only supposition, not concrete evidence. But fear not, we do have some tangible indication that ice cream cones might have been publicly consumed as early as 1807.

A colored engraving, titled Frascati, by Parisian Louis-Philibert Debucourt (1755-1832) published in 1807, depicted a Parisian café where at a “small table in the right hand corner of the engraving with two ladies and a gentleman. On the table is a carafe and a glass, and the buxom lady facing us appears to be eating out of a cone which she is holding in her right hand. The gesture is modern and familiar to all of us ice cream cone consumers in the 2lst century: cone slightly tipped, mouth open for a lick. Anyone would recognize this as an ice cream cone.” (Weir, 2004) (I can’t post the image here for copyright reasons, but you can find it HERE )

For more on Ice Cream in Jane Austen's World, click HERE.

Click Here for References


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. 

After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

Click 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, or follow on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Exotic Visitors: "the last of the Mohicans" Come to England, 1766

by Jacqui Reiter

An unexpected visit 
 
The summer of 1766 was especially wet. The five children of British politician William Pitt were staying at the seaside town of Weymouth for their health, but the relentless rain kept them from doing much sea-bathing.

The children had been in Weymouth less than a week before an unexpected adventure broke the rain-sodden monotony. On 24 July, four men and three women from the Wappinger tribe of Mohecannuk in New York landed at Weymouth after a month-long journey across the Atlantic. Edward Wilson, the Pitt children's tutor, described what happened:
A message came from the Chiefs themselves to inform the Ladies & Gentlemen [Hester, John, Harriot, William, and James Pitt] that if they had known that any of Mr Pitt's family was in town they wou'd have paid their respects to them first; and that now they wou'd absolutely see nobody till they had done themselves that honour ... At their coming into the room, the Chief of the Mohecaunnuck [sic] Tribe made a speech to Master Pitt [nine-year-old John, the eldest son] in the Indian tongue, & at the conclusion, presented him with a written translation of it in English.[1]

The seven natives made a tremendous impression on the Pitt children, who ranged in age from ten and a half to six and had never travelled far from home. Their mother, in London, could well imagine "the surprise of honest little John at being so extraordinarily addressed ... an odder event I think cou'd not well happen".[2] At least two of the children, Hester and William, wrote letters about it to their parents (seven-year-old William's was in Latin), and the other three probably did so too. "We found by talking to them that they had Christian names the same as the English," Hester wrote to her mother.[3]

The Mohecannuk of Stockbridge

 
Statue of Daniel Nimham by Michael Keropian (Wikimedia Commons)

The "Christian names" of the four Mohecannuk men that so surprised Hester Pitt were Daniel Nimham (or Ninmaham), Jacob Cheeksaunun, John Naunaphtaunk, and Solomon Uhhaunauwaunmut. (The names of the three women are not recorded). They had come all the way to Britain out of sheer desperation: their ancestral lands had been taken from them, and they wished to petition the King in person to have then restored.[4]

The name "Mohecannuk", occasionally written "Mohican", is almost certainly familiar to many from James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Last of the Mohicans. In 1766 the Mohecannuk weren't quite as badly off as Cooper made them out to be, but, like many North American tribes, they were very much under threat from colonial expansion.

Land belonging to the Mohecannuk tribe in the 18th century (Wikimedia Commons)

The Wappinger were a subset of the Mohecannuk. The name possibly came from the Algonquian "Wapani", or "Eastern People", since they were the easternmost Mohecannuk people: their lands lay along the east bank of the Hudson River, across the border between New York and Connecticut, over 200,000 acres in all. The tribe was small but well-established: at the start of the 17th century they numbered about 1000, and their number had grown considerably by the mid-18th century.[5]

After initial struggles with the early Dutch and British settlers in the 17th century, the Wappinger decided the colonists were here to stay and they might as well do business with them, although culturally they kept themselves aloof. The problem was they had always been hunters and farmers, and they soon found their land parcelled up and sold, or simply taken, by the European arrivals.[6]

The Philipse family
 
By the time Daniel Nimham became chief, or Sachem, of the Wappinger tribe in 1760, much Mohecannuk land had already been lost to Dutch and British settler families such as the Van Renssalaers and the Livingstons. The real threat, however, came from a family called Philipse.

The Philipses were originally Dutch. Vrederic Felypsen had arrived in New Amsterdam in 1674, but he soon took an oath of allegiance to the British Crown and anglicised his name to Philipse. He and his son Adolph set about establishing themselves as one of the most powerful landowning mercantile families in New York. Through marriage alliances and strategic purchases the Philipse lands soon extended twenty-four miles in three counties, from Croton River to Spuyten Duyvil Creek, including parts of New York City.[7]

Frederick Philipse III (Wikimedia Commons)

 Felypson's great-grandson, Frederick Philipse III, took over the estate in 1751. He had considerable local clout: he represented Westchester County in the New York Assembly from 1751 to 1775, where he was well-known for supporting and proposing measures friendly to the British Crown.[8] When he decided to absorb the ancient Wappinger hunting grounds into his lands, therefore, he probably did not expect much resistance.

During the French and Indian War in North America, Daniel Nimham and his Wappinger joined forces with the British commander Sir William Johnson and fought against the French. Because most of the men were away fighting, the remaining Wappinger moved, temporarily (or so they thought), to Stockbridge, Massachusetts.[9]

While they were away, however, Frederick Philipse took possession of the empty Wappinger lands. His claim to the lands was, ostensibly, legitimate: in 1697, Adolph Philipse had engaged in a treaty with the Wappinger to purchase part of their lands in northern New York. The problem lay in interpreting the treaty. Nimham claimed the treaty had only sold a part of the Wappinger lands; Philipse claimed his ancestor had been granted the whole lot by the Governor of New York.[10]

The matter went to court. New York's legislature rejected the Wappinger case. They appealed to the Governor, who (on the advice of the Council – of which Philipse was a member) dismissed them out of hand in February 1765.[11] This left the Wappinger with no recourse but to take their complaint to the highest level: the King himself.

The Wappinger in England
 
Alien and exotic as they were, Nimham and his party attracted much interest, and considerable sympathy, among the English. They arrived with no money, but an official order was issued to look after them at government expense and local society fell over themselves to host and entertain them.[12]

After their visit to the Pitt children, the Wappinger travelled by coach to the Duke of Kingston's ball, where they "danced according to their manner, with the war whoop", and practised English country dances. They were taken on a tour of Stonehenge and Wilton House on their way to London, which they reached in early August, where their host (a Mr Lowe) showed them off at Marylebone Gardens.[13]

"The Sachems are remarkably tall and stout," the newspapers reported gleefully, "one of them six Feet and an Half high without Shoes, which they don't wear, of a brown shining Complexion, and bold manly Countenance, dressed in the Indian Manner. The Women, who are Ladies of Fashion, were of the same Complexion with the Men".[14]

Nimham had spent some time living with an English family as a child, and so could talk a little English. The Pitt tutor, Mr Wilson, noted that "one of them ... is a kind of Interpreter to the rest", presumably Nimham. Despite this, they travelled with an unnamed "Major", who acted as a barrier between the Wappinger and the curious crowds.[15]

They spent some weeks in London, waiting. They never did see the King, but they did receive a favourable response from the Lords of Trade, recently appointed under the new ministry of William Pitt (now Earl of Chatham). The Secretary of State, Lord Shelburne, instructed their lordships to report "there is foundation for further examination into the state of the facts and proceedings upon which the Complaint [of the tribe] is grounded". The Lords of Trade concluded the Governor and Council of New York had acted with "unreasonable Severity, the Colour of great Prejudice & Partiality and ... an intention to intimidate these Indians from prosecuting their claims".[16]

Unfortunately, the Lords of Trade did not have the last word. The King did not review the petition, and a second court case in the Colonies reached the same conclusion as the first. Philipse exemplified the old adage that possession was nine-tenths of the law.

Aftermath
 
Karma works in strange ways, and Philipse did not get to enjoy his spoils for long. He chose the wrong side in the American Revolution, and in 1776 was proscribed as a traitor to his country. New York appropriated all his land in much the same way as Philipse had dispossessed Nimham's people. Philipse died in exile in 1786.[17]

Nimham's story was no happier. Alienated by the inattention of the British Crown to his people's plight, he joined the rebel side during the Revolution. He and fifty Wappinger warriors were surrounded and killed by British and Loyalist troops at the Battle of Kingsbridge in August 1778.[18]

The remaining Wappinger were eventually absorbed into the Oneida Nation. They never, of course, recovered their land, and eventually moved west. Today their descendants live on a reservation in Shawano County, Wisconsin.[19]

It's a sad ending to a rather romantic tale. I wonder whether the Pitt children ever discovered what happened to the Mohecannuk Indians who visited them on that rain-swept July day in Weymouth.

__________

References


[1] Edward Wilson to Lady Chatham, 26 July 1766, National Archives Chatham MSS PRO 30/8/67 f 3

[2] Lady Chatham to Edward Wilson, 29 July 1766, in Lord Ashbourne, Pitt: Some Chapters of his Life and Times (London, 1898), p. 3

[3] Lady Hester Pitt to Lady Chatham, 21 August 1766, National Archives Hoare MSS PRO 30/70/5/330a; William Pitt to Lord Chatham, [August 1766], in J.H. Rose, William Pitt and National Revival (London, 1911), p. 44

[4] Alden T. Vaughan, Transatlantic Encounters (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 176-8

[5] Patrick Frazier, The Mohicans of Stockbridge (Nebraska, 1992), pp. xi-xv, 2

[6] Frazier, pp. 9, 12

[7] State of New York, An American Loyalist: the ordeal of Frederick Philipse III (NY, 1976), p. 6

[8] An American Loyalist, pp. 8, 13-4

[9] Vaughan, pp. 176-8

[10] Report of the Lords of Trade on the Petition of the Wappinger Indians, 30 August 1766, in J.R. Brodhead (ed), Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, VII (Albany, 1856), 868-70

[11] Report of the Lords of Trade, 868-70

[12] New Daily Advertiser, 8 August 1766

[13] Caledonian Mercury, 11 August 1766

[14] Public Advertiser, 8 August 1766

[15] Edward Wilson to Lady Chatham, 26 July 1766, National Archives Chatham MSS PRO 30/8/67 f 3; New Daily Advertiser, 8 August 1766; Public Advertiser, 8 August 1766

[16] Report of the Lords of Trade, 868-70

[17] An American Loyalist, pp. 26, 31

[18] "Daniel Nimham" (Wikipedia), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Nimham (accessed 8/1/2015)

[19] Frazier, p. xi

This is an Editor's Choice and was originally published January 8, 2015

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Jacqueline Reiter has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She blogs at www.thelatelord.com and you can follow her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/latelordchatham) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/latelordchatham). The Late Lord: the Life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, a non-fiction account of John Pitt, was published by Pen & Sword Books in January 2017. Her novel about John and William Pitt, Earl of Shadows, was published by Endeavour Media in October 2017.