Sunday, April 28, 2019

Editors Weekly Round-up, April 28, 2019

by the EHFA Editors

English Historical Fiction Authors covers various aspects of British history every week. Contributors may give you saints and sinners, politics or war. Learn about kings, queens, and nobles, or the common man and woman, and legends from ancient to post-WWII

Lauren Gilbert takes the spotlight this week, with her informative post about the life of Elizabeth Raffald, less 'Mrs Beaton' and more the 'Martha Stewart' of the Georgian age:

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Elizabeth Raffald: The Martha Stewart of the Georgian Era

by Lauren Gilbert

Elizabeth Raffald,  From the 1782 edition of The Experienced English Housekeeper published by Baldwin

Elizabeth was born about 1733 in Doncaster, near York, and may have been baptized July 8, 1733. Her father was Joshua Whitaker, school teacher, taught her and siblings (4 sisters) including French. In the introduction to his work, Roy Shipperbottom indicates that her mother’s name was Elizabeth. However, in other data, there was a suggestion that her mother may be someone else. Little is known about Joshua. Shipperbottom’s introduction states that Joshua and Elizabeth moved from Wadwoth to Doncaster by the time the infant Elizabeth was baptized on July 8th, 1733. The Dictionary of National Biography does not mention her mother’s name, which could certainly lead one to speculate. Shipperbottom lists Elizabeth's sisters: Jane, Sarah, Ann and Mary. One learned confectionery (Mary) and another married a flax grower.

She went into service at age 15, about 1748. She was familiar with and developed contacts in the city of York. There are indications that she worked for several families in Yorkshire. John Raffald, born around 1724, was from a family with market garden stalls in Manchester and that owned land where they grew plants in Stockport with links to Salford. (John was the oldest but signed his share over to his brother George.) John was working in Pontefract for a firm of nurserymen called Perfects of Pontefract, which sold plants. There are hints that Elizabeth may have worked for a family in Pontefract (in Yorkshire, less than 100 mi from York) at the same time. There is speculation that Elizabeth met John there. John was shown in employee records as head gardener at Arley Hall in Cheshire in January 1760 with earnings of 20 pounds per year (worth roughly $3822.85 US today*).

In December 1760, Elizabeth went to Arley Hall as housekeeper (Arley Hall records indicate that she came from Doncaster-it is unclear if it means that she travelled to Arley Hall from Doncaster or that her family was from that area), earning 16 pounds per year (worth roughly $3058.28 US today*). Arley Hall was owned by Sir Peter Warburton, 4th baronet, and his wife Lady Elizabeth. Her duties included managing the female servants, buying certain comestibles from travelling vendors and keeping accounts of the money spent (she received cash monthly, turned her accounts in to the steward monthly). She would have had duties in the kitchen as well, including making wine, pickling and preserving, baking special cakes, and making table decorations. She apparently developed an excellent relationship with Lady Elizabeth.

After serving three years as housekeeper, Elizabeth married John Raffald on March 3, 1763 at Great Budworth in Cheshire (a village near to and dependent on the Warburtons of Arley Hall). Because house rules did not allow married couples, Elizabeth and John had to leave. Arley Hall records show their marriage and that they both departed some weeks afterwards, in April 1763. Some sources indicate they were given a year’s salary at that time. The couple moved to Manchester were John’s family had two market stalls were they sold plants, vegetables and flowers. The Raffald family were an established family and ran market gardens near the market place, and also owned land near Stockport, a town roughly seven miles away. Sources indicate John went to work in his family’s business. This left Elizabeth to her own devices.

Manchester was a thriving market town, with a growing textile trade. There was a commodities market and warehouses for fabrics produced in the surrounding area. Money was being made, and there were those with ambitions to rise to the gentry class. From their home in Fennel Street, Elizabeth sold food products, including Yorkshire hams and other prepared foods, sweets, and “portable soup”, and rented out space in the cellar. She also made table decorations and catered dinners. In 1764, she established a Register Office where people could find servants seeking work.

Elizabeth and John moved to a location at Market Place (later number 12 Market Place) in August 1766, which was near the Bull’s Head Inn and the town center (convenient to the newspaper, the Exchange and the market where John and his brothers sold produce). She opened a confectioner’s shop, where she sold cakes and other sweets, tea, coffee, chocolate, and condiments. She also took orders for christening and bride cakes. In addition to these ventures, she taught cooking. She maintained her ties with Arley Hall, as receipts show purchases from her. Her wares expanded, including perfumes and other items. She and John took on the running of the Bull’s Head. Apparently, Elizabeth’s culinary skills paid off: the officers of military stationed in the area transferred their mess to the Bull’s Head.

During this time period, they also started their family. Daughter Sarah may have been born in January of 1765. Mr. Shipperbottom’s and Ms. Appleton’s research showed daughters as follows: Emma was born March of 1766, Grace November 1767, Betty January 1769, Anna (or Hannah) January of 1770 and Harriot (or Harriet) September of 1774. Another child Mary was born in February of 1771, with a male child who apparently did not survive. Although some sources indicate she had nine or even sixteen children, these seven daughters and one male child are the ones who are known.

In addition to caring for her family and her business enterprises, Elizabeth was also working on her cookbook. She dedicated it to Lady Elizabeth Warburton (whom she visited in 1766 and from whom she presumably got a blessing on the cookbook and its dedication) and included clear instructions for her recipes (numbering about eight hundred, and shown as her own), based on her experience and designed to be of benefit for novice cooks. She provided information on when what foods were in season, and how to set an elegant table (including diagrams). Interestingly, she did not include recipes for medicinals, a deliberate exclusion as she preferred to defer to “...the physician’s superior judgement, whose proper province they are.” (1)

Foldout engraving of table layout for an elegant second course, from Elizabeth Raffald's The Experienced English Housekeeper, 4th Edition, 1775

The cookbook was published in 1769 on a local basis, by subscription. Eight hundred copies were sold in advance, and she signed the first page of each first edition. It was extremely popular and went into multiple editions. It is worth noting that in the second and later editions, new recipes were included that were not Elizabeth’s own. In another venture, Elizabeth gave Mr. Harrop of Harrop’s Manchester Mercury newspaper financial backing that allowed the paper to continue to be published. She entered into a similar venture in 1771 when she assisted in establishing Prescott’s Journal in Salford, a town near Stockport. She may have written articles for Prescott’s Journal. (Elizabeth had an appreciation for newspapers, as she advertised her wares in local periodicals on a regular basis.) Sometime between 1771-1773, she sold the copyright to Richard Baldwin of Paternoster Row in London for 1400 pounds (roughly $267,599.65 US today*).

Also in 1772, she produced THE MANCHESTER DIRECTORY FOR THE YEAR 1772, a trade directory of 60 pages listing local businesses and inhabitants in alphabetical order and the first of its kind for the city of Manchester. She included the Raffalds but not herself in this directory. It was designed to benefit business people and customers alike by making it possible for them to discover the locations of businesses and residents alike. (It certainly was beneficial to her employees charged with deliveries.) She published new and updated editions in 1772, 1773 and 1781. Each edition was published in a limited run of one hundred copies.

In 1772, John and Elizabeth advertised that they were closing their respective businesses, and advertised on August 25, 1772 that they were taking over the King’s Head in Salford. The King’s Head was a coaching inn with accommodations (including meals), an assembly room and stables. They held entertainments, including cards and public dinners. The officers’ mess followed them from the Bull’s Head to the King’s Head. John was the host, and appears to have been the mastermind of the Florists’ Feasts. In 1774, Elizabeth went into partnership with a Mr. Swaine in hiring out carriages from the inn. Unfortunately, the carriage rentals were not successful.

At this point, there appears to be difficulties arising. John and Elizabeth were carrying a load of debt and John acquired a reputation for heavy drinking and inconsistent behaviour. There were problems with thefts. In spite of the income from her books, including the large lump sum from Mr. Baldwin, and encouragement of her sister Mary Whitaker who moved nearby in 1776 and opened her own confectioners shop, their debt load became excessive. They ended up having to assign all of their business effects to their creditors by December 1778 and leave the King’s Head.

Their next venture was the Exchange Coffee House, for which John received the license as master in October of 1779. The coffee house was a come-down from their previous establishment, and offered much less scope for Elizabeth’s talents as the food offerings were quite limited. Subsequently, she sold hot beverages and small treats from a stand to ladies and gentlemen at the Kersal Moor racecourse nearby in the summer of 1780. There are indications that she was co-author of a book on midwifery with physician Charles White during this period as well. The stand at Kersal Moor was apparently her last independent venture.

Elizabeth Raffald died suddenly, possibly of a stroke, April 19, 1781 aged approximately 48 years. She was buried in St. Mary’s churchyard, in Stockport, in a family vault belonging to the Raffald family. She was survived by John and three daughters, her youngest Anna and two of her four older girls (Grace is known to have died in March of 1770, but it is not clear whether Sarah, Emma or Betty died young). . Some accounts indicate she was buried in haste, as her name was not engraved on the stone. There is speculation that John simply could not afford to pay for the engraving. After her death, creditors closed in and John fled to London, where it is believed that he sold the manuscript of the midwifery book. He died in 1809 at the age of 85. He was buried in Salford.

Because of the fame of her cookbook, Elizabeth Raffald has been compared variously to Mrs. Beaton of Victorian Fame and today’s Mary Berry. However, because of her entrepreneurial spirit, head for business, and wide-ranging talents, I prefer a comparison to today’s Martha Stewart. Elizabeth not only cooked the food, she created table decorations and established guidelines for setting an elegant table. She branched out beyond cooking and her cookbook into other areas, including starting an employment register, publishing her Manchester Directories, running inns and leasing carriages. She was a fascinating woman. It is worth noting that, in 2013, some of her recipes were re-introduced at Arley Hall, when the general manager announced that her pea soup, lamb pie and rice pudding would be served in the hall’s restaurant. I think she would have been pleased.

* Currency converter: I used the converter using a base year of 1770 at this site: HERE



Sources include:

Appleton, Suze. THE COMPLETE ELIZABETH RAFFALD Author, Innovator and More from Manchester’s 18th Century. 2017: Suze Appleton.

Raffald, Elizabeth. THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER, with an Introduction by Roy Shipperton. Ann Bagnall, editor. 1997: Southover Press, Lewes.

Stephen, Sir Leslie, ed. DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, Vol. 1-22, 1921-1922: Oxford University Press, London.

Arley Hall Archives. HERE “Georgian chef Elizabeth Raffald’s return to Arley Hall menu” posted April 6, 2013 (no author shown). HERE

Chesterfield Life. “Elizabeth Raffald-Arley Hall’s Domestic Goddess” by Paul Mackenzie, posted May 20, 2013 and updated Feb. 6, 2018. HERE

Museum of Fine Arts Houston. “Keeping House: The Story of Elizabeth Raffald” by Caroline Cole, posted Sept. 30, 2011. HERE

Sheroes of History. “Elizabeth Raffald: The Original Domestic Goddess and Celebrity Chef” by Naomi Wilcox-Lee, posted Dec. 10, 2015.HERE

The Elizabeth Raffald Society. HERE


Elizabeth, from the 1782 edition of THE EXPERIENCED HOUSEKEEPER, Wikimedia Commons (public domain).    HERE

2nd Course Table Layout, from the 4th edition of THE EXPERIENCED HOUSEKEEPER, Wikimedia Commons (public domain). HERE


Lauren Gilbert is a dedicated reader and student of English literature and history, holding a BA in liberal arts English with a minor in Art History.  A long-time member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, she has done several presentations for the local region, and delivered a break out session at the 2011 Annual General Meeting.  Her first book, HEYERWOOD: A Novel was published in 2011, and her second, A RATIONAL ATTACHMENT, will be released (finally!) later this year.  She lives in Florida with her husband, and is researching material for a biography.  For more information, visit her website here

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Editors Weekly Round-up, April 21, 2019

by the EHFA Editors

English Historical Fiction Authors covers various aspects of British history every week. Contributors may give you saints and sinners, politics or war. Learn about kings, queens, and nobles, or the common man and woman, and legends from ancient to post-WWII. Subscribe to the blog, follow us on Facebook, or Twitter.

Enjoy this week's round-up, and never miss a post.

by Beryl Kingston

Friday, April 19, 2019

Pirate Prince of the Caribbean: Rupert of the Rhine

by Cryssa Bazos

Prince Rupert of the Rhine
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
One of the most dashing and iconic figures of the War of the Three Kingdoms is Prince Rupert of the Rhine. The son of Frederick V, Elector of Palatine, and Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James VI of Scotland and I of England, he fought for King Charles I’s against Parliament. The force and swiftness of his cavalry charge usually struck terror in the Parliamentarians. To this day, portraits of Rupert still causes hearts to flutter.

While Rupert is mostly known as a Royalist cavalry commander, he did move the fight from land to sea around 1648, leading his own fleet against the Parliamentary navy. He started in the Mediterranean before skipping over to Ireland to support the Irish Royalists for a time. While Rupert sailed in the West Indies briefly in 1651 before returning to the North African coast, it was the period between May 1652 and December 1652 when he effectively turned Pirate Prince, sailing through the West Indies hunting for Parliamentarian ships.

Rupert's travels by Akhritov derivative work
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Traveling the West Indies

When Prince Rupert left the North African coast and Cape Verde on May 9, 1652, he had in his fleet a total of six ships: the Swallow, his flagship; the Defiance, commanded by his brother, Prince Maurice; the Honest Seaman, captained by a man named Craven; the John, the Sarah, and a Cape Verde prize (name unknown).

It had been Rupert’s intention to seek Barbados, but their navigation was off, and on May 29th, they landed instead in Saint Lucia. There, his fleet was able to restock their water supplies and take on ample fresh meat in the form of wild hogs and wild goats. Over the next days, they sailed northward along the Leeward Isles and ended up in Martinique, where they received the poor news that Parliament was in possession of Barbados. Good thing he didn’t go there!

The problem, Rupert quickly realized, was that during the time that he spent exploring the African coast, Parliament had moved to establish their presence in the West Indies and shore up control of English colonies, especially those, like Barbados, who had Royalist leanings. Where he expected to be welcomed by fellow Royalists, he found himself in hostile waters. This made it harder for him to find safe harbour, and therefore, replenish supplies. But he wasn’t there for the beaches, so he resolved instead to be the hunter instead of prey, a Prince Pirate of the Caribbean on the lookout for Commonwealth and Spanish ships.

On the lookout for rich prospects, at the beginning of June 1652, Rupert’s fleet headed for Montserrat, an English colony known for its sugar plantations. Thanks to the sugar being in high demand, merchant ships were thick in the area. Rupert was like a shark streaming through waters teeming with fish. His strategy worked, and he managed to capture two English prizes, one loaded with a hold full of sugar. But it wasn’t without loss. During a heated exchange near Nevis, Rupert’s personal secretary was killed, as was the captain of the Defiance.

A pirate prince couldn’t spend all his days ravaging the Caribbean without trying to make a few friends. Around June 8th, Rupert’s fleet arrived at St. Christopher’s (St. Kitts) where he attempted to trade with the Dutch merchants in the town, but the English settlers threatened retaliatory measures against the Dutch if they assisted Rupert, including the confiscation of their goods. In response, Rupert anchored in the French controlled harbour and traded there briefly.

Rupert’s fleet continued northward to the Virgin Islands where he finally found a bit of respite. There, he established a temporary base and spent the next several weeks outfitting his ships and fortifying the harbour against the Spanish. Food supplies were poor and everyone, including Rupert, were forced on mean rations. At the end of August, several men had enough of the conditions. The last anyone saw of them, they were sailing toward the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico on a stolen pinnace.

This ended Rupert’s sojourn. He had hoped to wait out hurricane season in a sheltered cove, but with the defectors heading towards his enemies, with full knowledge of where to find him, he pulled up anchor and headed for Anguilla.

On September 13th, catastrophe struck in the form of a hurricane. This hadn’t been the first time that Rupert had encountered the power of a Caribbean hurricane. A year earlier, his fleet had encountered one. After three days of trying to keep her afloat, his first flagship, the Constant Reformation, was destroyed with the loss of all her crew (333 souls). Before she went down, Prince Maurice brought the Defiance close along the Constant Reformation to try to save his brother and as many crew members as they could, but conditions were too dangerous to launch a full-scale rescue. Rupert had resolved to stay with his crew and go down with his ship, and he would have, were it not for his men forcibly bundling him into the only boat and sending him across to the Defiance.

Now a year later, another storm was coming down hard on them. This hurricane was an absolute beast. Rupert’s Swallow ran before the storm for four days. They could barely see one end of the ship to the other, and they lost their mainsails. At the worst of the storm, the ship was being propelled toward jagged rocks, but in a last-minute reprieve, the wind shifted and steered them clear of the rocks. They survived, barely.

When the hurricane passed, Rupert realized the extent of the storm’s devastation: his fleet was lost, and most heart-rending for him, there was no sign of the Defiance. Rupert’s best friend, his brother Maurice, was lost at sea.

Prince Maurice
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Four days, on September 17th, the Swallow limped into St. Ann’s in the Virgin Islands, and took on fresh water and supplies, which were scarce because of the hurricane. Everyone was on reduced rations and starvation was a real threat. Over the next week, they sailed south looking for supplies.

Rupert searched fruitlessly for word of his brother and the rest of his fleet. For years, rumours circulated of Maurice being sighted across the West Indies, from Puerto Rico to Hispaniola, but they amounted to nothing. The Defiance was never heard from again. The Honest Seaman was also lost, but there were a few survivors. Several months later, Captain Craven turned up in France.

The loss of his fleet spurred Rupert to recoup some of his losses. In early October, he returned to Montserrat and captured a small English prize and tried to pick off a Spanish ship but couldn’t catch her.

On October 10th, Rupert arrived in Guadeloupe where he received word that the English Commonwealth was now at war with the Dutch Federation over a trade dispute. More tantalizing, he learned that there were rich prizes in Antigua, another English colony.

At the end of the month, the Swallow arrived in Antigua, but instead of sailing into Five Island Harbour, he approached with uncharacteristic caution. Rupert sent an advance party of fifty men, led by Captain Holmes, to scale the hill where an embankment of guns protected the harbour.

Holmes and his men spiked the guns then gave the signal for Rupert to sail into the harbour to capture the two English ships anchored there. The Swallow fired on one of the ships and crippled her, but the other surrendered without resistance. For the next couple of days, while the English soldiers created barricades on the beach to prevent a Royalist landing party, Rupert plundered the crippled ship then set sail with his prize.

Rupert would stay only another month in the West Indies. On December 12,1652, the Pirate Prince of the Caribbean closed off this chapter of his life and headed back to Europe with far less than he had hoped to return with. But at least Rupert would live to see another adventure.

Further reading
Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier, by Charles Spencer

Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and 17th-century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot, was a Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for historical fiction, a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for historical romance, and a finalist for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award. Her upcoming novel, Severed Knot, was longlisted for the HNS 2018 New Novel Award. 

Connect to Cryssa through her Website, Facebook, Twitter (@CryssaBazos), or sign up for her Newsletter. Traitor's Knot is available through Amazon

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Voices from the Past

by Beryl Kingston

Throughout history, the actions of the great, the rich, the powerful have been well documented, not necessarily always truthfully, but at least giving the facts. Thoughts and language are something else, however, and whilst the words they spoke publicly are on record, their private words and thoughts are not and it is often a surprise to come face to face with a strong opinion we do not share. Sometimes history is revealed more through the words of those who lived through documented events, witnesses who reacted to what they experienced, rather than those who dictated policy.

I was alive in London during the Blitz. And fortuitously I kept a diary all through the war, which was very useful. But memory plays tricks and paints pictures. I was writing about the bombing of Hiroshima and assumed - without thinking about it - that I would have been appalled and horrified by it. Later on in 1959 I joined CND and the Committee of 100 and was as opposed to nuclear weapons as it was possible to be, but I thought I would check to see what I had said at the time. It was not what I expected at all and it made me shudder at the person I had been then. I wrote 'they have dropped a new bomb on a town called Hiroshima in Japan and killed everybody in it. Good, they had it coming to them.

It's just as well we don't go on thinking the same things forever. We are capable of development and understanding but it is salutary now and then remind ourselves of what we thought when we were young. And when we write about, read about, or study earlier times, we should always be aware that people spoke in a different English language then and thought different thoughts for a variety of different reasons.

In the late 30s when the members of the newly emerging ARP (Air Raid Precaution) were being prepared and trained for the jobs they all knew they would soon be doing when the air raids began, they were given clear instructions. ‘Always stay calm,’ was the first and most important. ‘No matter what you are seeing or what you might be feeling, don’t let your casualties know it. Tell them ‘We’re here. We’ve got you. You’re going to be all right.’ If you cry or panic you will put them into even deeper shock than they’re in already. Stay calm.’

And through the ten terrible months of the London Blitz and the bombing of ports and cities all over the country, and all through the attacks by doodle-bugs and rockets, that’s what they did. I saw it at first hand.

Let me tell you a true story about what the war was really like. I found it in the Mass Observation diaries, the first-hand day-to-day accounts that ordinary people kept all through the war and sent to the Mass Observation team, and it was written by a young woman in the ARP. She had been on duty all night long rescuing people from the wreckage of their homes and shelters, as the bombs continued to fall and she was cycling home ‘feeling very tired’ when she was hailed by a rescue team who were still working on yet another bomb site. They told her she would do because she was skinny. They explained that they had an injured man at the bottom of a pit. They’d managed to dig down to him but they couldn’t get him out until the heavy lifting gear arrived or they would bring the rest of house down on top of him, and he was in pain and needed morphine. Would she go down to him?

She stripped off her uniform so that it would be easier to squeeze down and was lowered into the stink, darkness and danger of the pit. When she reached the bottom she found that the man was horribly injured. Most of his face had been blown away. There were black holes where his eyes, nose and lips had been and he was plainly in agony. ‘But,’ she reported, ‘I remembered my training and kept calm. I told him he was going to be all right and that we would get him out and I gave him the morphine.’ She stayed with him until the drug had taken effect and the heavy lifting gear had arrived and then she was hauled out. She wrote about it so calmly, it made me weep. ‘I put my clothes on,’ she wrote. ‘Then I was sick.’ I’ll bet she was. ‘Then I went home.’

Now that’s courage and compassion of a very high order and that’s how most people were. Diaries reveal what we thought and how we behaved when we were at war and what it was like to spend our nights in the cellar waiting for a bomb to fall on us.


Bio: Beryl Kingston has been writing historical novels for the last thirty-four years and her latest will be released in September 2019. It will be her 30th book and is called ‘Citizen Armies’. It tells the story of a Warden, an Ambulance Driver and their two daughters who are nurses. It starts on the day the war was declared and is written from diaries which Beryl kept at the time, so the speech, thoughts and actions are as accurate as she could get them. You can find more of Beryl’s writing on her website and on Amazon

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Editors Weekly Round-up, April 14, 2019

by the EHFA Editors

Kim Rendfeld takes the spotlight on the round-up this week, exploring the career of the Irishman Virgil of Salzburg and his dealings with the Bavarians.

by Kim Rendfeld

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Church Called Saint Discord

By Kim Rendfeld

When the churchman Virgil arrived at Mayor of the Palace Pippin’s residence in Quierzy-sur-Oise in late 743 or early 744, did he foresee his role in a dispute between a ruler of Francia and his brother-in-law, the duke of Bavaria?

Virgil apparently had been abbot of Aghaboe in Ireland before deciding to embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There is some dispute over his nationality. He might have been an Irishman, from a high-ranking family, perhaps a descendant of the legendary King Niall. Or he could have been a Frank or Bavarian who had studied in Ireland. For my work in progress, I’m leaning toward high-ranking Irishman. If he was from the nobility, he would have been familiar with the role of politics in his homeland and understood the need to make the right allies.

Saint Virgil, photo by Karin Rager
(CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The summer before Virgil arrived at Quierzy, Pippin and his elder brother, Karlomann, mayor of the palace for a different region of Francia, had been at war with Bavarian Duke Odilo. The brothers were probably still steamed that their sister, Chiltrude, had run off to marry Odilo, the father of her unborn child, two years earlier. After the most recent war, Pippin and Karloman claimed victory, but in reality, the fighting had dealt heavy losses to both sides.

Nevertheless, Odilo remained in power, without ceding territory or paying tribute. A few months after the war, the episcopal chancery of Freising gave Odilo the title “gloriossisimus,” also used for Frankish kings and mayors of the palace. At that time, Francia had a king, Childeric III, who gave the brother moral authority, but he owed his position to the mayors of the palace, who had found him in a monastery and installed him on the throne.

It’s not too much of stretch to think that residents of Quierzy were still talking about the recent war, grousing about how Odilo sent a papal legate to Pippin on the eve of battle to tell him to back off. Perhaps they were furious when they learned Odilo had the title of “gloriossisimus.” That spring, Virgil likely knew about Pippin’s reaction to Karlomann making a separate peace with Odilo, perhaps with Bishop Boniface as a mediator.

We don’t know exactly what Virgil and Pippin talked about or how often they interacted. Apparently, Pippin was impressed with how learned Virgil was. Another thing might have impressed Pippin even more: he could count on Virgil as an ally.

Pippin needed allies in Bavaria. The bishops, three of whom were appointed by Boniface in 739, were loyal to Odilo. If Boniface did broker Karlomann and Odilo’s peace agreement, Pippin probably thought he couldn’t trust the Anglo-Saxon bishop, either.

At Niederaltaich abbey church, the founder, Bishop Pirmin,
plants a new oak with Odilo (photo by Wolfgang Sauber,
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
After a few months or two years at Quierzy, Virgil went to Salzburg, the see held by Bishop Johannes. In the mid-740s, there might have been speculation about Johannes’ health. Johannes died in June 745 or 747. Close to that time, 746, Virgil and another cleric complained to the pope that Boniface had enjoined them from administering baptisms. Boniface and Virgil’s disagreement centered on a priest who had botched the Latin. Instead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the priest had baptized the child in the name of the fatherland, daughter, and Holy Spirit. Boniface said the baptism was invalid, while Virgil argued it was. Perhaps realizing that bad Latin was common, the pope sided with Virgil.

Boniface and Virgil still clashed. Probably in 747, Boniface complained to the pope that Virgil was sowing discord between Boniface and Odilo, and he accused Virgil of teaching doctrine contrary to Scripture.

In 747, Virgil became abbot of Saint Peter monastery in Salzburg. A fellow Irishman, Dobdagrecus, served as bishop, apparently at Virgil’s direction. The Irish had a different hierarchy than the Continent. There, bishops were under the authority of abbots. Soon after he became abbot, Virgil picked a fight with Odilo and asserted his abbey rights over the site of a small monastery in Bischofshofen.

Photo by Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The site of a miracle, monastery dedicated to Saint Maximillian had been founded before 716 by Salzburg Bishop Rupert, Duke Thedo, and two brothers from the noble Albini clan, Tonanzo and Urso. Although the land in question officially belonged to the Church, the Bavarian donor family expected to maintain control of it, a common practice. The Albini brothers’ nephews or sons trained as clerics at Salzburg. They asked for and received at least half the property from Rupert. The monastery was later destroyed by Slavs and abandoned.

After Odilo returned from exile in 741, he entrusted the property to his archchaplain, Urso, who was either one of the founders or a relative. Urso had accompanied Odilo to exile in Charles Martel’s court, and the duke might granted Urso’s request as a reward for loyalty.

Odilo also needed someone he could trust at Bischofshofen. It was strategically placed on the upper Salzach River, across the Lueg Pass south of Salzburg, near an old Roman road traversing the High Tauern Alps. Odilo would have been loath to let someone loyal to an adversary have it. At first, Odilo offered Virgil property somewhere else, but Virgil turned it down. After a while, Odilo gave Virgil half the property at Bischofshofen.

Virgil built a church on his side, still demanding the rest of the property, and Urso, with Odilo’s support, constructed a church on his portion. Urso went so far as to have a bishop without a see consecrate the church. Virgil retaliated by banning priests from practicing rites there, calling Urso’s church “Saint Discord.”

Odilo died on January 18, 748, and his six-year-old son, Tassilo, succeeded him. Likely serving as regent, the widowed Chiltrude might have sought support for her son when she and Tassilo made a generous gift to Salzburg in Odilo’s memory.

After another war in 748-49 over who would rule Bavaria, ending with Pippin restoring Tassilo to his duchy, Virgil became that bishop of Salzburg. He and Tassilo had an alliance that would last until Virgil’s death in 784. Yet “Saint Discord” remained under ban all that time.


From Ducatus to Regnum: Ruling Bavaria under the Merovingians and Early Carolingians by Carl I. Hammer

Unjust Seizure: Conflict, Interest, and Authority in an Early Medieval Society by Warren Brown

Land and Landscape: The Transition from Agilolfing to Carolingian Bavaria, 700-900 by Leanne Marie Good

Conflicting Loyalties in Early Medieval Bavaria: A View of Socio-Political Interaction, 680-900 by Kathy Lynne Roper Pearson

"History and Memory in Early Medieval Bavaria," History and Memory in the Carolingian World by Rosamond McKitterick

"St. Vergilius of Salzburg" by William Turner, The Catholic Encyclopedia

St. Virgilius,” EWN


In Kim Rendfeld's Queen of the Darkest Hour, 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 books 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, her blog, Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at, on Facebook at, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Editors Weekly Round-up, April 7, 2019

by the EHFA Editors

Never miss a post on English Historical Fiction Authors.

Linda Root takes the spotlight in this week's round-up. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Katherine, Countess of Suffolk and the Fall of the House of Howard

by Linda Fetterly Root

When researching my recent novels focusing on the Gunpowder Treason and its aftermath, I uncovered a list of seven English aristocrats who were on retainer to the King of Spain. Had their identities become public after the events of November 5, 1605, there would have been a public outcry demanding they be tried for treason. Some were persons in high places. The list was closely guarded, even from the king. The last thing James wanted to hear was news of a handful of embedded spies at court so early in his reign. Of the five men and two women on the list, some were no doubt closet Catholics, some sought political gain, and others were in it for the money. The best known of the seven was Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, a notorious antipapist and no friend of the King of Spain. Motives behind his duplicity are still debated. But the most dangerous of the lot was one of the women. She was Katherine Knyvet Howard, Countess Suffolk, and of the motives mentioned, she possessed all three. Others were prosecuted for plots she promulgated, and some of them died. Her only punishment was banishment, forcing her to do her scheming on a smaller stage. The fall of her husband’s mighty house is often blamed on her conniving

Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk
Katherine, Countess of Suffolk
Two of Henry VIII's wives were Howards, and both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard ended their lives before the block. Yet, the House of Howard withstood the stigma. Great Harry's Dynastic claim was new and tenuous. He and his offspring needed the military prowess, wealth and prestige inherent in the Howard bloodline. Although Henry VIII did not trust them as he once had, by the time Elizabeth ascended in 1558, the Howards had reacquired much of their former precedence. Even when Elizabeth's cousin, the mighty Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, was executed for secretly plotting to marry the captive Queen of Scots and ostensibly restore England to the Catholic Faith, the performance of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham during the Armada threat had restored the family to high favor before Elizabeth died and the crown passed to James VI of Scotland, Marie Stuart’s son.  At the time, the leader of the Howard faction was Thomas Howard, then known as Baron Howard de Walden.  He had been a child when his father was executed at Tower Hill in 1572.

When James I ascended to the English throne in 1603, one of his first official acts was to make an earl of the man who might have been his step-brother had the Duke of Norfolk married the Queen of Scots. By then, the new Earl of Suffolk had married the widow of Baron Richard Rich, the clever and attractive Katherine Knyvet. The new Countess of Suffolk was a noted beauty, an heiress, and a woman possessed of an insatiable thirst for power. She and the Earl had several children including three daughters who figured prominently in the ambitions of their redoubtable mother, who traded them as commodities.  But the Countess was more than an overly ambitious parent.  Among other questionable activities, she was a paid agent of the King of Spain. Despite the dominance of males in the society of her day, she was the most richly compensated of Felipe III’s agents and one of few amongst the Seven who knew who most of the others were. She was Cecil’s courier and a Hapsburg spy using the codename Rodan.

However, five new names came to dominate the politics of 1605: Cates, Fawkes, Percy, Winter, and Wright, to which others were added as what we know as The Gunpowder Conspiracy expanded.  The plan to blow up Parliament on its opening day when the Royals were in attendance came surprisingly close to fruition when it was thwarted. Its principals were scions of aristocratic Catholic Midland families. The King, and his minister Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, was certain the handful of primary suspects had not acted alone. The Jesuit Mission to England and anyone who harbored or supported it were also targeted. It was a bad time to have ties to the Midland Catholic families who had priest hides in their mansions. Among others, suspicion fell upon the well-known recusant relatives of the deceased Lord George Vaux, whose sisters Anne Vaux and Eleanore Brooksby were disciples of the Jesuit Superior, Father Henry Garnet. Also, their sister-in-law Eliza, the self-styled Dowager Lady Vaux, was believed to have kept the most flamboyant of the Jesuits, John Gerard, as a member of her household for as long as six years, sometimes in hiding and at other times, using aliases of Brooke, Standish, Lee, and Tomson while frequenting the drawing rooms of Midland aristocratic families and charming the ladies.
However, in early November 1605, Gerard’s link to the Vaux estate at Great Harrowden presented a problem for the Countess of Suffolk, who could not risk being identified as a possible traitor. She had just negotiated a beneficial marriage of her daughter Elizabeth to the youthful Lord Edward Vaux.  The young people were eager to wed, for unlike participants in most arranged marriages, they were very much in love. To avoid impropriety on the part of the lovers prior to the nuptials, Eliza sent her son to the Low Countries for a tour. But when the Gunpowder Treason surfaced, and the Dowager Lady Vaux was hauled off to London to be interrogated, the Countess lost no time before insulating her family from taint. Taking advantage of the absence of the Vauxs, she arranged a hasty marriage of her daughter to aging Sir William Knollys and sent her distraught daughter to his bed in virtual bondage. The details of the forced marriage might have gone unnoticed by historians were it not for litigation in modern times over claims of Elizabeth Howard’s descendants to Lord Knollys’ earldom of Banbury. Apparently, both of her sons bore striking resemblances to Lord Edward Vaux, who Elizabeth married before her octogenarian husband’s body cooled. The competing claims to the Banbury title on the one hand and the Vaux inheritance on the other spawned a case at Common Law establishing the rules governing uterine bastardy, some aspects of which survive in current British and American family law litigation (The Case of the Earl of Banbury, 1813).

 Lady Suffolk’s role in her daughter’s heartbreaking marriage must have inspired her to do better in the future. She married another of her daughters to the son of Lord Robert Cecil, a match which increased her husbands’ power at court.  But soon she faced another marital misadventure in need of correction, one that provided England with a scandal even she could not control. It began with another ambitious betrothal of a daughter, Frances, when she was a lass of fourteen, and ended with the fall of the House of Howard.

2nd Earl of Essex
The Duke of Norfolk was not the only peer to lose his head during Elizabeth Tudor’s reign. Her young favorite, the handsome and opportunistic Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, resented his treatment by the Queen after his military failures in Ireland and launched an abortive rebellion.  He was executed on Tower Green in 1601.
When James Stuart came to England in 1603, he restored the lands and titles to Devereux’s young son, who became a close companion to Prince Henry Frederick.

3rd Earl of Essex as a child
The new Earl of Essex was thirteen when the Countess of Suffolk, probably with support from her brother in law Northampton and the Earl of Salisbury, arranged a marriage between Essex and 14-year-old daughter Frances. In those days, sex between couples of so young an age was considered dangerous, so the marriage went forward, but the bedding was delayed. Robert was shipped to Europe before the marriage could be consummated and his adolescent Countess remained at court in the care of her parents. A noted beauty, she soon became highly visible.

Earl of Essex 
Countess of Essex

Robert Carr, Somerset
 When, at age 17, Essex came back from his European tour with plans to deflower his bride, the long-delayed bedding ceremony did not go well. Frances snorted, and Robert snored, and there was no need to check the sheets to know the outcome.  It soon became apparent the couple detested one another. It was equally evident that Frances Howard, Countess of Essex, was smitten with the king's favorite, Robert Carr of Ferniehirst, a Scot. He was a posthumous son of Thomas Ker of Ferniehirst, one of Marie Stuart’s lifelong champions, and possessed mannerisms ideal to the court of James Stuart, who preferred the company of men. Initially, the king’s minister Salisbury, promoted him because his presence at court kept James occupied and out of Salisbury’s hair.

Thomas Overbury
Carr had an older friend named Tom Overbury, an Englishman he had met in Edinburgh earlier in his youth, who had the skills and education needed to help Carr navigate the politics of Court and Council.  Soon Carr was giving advice to the king on topics headier than where to buy the best Belgian lace. Rabie Carr had looks and charm, but Overbury had brains. Concurrently, it was becoming obvious to the Howards that Frances and her dashing husband were irreconcilably estranged. Katherine and her brother-in-law, the Earl of Northampton, hatched a plan to end the Essex marriage on grounds it had not been consummated.  Essex did not oppose if his wife confirmed her allegations of his impotence was limited to attempts with her. Books have been written about the litigation, which became a cause celebre at court. There was open wagering as to the outcome. Frances agreed to submit to a physical examination of her hymen by a group of midwives, on condition she could insulate herself from embarrassment by wearing a veil. Whoever appeared shrouded, probably Northhampton's daughter was declared a virgin and an annulment was granted.

Carr was not so easily snared. Frances was enthralling, but Tom Overbury urged restraint. He considered Frances a tart and cautioned that marriage to her would be a step-down, not up. To silence him, her uncle Northampton convinced James to offer Overbury an ambassadorship to Russia, but Overbury was having none of it. Overbury went to the tower for declining the offer. In September 1613, he died, ostensibly of natural causes. Carr was named Treasurer and granted the Somerset Earldom. On December 26, 1513, he married Frances in a service attended by the King.

The Howard triumph did not last. In September 1615, with Carr’s power at its pinnacle, a Tower warder shouted ’Poison!’ Rumors abounded, yet King James did nothing until Carr audaciously carped at him for showing favor to the charming sycophant George Villiers (Buckingham). The anti-Somerset faction included Chief Justice Edward Coke and Attorney General, Francis Bacon, who prosecuted the Somersets for the Overbury murder. Only Frances confessed. Both were convicted and sentenced to death, but always quick to pardon those he had held in affection, James spared them both. Their commoner co-defendants were not as lucky. Trial testimony implicated  Katherine in obstructing justice through bribery, but she was not charged.  

In 1619, in a final scandal, the Suffolks were convicted of embezzling from the Crown. The Countess spent only ten days in the Tower but was forever banished from the court she had used as a marketplace for influence peddling. The Somerset marriage deteriorated, and without a male heir, the line was doomed. To the Countess of Somerset's credit, Essex had similar problems with his second wife.