My family and I are continuing to get ready for our four-week European trip, which will include attending some of the bicentennial events for the Battle of Waterloo. We’ll be spending the two weeks in the middle of the trip in France, and Mr Fraser and I have been trying to teach ourselves a little French using Duolingo. I’m not going to become an expert–for that, I’d need to go back in time and start studying several years ago, possibly at the expense of writing any books or otherwise having a life during that time–but I’m hoping to know enough phrases and words to greet people, make simple purchases in stores and markets, etc. The program has me practicing food and color words a lot, to the point where I found myself in the grocery store last night, staring sadly at an assortment of less-than-ripe strawberries. “J’aime les fraises rouges,” I murmured. (I like the red strawberries.) “But these fraises aren’t very rouges.”
While I’m in Paris, I naturally plan to visit Les Invalides, which houses the Musée de l’Armée (army museum) along with Napoleon’s burial site.
When Napoleon died in 1821, he was buried on Saint Helena. He didn’t receive his French state funeral until 1840. (And if you have time for a long read, the Wikipedia article on that event is fascinating.)
While I’m no great admirer of Napoleon’s, I expect I’ll find visiting his sarcophagus moving nonetheless. The world without him would’ve been an unimaginably different place, after all.
I also hope to visit Malmaison, Josephine’s chateau just outside of Paris.
And on a lighter note, while we’re in London I plan to visit Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s London home, where I’ll get to see this:
It will never not amuse me that Napoleon commissioned a giant nude statue of himself as Mars the Peacemaker, nor that the statue in question now guards the Duke of Wellington’s staircase. I don’t suppose they’ll let me take a selfie next to it…
As is often the case, today’s post is brought to you courtesy of Twitter. After the first episode of Wolf Hall aired, there was a raging debate about the colors used in the costumes. I think the main thing that set people off was Henry’s brocade doublet and his bright red schaub coat (how sad is that I only know the German name for that garment, because I’ve spent all my time in that period studying Landsknecht costuming?).
Several people said they were simply too bright, too vivid, etc. to be historically accurate. They landed particularly on the reds as being impossible to achieve in that era (and then purple got brought up, which I’ll tackle next time I post). When I was done scraping my jaw off the floor, the tweets were fast and furious.
To put it in a nutshell: YOU DO NOT NEED ANILINE DYES TO GET DEEP, BRIGHT, INTENSE COLORS! (and anyone who’s ever looked at extant textiles should know this)
Let’s outline the dye options open to Henry VIII (c. 1525, when he was trying to divorce Catherine):
First and foremost, there was madder root. Madder was cheap and plentiful. It produces decent reds, but is probably not what is being used to produce fancy brocades for the King of England. Top left you can see Dharma Trading’s madder root swatches, and as you can see, madder is pretty vivid on silk (and would be so on wool).
The next option is kermes, a red dye made from the body of a Mediterranean insect. It was used throughout Europe and was a highly desirable (and very expensive) dye stuff. If you had money, fabrics made with kermes dyes were readily available. They were widely in use by the Church and by the nobility (and the wealthy in general; we know they were widely available, because they had sumptuary laws about red in some places). The detail of a 16thC wall hanging to the right is most likely dyed with kermes.
After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, you also have Mexican cochineal (first shipment in 1523, so it’s entirely possible that fabrics made with cochineal would have already joined those made with kermes on the open market). Bottom left you have Dharma Trading’s cochineal swatches, which on my compter are trending a little more purplish than they do in real life.
So, while I may have quibbles with the costuming on Wolf Hall (none of Anne’s gowns fit properly which I think is due to the fabric choices being too light for those style gowns; why are some of the men running around in jerkins with no doublets?!), I don’t have any qualms about the color of Henry’s brocade doublet or his overcoat.
I am crawling out briefly from a revision/research cave to celebrate the birthday of a woman who may not be particularly well-known in history, but who I’ve always found to be interesting, Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Empress Josephine, a woman whose life was made very unhappy by duty to her stepfather, but who managed to carve out a small happiness and role for herself. Who are some of your own favorite lesser-known heroines???
Hortense Eugenie Cecile de Beauharnais Bonaparte, daughter of Empress Josephine, Queen Consort of Holland, mother of Napoleon III, and interesting woman in her own right! She was born on April 10 in 1783.
Hortense was born in Paris, the daughter of the nobleman Alexandre, vicomte de Beauharnais and his wife Josephine, their second living child (she had an older brother, Eugene). Her parents’ marriage was never very happy, and they separated informally soon after her birth. Her father was guillotined on July 23, 1794, a few days before the end of the Terror, and her mother barely escaped with her life. Josephine was released from prison and reunited with her children on August 6, but it was a struggle to maintain the family financially. Two years later Josephine married Napoleon, and Hortense was later sent to be educated at the school of Madame Campan (who had been a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette) in St-Germain-en-Laye, along with Napoleon’s sister Caroline. Hortense made many friends at school, and became well-known for her pretty blonde looks and her musical skill (she later composed marches for her stepfather’s Army). One of her friends at this school was US President Monroe’s daughter Eliza, who later named her own daughter Hortensia.
In 1802, Hortense married Napoleon’s brother Louis Bonaparte, despite her misgivings, and they went on to have 3 sons despite a very rocky marriage (Napoleon Louis Charles, 1802-1807; Napoleon Louis, 1804-1831; and Charles Louis Napoleon, 1808-1873, who went on to become Emperor of France). In 1806 Louis became King of Holland, and Hortense set up her court at The Hague, taking refuge from her unhappy marriage in social events and friendships (including those with handsome men!). They were deposed in 1810, but Louis remained in Holland for another 3 years, writing poetry in privacy, until forced to return to France in 1813. The couple then lived separate lives.
Hortense fell in love with Colonel Charles Joseph, the comte de Flauhaut, a man renowned for his handsome looks, sophisticated intelligence, and rumored to be the illegitimate son of Talleyrand. In 1811, at a secluded inn in Switzerland, Hortense gave birth to their son, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph (who was later made duc de Morny his half-brother). After the defeat of Napoleon and the Bourbon Restoration in 1814 Hortense received the protection of Tsar Alexander and went on living at her estate, but when her stepfather returned she supported him. On his final defeat at Waterloo, she traveled to Germany and Italy before settling at the Chateau of Arenenberg in Thurgau in 1817. There she worked on her music, had parties with her friends, and fell in love once in a while. She lived there until her death on October 5, 1837 and was buried next to her mother at St-Pierre-St-Paul church near Malmaison.
Information on Hortense’s life can be found in any biography of Josephine or Napoleon III. A couple books I like are:
Nina Epton, Josephine: The Empress and Her Children (1976)
Francois Jarry, Hortense de Beauharnais (1999). This one is in French, which I read very slooooowly, but worth the effort!
Over the Easter weekend, I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art with my youngest daughter and a dear high school friend. Although I grew up in Cleveland, I haven’t been to the museum in years, so it was fun to tour the galleries and have lunch at the Café. Their Tandoor Grill has nice curries, Naan bread and chutneys. Mmmm….
Here are a few items of Regency interest.
The first item is in the Armor Court, an impressive collection of armor and weapons. Most of the collection is earlier than our period of course, but this “double-barrelled flintlock sporting gun” was made in 1809 for Napoleon Bonaparte. It was made by Jean Le Page, member of a family firm who supplied firearms to the French nobility. The description says such “deluxe” weapons were often made for display and as gifts and in this case, Napoleon did give this gun to a Polish count. Read more about Napoleon’s gun and check out the Cleveland in HDR blog for a closeup that shows more detail of the gorgeous workmanship.
I picked up postcards of the next two items. Although photography without flash was permitted, I didn’t want to risk the flash going off accidentally (I am clumsy) and often the pictures in the postcards are better anyway.
Here’s one of my favorite Regency portraits, what my daughter likes to call “historical selfies”. It’s a portrait of Charlotte and Sarah Carteret-Hardy, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1801. Sarah was married the same year, Charlotte a few years later. The contrasting personalities of the two remind me of my own daughters—one more dreamy and introspective, the other more lively and outgoing. And of course the clothes are lovely. Here’s the link for more information on the Hardy sisters portrait.
And lastly, I was charmed by a series, “Apollo and the Muses” by the French painter Charles Meynier in 1800. They include Polyhymnia, Muse of Eloquence; Erato, Muse of Lyrical Poetry; Apollo, God of Light, Eloquence, Poetry and the Fine Arts with Urania, Muse of Astronomy; Calliope, Muse of Epic Poetry; and Clio, Muse of History. The one I’m showing here is Erato.
Here’s a fascinating article on the restoration process. Restoring the Erato painting was particularly challenging, since another artist had over-painted Cupid’s body with a “prudish white veil” an estimated 75 years after Meynier completed the painting. Those Victorians! Fortunately, it was possible to remove the veil and restore the painting to its original beauty.
I’m busy working on a historical novella for an anthology that will be out this June. I have no idea what my story will be titled yet, but the anthology title is Dancing in The Duke’s Arms. It’s a spin off, if you will, from the Christmas anthology Christmas in The Duke’s Arms. The same authors are participating: Grace Burrowes, Miranda Neville, Shana Galen, and me.
We chose Nottinghamshire as the location for our first anthology, and as we were discussing the follow up, we decided we would set the stories in the in real life location of The Dukeries, so called because there are four ducal estates located here, and they are more or less contiguous.
Every book has its own ethos that requires research. For me, with my uniquely Carolyn style of writing, it works like this: Huh. Everyone is sitting around having tea and this is kind of boring. I wonder what local specialty they’re eating? The answer to that turned out to be Colwick Cheese. This cheese was long a specialty of Nottinghamshire. There were websites that implied this was a newer cheese not from our period, but Google and Advanced Google Book Search demonstrated that this was incorrect. British regulations around the turn of the 20th century did result in the disappearance of this cheese. But recently, it’s had a revival. Originally, the cheese was made by pouring spoiled milk into cheesecloth and letting it hang outside until all the water dripped out. The cheese formed a kind of bowl. It was often served with cream, fruit, or preserves in the bowl, and, though I can’t confirm the period part of this, sometimes the additions were savory.
And so, I had my interesting addition to tea. You’ll notice, on that website, a link called Red Poll. This is a kind of cow. It is, not surprisingly, red. This breed of cow is a good milk producer and I found a great deal of information praising this local cow. Why, since it turns out my heroine loves estate management, she could have Red Polls! However, it did not take long to discover that this breed was established well after the Regency, and so it was not possible for my story. But, it turns out she could have another red cow, the Red Leicester. Well, OK! I have learned some very interesting things about cows that I did not know before.
From there, I needed to describe the heroine’s house. I knew (don’t ask why, I just knew, OK?) that she lived in a house with lots of trees shading it and that there was a vine on the house. All right then. What kind of vines do they have in Nottinghamshire? Because, what if it’s not just ivy? More searches and before long I had found the Nottingham Flycatcher. This was perfect because it was known for growing on the walls of Nottingham Castle. Nottingham Flycatcher has a fragrant scent and attracts lots of moths and insects to the nectar. Perfect! This, too, could grow on my heroine’s house, and when the windows were open in the summer, rooms would surely smell lovely. I know this is true because right now this minute there is jasmine blooming on our deck and when the windows are open and a breeze comes along, the kitchen smells faintly of jasmine. I was saddened to learn that Nottingham Flycatcher is now extinct in Nottinghamshire. In the 1930’s the Flycatcher was removed from Nottingham Castle during renovations. It doesn’t appear to be entirely extinct, but I also learned that fully 98% of Britain’s wildflower habitat is gone. That is tragic.
As I’ve continued to write, the story no longer opens at the heroine’s house, and now I have to decide whether to move the Nottingham Flycatcher to my duke’s estate. Then it turned out that my heroine, while visiting the duke’s estate, is going to walk along the driveway and count trees. (Really, don’t ask. Maybe that won’t even stick. It’s too early to tell.) So, what kind of trees? I knew that lime trees are a common tree. Many period descriptions of estate reference driveways lined with lime trees. So. What do these lime trees look like? Somehow, I didn’t think they were the kind of lime trees that grow limes, and indeed, they are not. British Lime trees are very tall and beautiful and give loads of shade. There are lots of images of magical lime tree avenues. Like this one at Clumber Park. This is especially awesome because Clumber Park is one of the four estates of the Dukeries. It doesn’t even matter that those lime trees weren’t planted until 1840. My duke planted his way earlier. It’s called fiction for a reason.
And so, here I am madly writing a novella and having the best time ever researching cheese, and cows, and lime trees, and flycatchers. There will be more moments like this as I write because that’s just how I roll.
I hope everyone had a Happy Easter (or Passover). I spent the day with the cutest grandson EVER (and the rest of my family).
And we ate hot cross buns and decorated Easter eggs.
In the UK, hot cross buns are a Good Friday and Easter Sunday tradition, Hot cross buns are a spicy sweet bun baked with currants and raisins and marked with a white frosting cross on the top. Hot Cross buns may have had their origins in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome where sweet and spice breads were a spring tradition. The Anglo-Saxons were said to make cross buns as an offering to their goddess Eostre, the cross meant to symbolize the four phases of the moon and the four seasons of the year. With the rise of Christianity, this pagan custom was continued, but the cross became a religious symbol.
In the 1500s, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the sale of hot cross buns was forbidden except at burials, on Good Friday or at Christmas. If one was caught, the wares were forfeited and given to the poor.
There is a story of a widow whose son, a sailor, asked her to bake him hot cross buns when he returned on Good Friday. He was lost at sea, but every year after that his mother baked a new bun for him and saved them all in a net. After she died, her cottage became a pub called The Widow’s Son where the net filled with buns is on display. A new bun is added every year and sailors gather at the pub to remember the widow and her son.
Another UK Easter custom, pace-egging, is a tradition that has existed for hundreds of years. The term pace eggs comes from the Old English Pasch, meaning Passover, but the origin of eggs as part of Easter celebrations may have originated in pagan rituals where eggs were an ancient symbol of new life. Pace eggs were decorated eggs, originally covered in onion skin before boiling giving them a mottled gold appearance, but in later times painted. Decorating eggs goes back to the time of the Crusades.
The eggs not eaten at Easter Sunday breakfast might have been given to bands of performers called Pace Eggers or Jolly Boys who toured the villages and performed a play involving St. George, a battle, and a character called Old Tosspot, as well as others. In the play someone dies and is revived by a comic doctor. The Pace Eggers still perform in some villages today.
Other eggs were used on Easter Monday for egg-rolling, another tradition dating back hundreds of years. Egg rolling is still going strong in the UK and here in Washington, DC at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
How did you celebrate Easter? Did you have a hot cross bun and easter eggs?
In Regency times, would you have been a “bluestocking”? How many times have you read about (or written) a heroine who either considered herself one, or was warned in no uncertain terms by her mother/aunt/sponsor or best friend against becoming one?
Not too long ago I was invited to join a group of Regency authors calling themselves The Bluestocking League. (A lot of authors are finding it wise to band together to help promote each other’s work.) We haven’t been very active yet, but we discovered soon after naming ourselves that another group of authors had recently formed a group called the Bluestocking Belles. You see? Bluestockings are back!! So it seemed timely to take a look at what was originally an 18th century women’s society, and in the Regency became a (derisive) slang term for educated women with intellectual interests –who might, after all, threaten the social order!
The 18th century, “The Age of Enlightenment,” earned the name because ideas and intellect flourished during the period. While women had few rights, two things they –could- do (and were expected to do) were socialize and engage in the arts. Salons were popular, and hostesses angled to have the most illustrious leaders of culture and literature as guests. The London salons hosted by the well-to-do and well-educated friends
Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800), Elizabeth Vesey (c.1715-91) and Frances Boscawen (1719-1805) attracted some of the greatest intellectual minds of the times, such as the writer Samuel Johnson, and artists Francis Reynolds and her brother Sir Joshua Reynolds. By mid-century these get-togethers evolved into a loosely organized network, kind of a “women’s club” that offered more than intimate gatherings for conversation, supplying mutual support, friendship and patronage for a growing pool of writers, artists, and intellectuals. Writers Hannah More and Fanny Burney, poet Anna Seward, and artist Angelica Kaufmann were regulars among many others in later years. The women, and their male guests, also advocated for education and explored options for civic and social improvements.
Most of the women portrayed as young Greek Muses in this group portrait by Richard Samuel were Bluestockings. Singer Elizabeth Ann Sheridan is in the centre. Artist Angelica Kauffman sits at the easel with writer/poet Elizabeth Carter and poet Anna Letitia Barbauld behind her. The five at right are (L-R) historian Catharine Macaulay, hostess & literary critic Elizabeth Montagu, and writer Elizabeth Griffith (all seated), and standing behind them, writers Hannah More and Charlotte Lennox. Some were much older than shown by the time the picture was exhibited in 1779. (Montagu was 61.)
The story of exactly how the network acquired the affectionately applied name of the Bluestocking Society, or the Bluestocking Circle, is debated. Blue wool stockings were commonly worn for informal or daytime dress then, with white or black silk reserved for evening or more formal occasions. The informal style (and the cross-class nature) of the salon gatherings was unprecedented and set a new style for socializing. One version of the story holds that Mrs Vesey (or Mrs Montagu), inviting the botanist Benjamin Stillingfleet to attend a salon, assured the man who had given up polite society that he was welcome to come “in his blue stockings.” Another version says Stillingfleet simply showed up wearing them. OTOH, the French version of the term (bas bleu) had actually already been in use since the 1500s. At any rate, the group adopted the name with pride. The network expanded well beyond London, and probably peaked during the 1780-90’s, when Elizabeth Montagu opened her new Portman Square home for meetings, and was hailed by Johnson as “the Queen of the Blues”. Hannah More’s poem “Bas Bleu, or the Conversation” was published in 1789.
Typically, though, as the term “bluestocking” became widely accepted as a tag for an intellectual woman, it also began to be perverted into derisive slang, belittling the very values it once stood for. The original Bluestockings were dying off at the start of the Regency, and their supportive network had suffered setbacks such as the loss of friendship between Montagu and Johnson, a scandal over patronage and money involving Montagu, More, and the poet Anna Yearsley, and later, scandalous lifestyle choices made by members like Macaulay. Ridicule replaced admiration in the eyes of society –Byron scorned them and Rowlandson did a cartoon, “The Breaking Up of the Bluestocking Club” published in 1815. In the Regency, to be a bluestocking was considered tantamount to declaring spinsterhood and rejecting society.
The original Bluestockings were the feminists of their day, ahead of their time in many of their ideas, but especially in valuing the female mind. Their moniker shows up these days in all sorts of ways, from the name of bookstores and a play, to a week-long celebration of women in education at UQ in Australia. I’m happy to be among women ready to reclaim the term and put it back into its original perspective and meaning. So, are you a bluestocking, too?
Also, there’s a book: Biographical Sketches of Principal Bluestocking Women, by Anna Miegon. I want to read it now! There’s also a collection of essays: Reconsidering the Bluestockings, by Nicole Pohl & Betty A. Schellenberg, and much more, of course. I think the original Bluestockings would be pleased to see how far we women have come, don’t you? Although perhaps dismayed that it took as long as it has, and that we still have more to achieve. What do you think? Please comment!
So I spent most of the day staring at my computer screen half-petrified because I realized this morning that today is April Fool’s day & I have to write a post &, oh my gosh, do I need to write something funny?!!?!? I’ve toyed with several amusing headlines – “The Riskies Will Only Write Zombie Books From This Day On! (and our heroes’ manly appendages will all fall off all the time!!) (or something),” or, “We Just Wanted To Tell You That We Are All Aliens From Outer Space Pretending To Be Romance Authors, But Please Don’t Mind Us & Carry On” – but, well…
Instead of talking about zombies, wonky manly appendages, and aliens, I’ve decided to turn to much nicer things, like my super-seekrit project: I’ve taken part in a multi-author box set of sweet romances, which came out earlier this week. And did I mention that the box set is free?
I also caved in and added a few more titles to my research library. Among other things, I’ve finally ordered Chatsworth: The Attic Sale, the catalogue of the auction at Sotheby’s in 2010. In expect to find many interesting items in there! Here’s a short YouTube video about the auction:
Moreover, I also stumbled across a number of fascinating research experiments in the form of historical enactments, of which two are of particular interest to the Regency period: in Pride & Prejudice: Having a Ball a Regency ball is staged at Chawton House, the estate of Austen’s brother. The documentary is only 90 minutes long (or rather, short), but it still provides some fascinating insights into the practicalities of preparing the food, of the dancing itself, and the supper that followed.
And then I also found a series about music in the country house. I briefly dipped my toe into this field when I wrote Springtime Pleasures and had my heroine swapping music books with her new friend. “Music’s Hidden Histories” is a joint project of the University of Southampton and Tatton Park. The short videos are all available via the Humanities Southampton YouTube channel:
For now, though, I’m going to return to Roman antiquity and my dashing centurion Marcus Florius Corvus. I’m really looking forward to celebrate the launch of this new series with you next month!
Winner of Barbara Monajem‘sa novella duet ebook – winner’s choice – of The Wanton Governess/The Unrepentant Rake, The Magic of His Touch/Bewitched by His Kiss, orUnder a Christmas Spell/Under a New Year’s Enchantment is
The Ransleigh Rogues return with a passionate and poignant tale of betrayal, revenge, sexual healing and second chances. This is another keeper with strong characters and authentic settings.
HE’S NEVER FORGOTTEN HER. BUT CAN HE FORGIVE HER
When Alastair Ransleigh sees Diana, Duchess of Graveston, for the first time since she jilted him, he makes her a shockingly insulting offer…the chance to become his mistress. And even more shockingly, she accepts!
But the widowed duchess is nothing like the bold, passionate girl Alastair once loved. Years of suffering at the hands of a cruel husband have taken their toll. And as Alastair resolves to save Diana from the damage of the past, their chance meeting turns feels of revenge to thoughts of rescue…
Thanks to Diane and the other Riskies for hosting me today!
My March release, Book Three of the Ransleigh Rogues, is the story of Alastair, the poet and dreamer whose world is shattered when Diana, the woman he loves, jilts him in a humiliatingly public fashion to marry a man of high rank. When he meets her again by chance eight years later, now widowed and on the run, he is stunned, then curious, then angry that the girl who once vowed to love him forever seems to be able to treat him with so little emotion, when he is torn, attracted, and seething. While he doesn’t exactly seek revenge when she offers to do what she can to make it up to him—he really wants to try to purge her from his heart and mind once and for all—the idea of making her feel something, after she has put him through every extreme of emotion, is certainly one of his chief motivations.
A revenge sub-theme figures in another one of my favorite all-time romances, Reforming Lord Ragsdale by the stellar Carla Kelly. Her heroine is an indentured Irish servant, detested and scorned by her English masters, whom the dissolute Lord Ragsdale rescues from a very bad situation. Initially he is inclined to treat her just a tad less poorly than her previous master—his father was murdered by Irish rebels, and he has every reason to hate the Irish. But he is a deeply flawed man himself, which Emma sees, and gradually, by fits and starts, the two begin to heal each other.
So, too, do Alastair and Diana. Although Alastair initially rejects Diana’s explanation for why she jilted him as unbelievable, as he slowly puts together the bits and pieces he ekes out of her about what her life with the duke was like, he begins to realize her improbable story was true and appreciate the heroism, and suffering, she endured to protect those she loved. As he works to bring back to life the girl he once loved and protect her from present danger, she rekindles once again the deep love he’s suppressed for so many years.
Are there any revenge-to-love stories that touched your heart? Is this a theme that you like to read about? One commenter will win a copy of Alastair and Diana’s book, The Rake To Rescue Her.