Giving Thanks for a Bountiful Harvest

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our friends and readers in the United States!

Kristi here. Thanksgiving is not a traditional holiday in England, but being thankful for a bountiful harvest is hardly a new concept.

From medieval days, harvesters celebrated Lammas Day on August 1 where they brought loaves of bread made from the first harvested wheat were brought to the church. This was called the Loaf Mass, though some writings indicate that prior to offering loaves, parishioners offered lambs, making it a lamb mass and giving it the name.

When Henry VIII broke from the Catholic church, the celebration shifted to the end of the harvest, marking the successful completion of the gathering.

Some aspects of the harvest festivals include the tradition of the corn dolly, a large feast, and a sort of mini-parade with the horse pulling the final load of crops being decorated with garlands and flowers.

Harvest festivals were frequently held at the time of the Harvest moon. Occasionally this put the festival in October, but more frequently it landed in September, in close proximity to the mop fairs.

Churches were no longer a large part of the festival in Regency days, though by 1850 they were once more integral to the celebration. The connection with the church continues today, though it frequently includes a focus on those less fortunate and suffering from hunger and famine.

Whether you are feasting with family today or just grabbing a ham and turkey sandwich on your way home from work, take the time to be thankful.

Have a wonderful day.

 

Regency Research

I have been editing and proofreading a manuscript I published some years ago, to which I have recently received the publisher’s rights back. I am going over the story in order to self-publish it as an e-book on Amazon. What strikes me about rereading a story written a while ago is how much research goes into writing a regency—or any historical, for that matter. When one is in the process of writing it, one takes this for granted. But when you read it long afterward, it’s enough to make you shake your head. Did I really know all that stuff?

In this story, which takes place in London ballrooms, a country estate, and on the U.S. frontier of Maine, I had to research both the social mores of regency society, the low-class pastimes of regency rakes (cockfighting, gambling, etc.), the sports that the athletic sorts– aka Corinthians–indulged in, before turning to the fledgling settlements of “the Maine Territory,” and the wealth being generated from its pine forests.

So, you can see that a whole range of information was needed in order to build the framework for the love story between my hero and heroine.

Take the gambling game of faro, for example. I’d read enough Georgette Heyer regencies to be somewhat familiar with the game, but I never knew until I researched it that it was played on a board, upon which the cards were laid out like so:

Farolayout
Layout of a Faro Board. Source: Wikipedia

I was fortunate to be able to take a trip to England during the researching of this book. Not only did I visit the London Museum, which has a wealth of information and artifacts on everyday life in the city over the centuries, but I also discovered a wonderful mansion not too far outside of London. This estate served as a model for the setting of a house party in my story. I was able to tour the rooms and grounds and get the layout for my hero and heroine’s stay at a fictionalized version of Osterley Park. As I walked the area, my plot grew.

Osterley_Park_House,_London-25June2009-rc
Osterley Park House, London. Source: Wikipedia

Lastly I needed to research the city of Bangor, Maine and the logging industry of 1815, before Maine had its statehood. It was still a part of Massachusetts and known as the Maine Territory. But following the War of 1812, those involved in the lumber industry were making a sizable profit cutting down the majestic pine trees of the Maine forests and selling them for ship masts, lumber, and shingles both to Europe and to the American cities farther south. My plot advanced as I imagined my hero going from the ballrooms of London to the rough lumber camps of the Maine woods in winter, then risking his neck on a river drive in spring as the picture below depicts:

lumbermen
Selections from Picturesque Canada, An Affectionate Look Back, Sketch no. 40, 1882-85, Pandora Publishing Company, Victoria, B.C.

Of course my hero is a former soldier, who survived the Battle of Waterloo, so he is used to danger. But as a Redcoat among Yankees, he must face many challenges before being accepted into the ranks of the lumbermen. All for the sake of winning the girl.

I hope those who read the updated version of A Rogue’s Redemption will enjoy both the historical detail as well as the timeless love story.

 

 

Thankful for Life ~ by Susan Karsten

Hi, all!

My thoughts and prayers are with the pro-life movement more than ever these days because my daughter is involved with a Teens 4 Life group, and does fund-raising and essay-writing to advance and support the cause of life.

What does this have to do with Regency England? A controversial author in those days was the Rev. Thomas Malthus. His erroneous fears that population would outstrip resources gained credence and even today, his anti-life stance is still studied.

Not so, in his case.

A surprising defender of life (though not on Biblical grounds) of that day was the author Shelley, who wrote about “the hardened insolence of any proposal to rob the poor of the single alleviation of their sufferings and their scorns.” The famed political writer Cobbett also called Malthus a ‘monster.’

The battle against life has been going on since the Garden of Eden. But we have God’s word to guide our minds and we all know the eighth commandment “Thou shall not murder.”

My 8 year-old niece recently saw my daughter’s fund-raising display and said, “It wouldn’t be okay for a baby to kill an adult, so it’s not okay for an adult to kill a baby.” So well said, little one.

So true.

So, let’s always choose life. Jesus has defeated death and we are on His side.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” Deut. 30:19 (ESV)

No Regency Baby Showers.

Vanessa here,

I am all a twitter, (not the recently IPO’d kind) but excited about planning a baby shower for a dear friend. As I become steeped in color choices and decorations, the need to play games or not to play games, I begin to think about childbirth or the expectation of childbirth during the Regency.

Bibs and nappy cake for a Girl -Wiki Commons
Bibs and nappy cake for a Girl -Wiki Commons

Sadly, I couldn’t find any corollaries to anything we know today as a baby shower. No cards, or nappy cakes, no diaper genies unless you count the wealthy woman’s servants.

No one seemed to plan any kind of celebration for the expectant mother. What we now call baby showers have their roots in Victorian times.

Why No Regency Celebration?

Let’s face facts. It might be a little hard to plan a tea or invite friends and family over to celebrate an event that had a 20% or greater chance of killing you. Poor hygiene, lack of knowledge of difficult pregnancies, unsanitary practitioners, bloodletting, the discouragement of using midwives (ladies versed in how save women, turn babies coming breach) etc. all played a role in the not so great outcomes for pregnant women during the Regency.

Moreover, the pressure to have a male child could be daunting. Knowing the dire need to produce an heir to protect your husband’s entailed property (and your future comfort upon the death of said husband ) had to decrease the need for pre-birth celebrations.

Boy's diaper cake - Wiki Commons
Boy’s diaper cake – Wiki Commons

 

Though Aristotle (384BC to 322BC) tried to clear things up with his theory of men determining the child’s sex, it was still easier to blame the woman for the child-rearing failings. Good thing science cleared that matter up. Just in case you are new to the world of scientific discovery, the male’s X (female) or Y (male) chromosome determines the sex.

Yet, I did find celebrations or at least acknowledgements of surviving childbirth. People would gather and offer support. They brought food to the mother. During the Renaissance and still practiced during the Regency, visitors (the gossips -Middle Ages term for women and family who gather during the birth) gave painted trays with words of encouragement for the women. Some trays were so pretty, they were hung along the walls to surround the mother during her confinement . With confinement potentially lasting up to 40 days, seeing these kind words and beautiful images had to lift the new mother’s spirits.

Painted for the Birth of Lorenzo De Medici - 1449, Wiki Commons
Painted for the Birth of Lorenzo de Medici – 1449, Wiki Commons

As baby shower details are finalized, I will be looking to add a few Regency touches. I’m sure my friend will enjoy these little sentiments to make her prenatal and postnatal time encouraging.

What are some encouraging words or gifts that you would offer to a first time mother?

 

A Little Vivaldi for Your Day

Camy here! I just turned in the manuscript for my Christian Regency romance coming out next year from Zondervan, and I finally have a title–Prelude for a Lord.

It’s about Lady Alethea Sutherton, who owns a mysterious Stradivarius violin that was bequeathed to her by her neighbor and dear friend, an Italian widow. Living in Bath with her aunt, Alethea is hoping to receive her inheritance in two years and be independent, but then someone tries to steal her violin, putting her life in danger. She needs the help of Lord Dommick, gifted in music and especially the violin, to stop whoever is trying to harm her.

One fantastic part about writing a book about two musicians is that the music of the time period becomes almost like another character in the book! I am a fan of Vivaldi, but I especially listened to a lot of his music in writing this book, both for inspiration and because his music played a significant role in the musical training of the heroine.

One really lovely violin concerto is featured in one of my favorite scenes, where Lord Dommick plays Alethea’s violin for the first time. Alethea’s Italian neighbor and friend, Lady Arkright, had been trained in music in Italy at the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi had been employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. After Lady Arkright married her husband and moved to England near Alethea’s home, she taught Alethea to play the violin, including many of her favorite pieces from her teacher, Vivaldi. Lord Dommick knew all this, and so when he first plays Alethea’s violin, in honor of the deceased Lady Arkright, he chooses Vivaldi’s violin concerto number one in G minor.

One great thing about the internet is that you can find recordings for so many pieces of classical music! Here is what Lord Dommick played to Lady Alethea in this scene in my book:

Do you have any favorite classical music pieces?

Camy Tang writes romantic suspense under her real name and Regency romance under her pen name, Camille Elliot. Her first Regency, Prelude for a Lord, releases in summer 2014. She is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of the Sunday worship teams. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ to read free short stories and subscribe to her quarterly newsletter.

The Scandalous Consort by Laurie Alice Eakes

The Scandalous Consort
by Laurie Alice Eakes

“Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband.” This is what Jane Austen wrote of Caroline of Brunswick, official wife of the Prince Regent.

Princess Caroline Portrait
Princess Caroline Portrait

Besides making this shockingly feminist statement for the time, Miss Austen spoke support of a woman who was hated by her husband and popular amongst the common folk. She caused contention everywhere she went, dividing families, politicians, and society itself.

The prince married Caroline in 1795 because he was in debt and Parliament agreed to give him more money if he did so. Caroline of Brunswick was imminently suitable on paper. An alliance on the continent was important. Caroline was of high birth.

She was also outspoken and unhygienic. She spoke her mind without tact, and she didn’t change her clothes enough. Nor did she bathe often enough. She and the prince were disgusted with one another, as she considered him fat and not as handsome as his portrait. Caroline claims that George spent their wedding night under the grate, where he had fallen down drunk.

Despite their distaste for one another, they did produce a daughter, Charlotte, who became a pawn in the battle between her parents. Caroline was forbidden access to her daughter except for arranged visits, weekly at first and then less frequently. The prince used Charlotte in an attempt to keep Caroline under control.

Caroline, however, was rarely in control. She gave elaborate parties and adopted children, giving rise to rumors that at least one of them was her own illegitimate offspring. As early as 1806 set up enquiries as to whether or not Caroline had committed adultery, a crime.

Enquiry into a princess' conduct.
Enquiry into a princess’ conduct.

Until her death in 1821, the social battles continued. When heads of state visited England in 1814, the queen would not allow Caroline to visit the drawing room to meet them. She showed up at the theater they were attending with her husband.

Shortly afterward, however, she left England for Italy, where her behavior became even more scandalous. She hired an Italian man who, by all reports, was more than a servant, sharing her dinner table the least of their improper contact.

So when the Regent acceded to the throne in 1820, he wanted rid of Caroline; he did not want her to be his queen. She stood trial for adultery and was removed from her position. George IV was crowned without her presence. Indeed, when she tried to attend the coronation, she was blocked at every entrance to Westminster Abbey.

In reading several accounts of Caroline and the years of her marriage to the Prince of Wales, I could not find much sympathy for her in my heart. Although Prinny did not treat her well, most of her woes she brought upon herself.

She died in 1821, possibly of a bowel obstruction, possibly of cancer, or possibly from poisoning, an ignominious death for an ignoble life of a woman who could have been a queen.

Laurie Alice Eakes is the author of four novels set during the Regency, as well as a dozen other books. You can find more about her and her books by following her on Twitter @LaurieAEakes or on her web site http://www.lauriealiceeakes.com.

Imagine Mr. Darcy in a Prius ~ The History of Cars During the Regency

I drive. A lot.

In a given week it’s not unheard of for me to put 300 miles on my minivan. That’s a lot for a stay at home mom that lives in a suburban area. Somehow over the years my life ended up that spread out.

My family drives 25 miles each way to get to church. My daughter has to go to a special type of eye doctor. The closest one is 44 miles away. My other daughter sees a different type of specialist three times a year. That one is 37 miles in the opposite direction.

Seriously, I spend a lot of time in my car. Sadly it looks like I live in it, but that’s beside the point. One of the things I frequently find myself thanking God for is a vehicle that makes this constant driving possible. Yes it is unpleasant to drive for two and a half hours round trip for a simple trip to the doctor, but the fact that I can get to a specialist that far away is incredible.

Drawing of a steam powered carriage
Trevithicks 1804 attempt at a steam powered road vehicle.

For our Regency friends the thought of traveling so far would have been a daunting task. It’s a common debate among Regency authors: how far people could travel in a day and how long it took them to do so.

45 miles in an hour and a half is never considered. Our heroines are still 100 years away from Henry Ford’s assembly line constructed Model T. The groundwork for the automobile was already underway, though.

Self-propelled vehicles actually existed for 40 years before Prinny was installed as Prince Regent. They weren’t very impressive and would have moved considerably slower than the ubiquitous horse and carriage, but they existed. They were used to haul heavy artillery across the French countryside.

An early steam powered train engine
One of Trevithicks’ train engines, attempted after the steam powered carriages were outlawed.

In 1801, Richard Trevithick drove the first people carrying, self-propelled conveyance on England’s roads. The short Christmas Eve journey was a fun novelty, but he never managed to perfect the road-going vehicle. The Puffing Devil, as the vehicle was known, worked it’s way into the history of the steam engine trains that were soon to be working their way across England’s landscapes.

Steam powered vehicles pop up in Regency stories with enough frequency that the idea of the Puffing Devil isn’t very far fetched.

A drawing of de Rivez's combustion engine vehicle.
A drawing of de Rivez’s combustion engine vehicle.

But what about a fuel powered vehicle? Several countries and a Napoleonic war away, Francois Isaac de Rivaz was inventing the first internal combustion engine in 1807 Switzerland. In 1813 he attempted to turn his electric ignition motor into a vehicle.

He was, for all intents and purposes, unsuccessful, though he did create something that moved.

In 1824 London, though, a steam powered vehicle converted to a gasoline engine managed a brief trip up Shooter’s Hill.

drawing of Robert Anderson
Robert Anderson

Even the electric car, considered such a modern day advancement, has it’s roots at the fringes of the Regency era.  Robert Anderson, a Scotsman, built the first electric car in the 1830s. The batteries weren’t rechargeable and, just like other self-propelled vehicles of the era, the trip was exceptionally short.

While it was far from conceivable that your favorite Regency hero could tool down to Brighton in his Bugatti, the idea of the car as we know it today was much closer than you might have thought.

For more information about methods of transportation people in the Regency actually used when they wanted to travel reliably and more than a few dozen feet, check out this previous Regency Reflections article on carriages.

What was your first car? Have you ever imagined how different historic eras would be if they had the modern conveniences we take for granted?

 

Caricatures and Humor of a Time Gone By

Our world today is filled with cartoons and satires of just about everything, and the blooming of social media has only seemed to grow the number of caricatures. Whether it be a joke about coffee, politics, or haggard mothers, everywhere you turn someone’s using a picture and a few words to make a sarcastic comment.

Did you know Regency England had its own caricaturists? Obviously those caricatures looked a little different than today’s versions. They were oftentimes done in etched or done in other techniques we’d now consider antiquated.

James Gillray was one of the most famous caricaturists of the Georgian and Regency Eras, and much like today, he made satirical cartoons of everything from the commoners, to the royal family, to the Napoleonic Wars. Take a look at some of his work:

 

Tales_of_wonder_by_James_Gillray

This caricature, Tales of Wonder, mocks the popularity of Gothic novels.

 

The_cow_pock

This one, The Cow Pock, mocks the new smallpox vaccination.

 

A-voluptuary

This caricature paints a rather unflattering picture of Prince George, who was know for being obese and gluttonous. It’s called A Voluptuary in the Throws of Indigestion.

 

Caricature_gillray_plumpudding

This one, is called Plumb Pudding in Danger. It’s one of my favorites, featuring Pitt and Napoleon each carving up the world to their own liking. It has been dubbed the best know political print every published.

 

So what do you think of these caricatures? Do they seem different from modern caricatures, or not so much? Do you have a favorite caricature from the Regency Era?